Is Cosby Telling It Like It Is?


After going through a series of comments I was making with some fellow black bloggers with whom I respect the opinions of I thought about the content of the discussion and decided to post my feelings on the matter. The post which we were all typing away on was called “Yuk it up Mr Cosby” centered on the controversy of Cosby and Whitlock and the fact that they disparage the black community in what can be conceived as faint attempts to help our community out.

When I thought about the things they say and how they are interpreted by non black people I find that they are not helping us but hurting us by adding fuel to the raging fire. This is because all too frequently I hear white people who want to diminish blatant racism by stating “well Cosby said…” and “Jason (Whitlock) said that.” The fact that what Bill Cosby and Jason Whitlock say aren’t aimed at the majority of blacks. Yet I have never once heard them speak this fact.

They say that they are saying these things out of love and care for the black community. If I wanted to help the black community I don’t think that I would bother writing a book or touring around on white run TV shows such as Larry King. The fact is that poor blacks whom these admonishments are normally being thrown at don’t watch these shows. I would go and tour the communities in question book a community center and bring a couple of big name stars they want to see. Offer it for free and actually speak to those people and tell them what “I” feel they need to do to improve them and their children’s lives.

But to constantly sit in front of Joe White and his wife telling them the ills of the poor black community serves absolutely no point. I might be inclined to agree with some and I mean a slim few points made by Cosby. I don’t think that Whitlock knows what the hell he is talking about but that is just me. Now, the main problem I have about what Cosby is telling these people is that all that is needed for poor blacks is good food, a lot of talking and saving their money. I think that he needs to get his feet dirty and walk in these people’s shoes for a little while.

Good food isn’t always available, I just did a post on the fact that in some of these black neighborhood grocery stores and I mean large chain stores, you can’t always find healthy alternatives. It is like they are making the food choices for you. Not to mention it takes actual education for these people to make correct food choices. I haven’t seen television shows aimed at blacks that actually addresses these issues. But I see a plethora of black stars on commercials for fast food not to mention every fast food chain is explaining why we should indulge there instead.

Talking to your kids is a must, I agree with his assertion on that one. You can’t get around good communication. Yet, if you are coming from dysfunction you pretty much only know dysfunction. So, wouldn’t you and I think that what it will take is education? Again it falls back to education. You can’t just spout off to people who already know or people who do not represent those you speak of and think that this is somehow going to make change happen. I can’t talk to the people at work about my neighbor’s dirty yard and think that this is somehow going to get him/her to move their butt and clean it up. They aren’t really privy to what I am trying to say.

Saving money isn’t even on the horizon. I know that if I were working for minimum wage with the two kids I have I wouldn’t be able to save a dime and that is just basic mathematics. Maybe we need to look into trying to do more education. That isn’t rocket science. We have to do more than just chastise. We know that doesn’t work. Or at least those with kids know that chastising a kid won’t get them to do what you want. You have to take a proactive stance in getting things done.

So the reason why I can’t get behind what Cosby or Whitlock says is the fact that it is big money to tell the wrong people what is wrong with the poor black community albeit most of the message is bogus. Cosby wants to seem caring and talk all of this rhetoric yet what does he really stand behind? Things such as Coca Cola, Jell-O and Fat Albert! Those things don’t do one thing to lift blacks out of their predicaments. I know that this is unpopular and that these blacks should pull the bootstraps etc.

But, these people don’t have bootstraps. They are poor, un or under educated, saddled with debt, low self esteem, depression and fantasies about a lifestyle they are not privy to. And writing a book or telling their woes to Larry King is somehow going to get them to put it in gear is just as silly as it sounds. Getting your hands dirty and I don’t mean with the ink from the books you write and all the money you will collect from it. I mean from actually working and getting to know the people that you are demonizing.



Filed under African American, Black community, Black Culture, Black Family, Black People, Propaganda, Racism

13 responses to “Is Cosby Telling It Like It Is?

  1. An interesting and thought-provoking post, as usual!

    You say that there’s little point in writing a book or going on Larry King to discuss a message intended mostly for “poor blacks” who you don’t believe will be reading or watching. (And you offer a great idea for how to reach those people!)

    This may be a good point, but isn’t it also possible that Cosby and Whitlock are aiming their message at black leaders and other elites? That they feel the best chance of getting their message heard, and believed, by poor blacks is to convince more influential blacks? After all, it isn’t only whites who read books and watch Larry King, as I’m sure you’ll agree!

    (Just think of the black stars who, you note, do ads for fast food, and the grocery stores that carry unhealthy food and aren’t protested by the leadership of their communities. Those people would seem to need the message first.)

    I would certainly hope that Cosby and Whitlock don’t intend merely to chastise, and understand that education is essential for real change to take place. But I think their point may be that changing attitudes can help, too, and that change generated in part from below can sometimes succeed where national policy directives and leaders (black and white) alone cannot.



  2. James,

    I think that they might be trying to reach the elite of the group. And I do believe that their message is being absorbed by blacks that read and watch Larry King as that is where I saw him speak. But, what I was trying to address is that this is all fine and good but telling my group won’t help since I don’t have the resources or draw to bring the poor in to listen.

    He has this draw, power and money to bring those that need the message directly. Again, I agree that reaching the leaders of the community could be a start. But why then doesn’t he make his statements more fitting to these folks instead of just blatant finger pointing at people ill equipped to even deal with their circumstances.

    That is all I am saying. I don’t have a problem with trying to rally those that might be in positions to help the poor. But, actually do it don’t just give fuel to a burning fire where people are already criticizing the poor as if they know ALL the right things to do but just refuse to do it.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. Interesting article about Bill Cosby and the Boule. I would read with scrutiny though.

  4. Jamel,

    I think the premise of the article bears weight as I was going to do a post on how Cosby portrayed those ghetto dudes and how he now wants to speak against the very characters he created. I think people need to think about him other than how well he’s done and how he wants to chastise poor blacks.

    He needs to be held accountable for his role in television shows that depict what he cries about. Also, you never said how you feel about Cosby or Whitlock.

    Thanks for the reply and link.

  5. Damien

    How ironic of Mr. Cosby. Might as well make a buck off our struggles, just like the rest of the privileged in this country.
    We as a people were made to make due with what we had, mostly what we didn’t have. We turned those things into positives within our community, outsiders wouldn’t understand. I think we did a very good job of it.
    But now, Mr. Cosby ridicules us and where we come from. Yeah we speak “broken English” I call it OUR dialect. it’s like they don’t want us to claim nothing as ours… from the petty to the important. But, we’re always being taken advantage of lied about. These negative stereotypes started as lies to make the majority populace afraid of us and keep the richest rich.

  6. Damien,

    Yes indeed we have been maligned in a serious way that the stereotype of us still permeates the majorities minds today. Bill himself should understand that our dialect was a bi-product of the fact that we were not allowed to learn proper English nor allowed to speak it without retribution.

    I understand that people will say times are changed. Yet just like the link from Jamel, white people have their slang or broken English in fact all races do. But it is only terrible and stupid when blacks have it. All races where baggy saggy clothes but it is only horrible when blacks do it.

    As a matter of fact we could go on all day with this and it is pathetic. And pathetic that Bill pushed it and now wants to complain about it. I don’t know what language the Cosby kids were speaking back then because it sounded a lot like what he complains about NOW.

    Thanks for the reply.

  7. If Mr. Cosby wanted to speak to black leaders he should be sitting in front of black leaders. There are a lot of people that are willing to listen to Mr. Cosby if he called and said that he wanted some face-to-face time with them. But how many black leaders are there in a sea of well to do white people? Did Mr. Cosby not know that the best way to talk to black people is to talk to black people and not white people? Otherwise you hear things through third and fourth parties and the possibility of things being misconstrued. I understand the compulsion to come to Mr. Cosby’s defense. But it is pretty obvious that one of Mr. Cosby’s objectives was to express his contempt for black people to white people.


  8. Eddie

    The tragedy in all of this is that Bill is saying things that we need to hear and in typical fashion, we reject and rebel against it by making excuses and finding bogus reasons to not accept justifiable criticism. As a father, I am responsible for teaching my children character, personal responsibility, truth, and moral values. I am responsible to handle my affairs with discretion and carry myself with tact. I am responsible for screening out perverse and offensive music, movies, etc. that do not depict the images of black people that I want to see. This is all Mr. Cosby is saying to us. Anyone who takes offense to his comments, or searches for an excuse to disavow his message, shows themselves to be a part of the perpetuation of ignorance in our community.

  9. Eddie,

    Give me a break! In fact tell me if you think that mush mouth slang talking cartoons depicting children who are illiterate and morbidly obese show us black characters we can be proud of. Well this is a Cosby production, remember Fat Albert? A man who was having an extramarital affair with a white women whom he thought he fathered an out of wedlock child. Who then sued him only to find he wasn’t the father. A man whose son was murdered due to drug usage.

    And you want me to believe that this is a role model I should listen to. Please! I don’t think that calling poor people out on their ignorance is helpful. At least no other community does this. They try and improve the circumstances of those people. What is he (Bill) doing to improve these “Shaniqua” people that he loves to name? Nothing!

    He also goes so far as to talk about the what we name our children. It doesn’t matter. If people are going to discriminate due to a name “sounding” black or ghetto then shouldn’t he be chastising THEM?! He is not saying anything that people haven’t already heard that is the problem. If he wanted to reach the poor blacks and change their ways then he would go to them not to white America and air his grievances.

    How is getting on Larry King, a show poor black don’t watch, to explain what he is doing. Why charge 20 bucks or so for a book that is out of reach to poor blacks if that is who he is trying to help? I understand what it is that I and my family needs to do in order to live a good life. So disavowing Cosby isn’t ignorance nor perpetuation. It is those who will have us blindly assimilate who are perpetuating ignorance in our community.

    We need to be responsible for how our community image is portrayed. Not let the Cosby’s or the Poussant’s or white America tell us. When they don’t live in that community.

    Thanks for the reply

  10. zerode

    Thanks. I agreed with what you had to say overall, but I wonder if we can try to think about the meaning and message of “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” – and even Cosby’s commercials for pudding, and “The Cosby Show” – in the context of their time and place. I know, it is a bit tiresome to go on about the importance of racial diversity in this or that medium, but I remember when I was a kid and Fat Albert was one of the only cultural texts aimed at me as a kid that was black – black kids, black community, black culture.

    And maybe it isn’t really that much of a step forward to say “hey, black men can act as shills for lousy pre-packaged, unhealthy food – just like white people,” but you know I sort of feel like it is a step forward, and progress is just all these steps coming together.

    I was thinking of this recently in relation to the Muslim women winning the Miss America contest. Jeez – can you believe they still have beauty pageants like that? Haven’t we grown out of that? But as despicable as that whole Miss America/USA/Universe thing is on a gender level, it is also going to be a good thing that a Muslim-y woman (just how Muslim she is seems to be somewhat in question) won. And it’s not like it is going to make anyone forget that beauty pageants are demeaning…

  11. Zerode,

    The problem is that just because the show or cartoon or whatever has a black person in it, doesn’t make it a good thing for black people. And I don’t have a problem for him being a shill, I have a problem with the mugging, google eyed act of classic jigabooism. Also, I don’t think that the Cosby show was necessarily a bad thing. I DO on the other hand think that more could have been accomplished if the show hit on the reality of being black in any capacity. Not one time did any of those kids come home crying because they were racially profiled, racially accosted or any other situation most black children have dealt with. They had like six kids, at least one of them at one point in time would have had a racial incident.

    I agree with the Miss America statement. It is just a bunch of crap and needs to end.


  12. zerode

    Yes, well, you are absolutely right about the jigabooism and it has become more embarrassing over the years. And Boondocks took Fat Albert to task for the weirdness and deformities of all the characters, as I recall.

    I’ve been mulling the various issues touched on in this discussion for a while now, and a show I keep coming back to is Roc – with Charles S. Dutton, who I think is just terrific. I vividly recall channel surfing one evening and spotting, as it popped up on my screen, the living room in the show with its pictures of Martin and Malcolm, and just being knocked out. HERE was a household, a living room, that really looked like the ones in my neighborhood, with people who looked and acted like the people in my neighborhood, growing up.

    I missed/avoided the whole slate of black sitcoms of recent years, the stuff on UPN and all that – mostly because I had too much going on, and that wasn’t what I was working on at the time. Were there any shows from that time and place that had the realness of Roc? Or would you even agree that Roc was a pretty good show?

    I never got to watch more than a couple of episodes, and haven’t had any luck getting access to it the past few weeks – I’ve been trying because I am hoping to verify my initial positive impression and hopefully write a bit about this issue.

    In the end, I suppose, I love Fat Albert because it was a fun show that I loved as a kid – when I didn’t have to think about it the way I do now. Still, that is no excuse for excusing Cosby’s at times shameful shufflin’ act.

  13. Zerode,

    I did like Rock. I watched until it went off the air. It was real or more real than a lot of the crap they have on now and back then. I couldn’t even begin to name the supposedly “black” shows they have on television right now. And in fact I have pretty much stopped tuning into television. It seems to be a waste of time outside of news. I am finding that exercising and reading are fast becoming my favorite past times. They have always been with me, but they are just getting more center stage attention right now. And I am not mad about it.

    I used to watch Fat Albert myself all the time. My problem was that he (Cosby) wants to point the finger at things which he prominently displayed in his cartoon. Such as today’s kids speaking in gibberish, kind of like his mush mouth talking character. Howbuh youbuh doin Fatta Albert! Yeah, and that isn’t gibberish though, right Cosby? Just my two cents.


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