There’s a saying that “a lie can run around the world twice before the truth can get it’s shoes on.” The bible in Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge”.
For centuries there’s been a debate about whether a devious “black elite” class exists, their goal to undermine the black poor and be of service to white supremacists. Whether through the popular and compelling writings of Ta-Nehisi Coates, Michael Eric Dyson or in years prior, juggernauts like W.E.B.” Du Bois, there persists this divide about the “black elite”. One of the recent examples was when Bill Cosby blasted the pathology of black failure at an NAACP dinner in Washington, D.C in 2007. He also co-authored “Come On People” with Harvard psychiatrist Alvin F. Poussaint, packed with anecdotes from a series of public gatherings hosted by Cosby in cities and towns across the nation. Cosby’s town hall meetings convened blacks in cities from Compton, Calif., to Kansas City, Mo., to Washington, D.C., to respond to his call and come up with solutions. Other examples was when Michelle Obama, the first lady went to Bowie State and addressed the graduating class saying, “today, more than 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 50 years after the end of “separate but equal,” when it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can’t be bothered. Today, instead of walking miles every day to school, they’re sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper.”
Or in 2013 when former President Obama, in a speech addressed to the Morehouse College’s graduating class said, “We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. Growing up, I made a few myself. And I have to confess, sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. But one of the things you’ve learned over the last four years is that there’s no longer any room for excuses. I understand that there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: “Excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.” We’ve got no time for excuses—not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven’t. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; that’s still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyper-connected, hyper-competitive world, with a billion young people from China and India and Brazil entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven’t earned. And whatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured—and overcame.”
There are numerous critics of these views siting many studies like “Umbrellas Don’t Make It Rain”, they prove that studying hard and working hard does not enable blacks to eliminate the racial wealth gap. In other words, doing the right thing is far from enough. I agree with that wholeheartedly. But I don’t think the Obama’s, Bill Cosby, or anyone else was ever suggesting that it was enough. But studying and working hard is still the right thing to do!
I don’t endorse respectability politics, but I do endorse respect.
Critics call it “respectability politics” which wikipedia describes as: attempts by marginalized groups to police their own members and show their social values as being continuous and compatible, with mainstream values rather than challenging the mainstream for what they see as its failure to accept difference.
I couldn’t disagree more with the wikipedia definition, and I don’t endorse respectability politics, but I do endorse respect. We should not try to fit into “mainstream values”, (whatever mainstream means to you) but simply strive to overcome the obstacles of centuries of oppression and be excellent! There are dog whistle cues that critics get from words like “excellent” they may think I mean highly educated, well off, mainstream or holding various degrees. To me however, excellent is simply doing great at whatever you put your mind towards, I myself strive to be excellent! I never graduated college, I graduated high school with a 0.7 grade point average. Yet because I was inspired by my ancestors, I got to 3.4 average and learned to be excellent and won two Grammy awards, and became one of the premier rap artists of my time.
So when I read a recent article about Bill Cosby being well intentioned but I quote “deploying the same racist ideas about the Black poor as his racist White counterparts” I was appalled. Lumping Mr. Cosby in with William Lloyd Garrison, John Marshall Harlan and 4 other historical whites who the article claims are America’s greatest warriors against anti-Black racism while being some of America’s greatest enforcers of racist ideas… I was compelled to write to the author. I wrote:
Love what you guys post – I thank you all for your input. I have to disagree with the lumping in of Cosby however. “blaming inferior Black behavior for persisting racial inequities” – that is taking Cosby out of context, he CRITIQUED and rebuked OUR BEHAVIOR as opposed to saying our racial inequities in totality are solely because of us. (JUST AS DR. UMAR JOHNSON, CLAUDE ANDERSON, FARRAKHAN and many others have rightfully critiqued our behavior) He has publicly acknowledged numerous times that we have been VICTIMS of ruthless oppression and that is the ROOT to our present inequities. This widely used concept of “Black elites blaming poor Blacks” is misused, over-used, divisive and in desperate need of better evaluation. I don’t know of any TRUE black elites, I do know of MANY blacks that are deeply confused and misguided! But that falls under those that are rich, poor and in between. Elite seems to imply old money, since when do we have such old wealth? And how would Cosby, a man that grew up marginalized and disenfranchised suddenly become a part of such a class of elites? And from what racism are these “black elites” able to escape? Cosby clearly has not escaped it. Has he not had to be five times as excellent to get the same amount of accolades as his white counterparts? Has he not been crucified for these recent allegations beyond what many white counterparts have been? Has he not been black-balled for trying to own a network as MANY of his white counterparts have been able to do successfully?
And how does a man who DEDICATED his entire art to our peoples ADVANCEMENT get a one paragraph REVISIONARY HISTORICAL EVALUATION OF MERELY BEING “WELL-MEANING”? He wasn’t just well-meaning, he was no less than an actual activist! And his activism had actual, empirical positive affects on our peoples existence. One’s activism is not confined only to marches, jailing and beatings.
And lastly, it is (in my opinion) extremely self-defeating and divisive to place blacks who become wealthy into this derogatory “sunken” place of “black elites”. If black wealth basically means you are no longer able to lovingly critique, rebuke or challenge your own people, then what is the point of “giving back” if you can’t then shed light on how others can follow your path?
It obvious to many that this rich and powerful man DID NOT have to take a tour to talk to his people (from his heart). Many believe (as I do) that he didn’t do it do demean, but instead, he did it as a show of LOVE. And for argument sake, lets say he did it to demean us, for what would he gain by doing this? Did he profit by going on these tours in his old age? The same type of love elders used in our past, he used as an elder. He simply played his designed role. One can disagree with him, sure. We can also blame white racists for taking his comments out of context, and using them for their own racist agendas. But couldn’t that be said about ANY leader who speaks. Aren’t things always taken out of context by those who have no good intentions to help our cause? To negate his love for us as a people, and paint it as somehow insincere and even worse in cahoots with White Supremacy is (In my opinion), sad. I find it interesting, when we tear down these men and sort of place them among the wolves in sheep’s clothing category, while we remain silent as a constant barrage of actual white supremacist propaganda by present day popular entertainers goes basically unchallenged. In fact, not only unchallenged, but glorified! We tear down anyone who dares to point a finger at our own mis-steps, leaving only those who have little to no consciousness to lead our people into further despair.
Again, I deeply appreciate your article, heart and views, while I obviously disagree with this part of it. This response is not to demean nor disrespect. Just one mans opinion. We must be able to have meaningful dialog and critique ourselves without it meaning that we are merely “well-meaning”, but racist. And we must let go of this idea that the black middle and upper class is at war with the black lower class. I have not found that to be true in MOST cases. Instead I have found that there are a slew of blacks (all classes) that are desperately tying to reach, teach, inform and empower our people (of all classes) so that we all can rise to new levels.
Critics seemingly don’t want us to critique each other with fervor, instead cajole the SYSTEM to provide equal opportunity for us despite understanding that SYSTEMATIC racism is what keeps us down in the first place
My argument towards those that call Bill Cosby, Obama and maybe even me, the “black elite” is that you are doing exactly what you claim the black elite do… paint a whole segment of people with a very broad brush. Should Cosby have said that SOME poor need to get their acts together? …he should have. Was it wrong to paint the entire population of poor with this broad brush? Yes, without question, it was wrong. In Cosby’s defense, he was shooting off the cuff at a live appearance and was talking among his people a special opposed to outside races and all this without a tele-prompter. (he got real – while not perfectly accurate) And my biggest issue with these critics is that they seemingly don’t want us to critique each other with fervor and true conviction, leaving our people only one path to freedom. Cajole the system to provide equal opportunity for us despite understanding that SYSTEMATIC racism is what keeps us down in the first place. These critics rarely (if ever) critique our own issues with the same persistence and indignation. And I f they critique, it’s merely in passing while continuing to rail on “whitey”, White supremacy or “the man”. I believe we can walk and chew gum at the very same time, acknowledging all of the heinous acts of racist while doing the same or even more with ourselves. Not because one deserves it more than the other, but because one is self-dependent and the other interdependent.
Malcolm X said, “We are not anti-white. But we don’t have time for the white man. The white man is on top already, the white man is the boss already… he has first-class citizenship already. So you are wasting your time talking to the white man. We are working on our own people.”
The split between Cosby and critics such as Dyson mirrors not only America’s broader conservative/liberal split but black America’s own historic intellectual divide. Cosby’s most obvious antecedent is Booker T. Washington. At the turn of the 20th century, Washington married a defense of the white South with a call for black self-reliance and became the most prominent black leader of his day. He argued that southern whites should be given time to adjust to emancipation; in the meantime, blacks should advance themselves not by voting and running for office but by working, and ultimately owning, the land.
W. E. B. Du Bois, the integrationist model for the Dysons of our day, saw Washington as an apologist for white racism and thought that his willingness to sacrifice the black vote was heretical. History ultimately rendered half of Washington’s argument moot. His famous Atlanta Compromise—in which he endorsed segregation as a temporary means of making peace with southerners—was answered by lynchings, land theft, and general racial terrorism. But Washington’s appeal to black self-sufficiency endured.
After Washington’s death, in 1915, the black conservative tradition he had fathered found a permanent and natural home in the emerging ideology of Black Nationalism. Marcus Garvey, its patron saint, turned the Atlanta Compromise on its head, implicitly endorsing segregation not as an olive branch to whites but as a statement of black supremacy. Black Nationalists scorned the Du Boisian integrationists as stooges or traitors, content to beg for help from people who hated them.
Here’s the deal:
Blacks are about 13 percent of the population, yet black men account for 49 percent of America’s murder victims and 41 percent of the prison population. The teen birth rate for blacks is 63 per 1,000, more than double the rate for whites. In 2005, black families had the lowest median income of any ethnic group measured by the Census, making only 61 percent of the median income of white families.
Most troubling is a study released by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which concluded that the rate at which blacks born into the middle class in the 1960s backslid into poverty or near-poverty (45 percent) was three times that of whites—suggesting that the advances of even some of the most successful cohorts of black America remain tenuous at best. Another Pew study reported that 71 percent of blacks feel that rap is a bad influence. (I happen to agree, except I would add the word horrible as opposed to bad) and I would also add the qualifier that most present day rap.
In 2001, a researcher sent out black and white job applicants in Milwaukee, randomly assigning them a criminal record. The researcher concluded that a white man with a criminal record had about the same chance of getting a job as a black man without one. Three years later, researchers produced the same results in New York under more-rigorous conditions.
I believe that any “plan A” for our freedom that doesn’t involve dealing with our own issues is a horrible plan A. We can have plan B’s all the way down to plan Z’s. But our “plan A” must always be ‘SELF-DETERMINATION”. It seems that despite a barrage of critics out there, some previous Pew surveys, (before the rape allegations about Cosby) stated 85 percent of all African American respondents considered Cosby a “good influence” on the black community, Obama (76 percent) and Oprah Winfrey (87 percent). All of them (to me) represent black men and women who inspire us to be excellent, what could ever be wrong with that? What’s your thoughts?