Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing in the Atlantic, has penned an article that will leave me in a reflective mood for some time.
It’s about race. It’s about culture. It’s about America. And, it is an honest appraisal of our unfinished business as a uniquely American culture — a frank and unflinching glimpse into the inner ticking of an African-American writer who takes a close look at Bill Cosby and the message (and the messengers) of black self-reliance.
I’ve written several times about growing up in the 60′s Deep South, believing that this experience gives a unique perspective on the subject of racism. But, as I mentioned previously, growing up on the white side of the divide, I really have no idea of what it was like for the blacks, and I want to thank Mr. Coates for granting some much needed perspective.
Here are a three excerpts:
the liberal notion that blacks are still, after a century of struggle, victims of pervasive discrimination is the ultimate collective buzz-kill. It effectively means that African Americans must, on some level, accept that their children will be “less than” until some point in the future when white racism miraculously abates. That’s not the sort of future that any black person eagerly awaits [...]
Part of what drives Cosby’s activism, and reinforces his message, is the rage that lives in all African Americans, a collective feeling of disgrace that borders on self-hatred. As the comedian Chris Rock put it in one of his infamous routines, “Everything white people don’t like about black people, black people really don’t like about black people …
the “organic” black conservative tradition: conservatives who favor hard work and moral reform over protests and government intervention, but whose black-nationalist leanings make them anathema to the Heritage Foundation and Rush Limbaugh. When political strategists argue that the Republican Party is missing a huge chance to court the black community, they are thinking of this mostly male bloc—the old guy in the barbershop, the grizzled Pop Warner coach, the retired Vietnam vet, the drunk uncle at the family reunion. He votes Democratic, not out of any love for abortion rights or progressive taxation, but because he feels—in fact, he knows—that the modern-day GOP draws on the support of people who hate him. This is the audience that flocks to Cosby: culturally conservative black Americans who are convinced that integration, and to some extent the entire liberal dream, robbed them of their natural defenses.
A couple of points: First, the statement that conservative black men “know” that the GOP draws on the support of people who hate them is a straw man argument. Who are these haters and bigots? Being labeled a racist, bigot, homophobe by liberal writers does not make one a racist, bigot, or homophobe. There is no shortage of liberal bloggers and reporters who love nothing more than the opportunity to label a Republican as a racist. Of course, “gotcha” journalism is not the exclusive arena of liberal writers, but this is one area that truly deserves some introspection.
Because, in the end, it’s not so much a matter of the lack of respect, as Mr. Coates asserts, but rather, a lack of trust. Embracing the likes of Farrakhan and the NOI does nothing to build trust. Nor does the embrace of Black Liberation Theology. I do not trust these particular people, or these particular institutions, nor do I have any use for many of the words and ideas they promote.
The excerpts really don’t do justice to this fine essay. Please read it all. Also, in the vodpod sidebar, please take a look at the video featuring Coates and Bill Cosby.
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