Tuesday, May 16, 2006

No More Cos for Alarm

Today I just made a decision that I will no longer debate with anyone about whether Bill Cosby is right.
Causing controversy seems to have become Mr. Cosby's raison d'etre. Most recently he gave a commencement speech at Spelman College, the historically Black women's university in Atlanta, GA. Among other things, he said to the five hundred graduates. "You have to know that is time for you to take charge. You have to seriously see yourselves not as the old women where the men stood in front and you all stood behind, because the men, most of them are in prison."
I know as I type, keyboards across Black America are on fire as people debate the veracity of his statements. Just as I was about to jump into the fray with a group of online friends, I had a revelation.
This is an utter waste of time.
I understand why Bill Cosby's words always strike a chord. He describes the painfully obvious, and nothing resonates like pain. Who can deny that too many Black men are incarcerated? Who can deny that too many Black women have to carry the weight? The problem is that all Mr. Cosby does is tell us something we already know, and the way he does -- or more like the way he does not -- uplifts no one.
Being a moral leader, public intellectual or what have you means having a sophisticated analysis --not just a mere description -- of the issues at hand. We need such people not to tell us what we observe or experience everyday, but to explain why things are as they are and to offer ideas how we can address them. The reasons, for example, why so many brothers are on lockdown, and so many sisters have to become superwomen, are complex. A true leader understands these complex forces, has both the capacity and desire to break them down for the masses in a way they can understand, and attempts to give them direction and, most importantly, HOPE.
I find that Bill Cosby does nothing but raise alarm, and that does nothing for our communities but create more problems, especially as we argue amongst ourselves about whether he is right or not. Why should we waste time arguing about his overly simplistic remarks of the month? Whether Bill Cosby is right or not, he's going to be fine. What about the rest of us?
Now that I've written this, I will no longer get into debates over whether what Bill Cosby says may or may not be true. Although I don't question that he only means to help by speaking what he deems to be true, I find his rantings about the obvious to be quite unhelpful. On the contrary, they're distractions. Unnecessary and sometimes even dangerous distractions.
There are many Black intellectuals who can give us the answers we seek about the issues that concern us. Robin D.G. Kelly, Tricia Rose, Michael Eric Dyson, Gwendolyn Pough, Mark Anthony Neal, Cornel West, Yvonne Bynoe. . . I'm brimming with hope in the revelation that there are too many to list. And then we have people in our own backyards -- social workers, community organizers, policy advocates and grassroots activists -- who work with these issues every day. Thes are the folks who not only have a strong command of what the problem are, they have some damn good ideas of how we can solve them. These are the people to whom we should listen. These are the people whose ideas we should engage and debate.
So until Mr. Cosby can offer a similarly sophisticated analysis and viable solutions that are as complex as the problems he is merely describing, I will be ignoring his alarmist and unproductive commentaries on the state of Black America and get my socio-political enlightenment from those who can tell me something other than the obvious.

No comments: