Thursday, June 03, 2010

Bill Cosby's quest to save the American black man

I've been reading and mulling over this amazing TNC column about Bill Cosby for some time now. I was aware of Cosby's work at getting the black community to take more responsibility (and his NAACP speech) but this really fleshes out his work.

A great piece. I'm not so certain that Du Bois can be pigeonholed in the way he is in the article (and I think TNC misses an opportunity to connect Du Bois and the NAACP, which Du Bois headed for some time as well as edited The Crisis for many decades). Du Bois advocated a wide range of solutions to the pervasive problem of racism in America, including Cosby's basic point of self-responsibility (as well as a rise of African-American intellectuals, as it were, acting as African American mentors). The integration Du Bois advocated wasn't really the kind of "stooging" as is presented here--it was more of a recognition of the goals of reaching toward societal mores, which were largely realized (and controlled by) whites.

Later, of course, Du Bois became more of a pan-africanist, communist, and began looking for models outside the United States upon which blacks could draw for self-determination. But by this time (early 60's) he was an embarrassment to many black leaders, who branded him an "integrationist" (code word for a Tom) for not being militant enough, a false charge that still carries some weight.

Two areas upon which Cosby and Du Bois would agree, however, is that self-determination (whether for an individual or a race) comes from within rather than outside. And racial progress for blacks is doomed without mentors (principally, men) helping others.

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