I'm not picking on commenter Nate, but I wanted to draw this out. Nate is referring to a piece I did on Cosby in the Atlantic.
Yeah, I read the article when the magazine came out. I remember being a bit confused by it, because it seems to me this embrace of a culture of personal responsibility should be more widely known, and yet it's not. You might perhaps attribute that to the ignorance of mainstream media, but my thought was that this is because black folks would rather whites not be privy to this difficult self-examination. Consequently, the conversation goes on over kitchen tables and on front porches, but not in any public forum. (Note the absences of press at the Cosby event you attended. You cited a different motivation, but perhaps this sense of the subject being a private affair is more of a driving force?)
I realize this is a difficult issue, since it involved black people airing their dirty laundry in the presence of white people. And on a visceral level, that is very hard to stomach for many blacks, due to the fact that whites were the authors of the past injustice that put them in this predicament. But look at the upside.
I have a notion that if black America were to expose this internal debate they are having to a wider realm of people, and risk exposing themselves to shame, they might be surprised at the level of support they would get. If defensive whites got a sense that blacks are trying to deal with these issues in a way other than complaining about grievances and injustice, and whites got a good look at this side of the black community that is not about anger, I think they would have more sympathy, and be less racist, and more open to supporting the kinds of social and economic programs the black community desires.
I mean, even if one feels anger is justifiable, there is the larger question of whether it is useful. I'm postulating that it isn't, and that a focus on problems other races can relate to would bear more fruit. I'm open to dissenters, since after all, I'm speaking as an outsider here.
One of the reasons many of us did not believe Obama could win in states where the population of black people dipped into the single percentage digits. We basically accepted that in states like that, there would be an immediate rejection of anyone black. That theory has been proven false, and its worth noting that most--OK I--drew those conclusions having never so much as visited Iowa, for instance.
With that in mind, here is what I suggest: Go see some actual black people in their own environments. There's nothing private about a black church, a black barbershop, or a black bar. If you've got money, they'll cut your hair. If you've got money they'll pour you a shot. Bring a friend, and just sit back and take it in. As soon as the subject turns to race--and at some point it will--I promise you will witness a vigorous debate, and it won't be censored because you're there. No BS, the day before Obama's big fatherhood speech, I was getting my own fresh Caesar and a young barber was arguing with an older one. The young dude was saying that if Obama wins, it's over, no more excuses that begin with the word "white." The old head took a different perspective.
No doubt some of us black folk need to do the same. Can't talk about Wyoming if you've never been there.
I am not saying that there is nothing to this diry laundry thing, but it gets overplayed. The one place where Cosby was doing a call-out did indeed ban reporters, but that had to do with the specific issue of fathers in child-support arrears. I saw Cosby give an incredible speech--with much the same themes--at a Connecticut prison, and the audience was totally mixed. The Million Man March targeted black men, but there wasn't much private about it. Anyway, my point is this--the truth is knowable. It's out there if we want it. Some funny looks may come with the deal, but it's out there.
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