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Bill Cosby: His Past and the African-American Community

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bill Cosby and the lack of African-American Support
When You Have Struck Women You Have Hit A Rock

By: Kurt von Behrmann

I remember many years ago how it was common knowledge among those in the know of Bill Cosby’s extramarital affairs.   This was coming from his contemporaries in Philadelphia.  These were people who saw his act and had direct contact with him.   I remember those conversations.  Not one voice state the contrary.

My memory I had of those words came forward when the recent allegations came up that have quickly eroded a public persona that was decidedly “clean cut.”

When comic Hannibal Buress openly called out Bill Cosby for raping women, Buress was totally surprised that it would open up allegations that are ten years old. Over a dozen women came forward accusing the hugely successful comedian of sexual assault and/or rape.

The allegations were ugly.  They were also detailed.

The stature and source of those coming forward paints a convincing case that Cosby is guilty.  While there will more than likely never be a trial to prove guilt or innocence, in the court of public opinion and overwhelming statements already published, Cosby may as well be found guilty.

What is interesting about all of this is a comment made by a news commentator in passing.  I cannot recall who or whom, but someone said that Cosby was anticipating support from the African—American community.

That support was not going to be forthcoming.  

The reason why he received a vocal round of support stems in part from a stance he took several years ago.  It did not sit well with many.  

Cosby made it very clear he did not approve of contemporary street fashion and extoled essentially conservative middle class values.  

If only young African Americans stopped given their kids African names and having children out of wedlock, things would be better.  The hypocrisy of a man who has had a child out of wedlock extolling traditional values was an inconsistency that did not sell well.

The old do as I say not as I do did not serve Cosby well. 
While there is merit in hard work and some traditional thinking, to over look the glaring problems that at risk youth face, like indifferent hostile police departments, a flawed criminal justice system, evaporating jobs, poorly performing public schools, at risk neighborhoods and higher education priced into the stratosphere, Cosby’s message of hard work and chastity sounded out of touch with reality, and it was.

Cosby, and he is not alone in his thinking about quick fixes to long running problem. He comes from the old school that believes that “The Troubled Africain—American Community” suffers only from character flaws, sloth and out of control libidos.  This particular narrative follows along the lines that if “I” become successful through hard work and sacrifice, so should you.  If I can do it, so can you.

That is the same logic that has powered a million and one pyramid schemes.

Why we have such bad out comes with urban youth, black, white, latino and so forth, are shaped by powerful forces.  The environment of today is even more brutal than it has ever been.  What stability that was once in place in the African—American community has been decimated by the removal of the very things that created solidity before, secure communities.   

The sad fact is that when people have an economic opportunity to move ahead, it always entails a move to a more affluent area.  The people that provided that community stability and concern move away from the places that need them the most.  Each move takes a piece away from a strong community identity.

But there is more than moves due to economic success that undue Black success.  The real culprits in Black social mobility  are rooted in problems that cannot be solved by a few sound bites that sound good to people in the Midwest.  

Having been an educator at a Community College with at risk predominantly Black and Latino youth, I saw the enemy up close.  The villains are poor diets, weak family support, no mental or medical help and a total indifference to the fact that we have people in our culture who need a helping hand, not a hand out.  

What is needed is not charity, but jobs, economic security, safety and an educational  high school system that actually teaches people how to learn, not how to pass one inane test.

Bill Cosby has lived in a life of total affluence for so long that he has fallen into the trap that a lot of people who crawl up into wealth get caught in, and that is removal from working class reality.  

Sure, there are people who cannot be helped.  That is true of the rich as well.  The difference is that they have really slick lawyers, rehab and connections that can clean up their messes.  The poor, obviously do not.  There are no second chances on the streets.

The vast majority of people want to do something meaningful, earn a living and essentially have the American Dream.   That is the reality.

The lack of African—American support for Cosby should surprise no one.   People can accept a hero with flaws.  But most people cannot accept a hero who may very well be a serial rapist.  

Another point that I think noting is that this impacted women.  As occasionally misogynistic as our ever evolving society can be, there is something about rape that hits a nerve.  When that subject comes up, it hits a core. 

There is an old African expression that when you have hit the women, you have hit a rock.
When these allegations came up, the women came up and told their stories.  They did not back down. They did not falter. 
Bill Cosby hit a rock.  He hit a huge one.

This whole episode is tragic on so many levels.  A man who was a ground breaker who actually did some good is reduced to being the most common and the most vulgar of the vulgar.  He has become the true pornography of America, and it is very ugly.  

In all of this, let us not forget the real victims. 

Remember the rock.


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