On That Silly Race Thing
A friend of mine and I were talking yesterday, when she brought something interesting to my attention. Bill Cosby, a man widely famous for his role as the lovable Cliff Huxtable in the Cosby Show, had made a “controversial” speech at the NAACP‘s 50th anniversary of the Brown v Board of Education decision. (If you don’t know what either of those are, look them up.)
In his speech, Cosby voiced what nobody was willing to touch for years — the state of the current black population in America. He pinpoints specific issues within the black lower-class; specifically Ebonics, criminal behavior, and gang activity. Citing these as prime examples, he asserts that the root of the problem is the parenting, or lack thereof. Cosby tells the black population rise up to the occasion; the top 10 percent has already paved the way, it is now time for the rest to follow.
Following his dissertation, Cosby came under fire from various groups for a few key reasons. One, many felt that Cosby was airing the black community’s “dirty laundry” for all to see. They felt that in identifying the problems, he had officially normalized those behaviors, making them even more acceptable than before. Others jumped on Cosby for “relieving” the White Man of responsibility towards impoverished blacks.
My take, and opinions.
I do admit that reading Bill Cosby’s speech yesterday certainly did put in me the motivation to write this, but the idea has been on my mind for quite some time. Bill Cosby may be a comedian, but he’s not joking this time around. I couldn’t do anything besides nod my head as I read through the transcript. The black community really needs to get their act together.
A little history, if we may. I, a Taiwanese-American, grew up in a very sheltered suburban area. If anywhere could have a negative crime rate, it would be the fair city I was raised in. (It’s so safe everyone calls it the “bubble.) Though I attended public schools, they were all located in upscale neighborhoods. I had never really met a black person of the so-styled “working-class” before. The black students in my honors classes were… well, they were amazing. People say that Asians have a high work ethic and concentration on education. Black honors students amazed even us. For the life of me, I could not see where the negative black stereotypes came from. I found whites to be much more crude and crass in comparison.
That is… until I began attending college downtown. It did not even take weeks to reconstruct my entire opinion. I was suddenly hit by all the stereotypes, all at once. Sagging clothes, lavish use of Ebonics, constant pounding of rap music, and the ever-present headline: Robbery/Murder/Gang Violence, Suspect Black Male. Statistics mention that 28% of black males will be sent to jail some time in their life. We all like to toss statistics because the average is not a good representation of the whole, one particularly bad part drags everything else down. I am sorry to say that I find it hard to toss statistics on this occasion.
The problem? From my point of view, it seems to be the evolution of Black American culture. From a similar standpoint that youth in Asia all want to look like the next pop star or fashion model, many black youth see themselves as the next rap artist or basketball star. In Taiwan, everyone wears these silly clothes with nonsensical Engrish on them; in America they wear oversized and sagging clothes. The difference between these two are the general impressions that they give off. (We’ll ignore the 1 in a million chance to become a famous celebrity thread for now. Wearing what a celebrity wears doesn’t make you look like a celebrity [in most cases] anyway.) Tight-fitting clothes with silly Engrish are as synonymous with femininity as baggy, sagging clothes complete with oversized jewelry and a bandanna are synonymous with gangster membership. And to be honest, I’m much more afraid of gangsters than homosexuals (Or people who look extremely girly despite not being actually female). I often can’t tell if some blacks walking around my university are students or gangsters.
Ebonics is yet another issue intricately tied with black culture. For those of you who do not live in America and wonder about the interesting way that lower-class blacks speak, it is not a joke. Linguists have gone far enough to identify it as African-American Vernacular English. I had been under the impression that it was just a horribly butchered form of English. The fact remains, though, that Ebonics can hardly be used in a professional setting. A person using ebonics will commonly be tied with the lower class, along with poverty and delinquency. Definitely not something you’d want to walk into job interview spouting.
Some people don’t think so
Critics of Cosby’s speech have expressed a few interesting things. Like Cosby said himself in an interview, I was inclined to write them off as, “Crazy.” In retrospect I can see the logic behind their dissent, and will try to address them from my perspective.
“Airing the black communities’ dirty laundry for all to see is detrimental to the state of the community, though we concur it is already in a dismal state. By shedding light on these issues publicly, you are essentially legitimizing them and have sealed their continuance.”
Actually, I feel Bill Cosby decided to make the speech because it was obvious that keeping silent and/or working inside the community just wasn’t cutting it. Behaviors can legitimize themselves perfectly fine without a catalyst like the focused attention of the public. Also, if these critics themselves acknowledge that the problem exists, why can’t they acknowledge that whatever they’re doing right now obviously isn’t working?
“Freeing the White Man of his responsibilities towards the lower-class black citizens will result in an even worse situation.”
I don’t know if I can see the logic behind this one. The reasons are definitely there, but whether or not they should be called logic, is debatable. Those of you with knowledge of US History, know that this great nation has a dark history regarding the treatment of blacks in the past. Amidst the Civil Rights movements of the last century, it was proposed that whites should make “reparations” to blacks for the infringements their ancestors made on the blacks’ ancestors. Erm, proposed and materialized, actually. A system is now in place known commonly as “affirmative action“. But should whites really have to take responsibility for blacks’ unwillingness to move forward on their own? Does that even make sense? (I’m going to avoid getting into the whole issue of the affirmative action, which, while touting equality, actually performs the opposite. Affirmative action supposedly works for minorities, but for non-blacks, this is debatable. For example, the bulk of affirmative action articles neglects to even mention Asians.)
With all that I’ve written, I would be unsurprised if I received negative feedback. I realize I am probably not very qualified to discuss this issue, being unphilosophical at best, not to mention the fact that I am not of the demographic which is the target of this entry. Additionally, it is pretty clear that my opinion of lower-class blacks is not too high. I recognize these biases, and tried to be as objective as possible. As for how blacks could hope to solve these issues, I would not be able to provide a satisfactory answer. I am not part of that community, and can only hear about what may be the causes of the effects which I observe. (I think I have much more to say, but my writing spirit is all burned out for now.)
For the transcript of Bill Cosby’s (now fondly referred to as the ‘Pound Cake’) Speech, go ahead and click here. Just in case you missed it in the first paragraph.
(All this material deals with issues WITHIN the United States. From my knowledge, such problems are practically non-existent in other parts of the world.)
I don’t feel I did this topic justice after all. So have this nice image of more cherry blossoms. Next time I’ll do something less controversial, promise. ^^
Filed under: Pseudo-Editorial | 5 Comments
Tags: bill cosby, black culture in america, ebonics, ohgod controversial, tl;dr wall of text