by Gloria Dulan-Wilson
It’s 3:00 AM, and I’m going through my emails – something, being a night owl, I do routinely, in preparation for writing, or researching for my blog or a news article – when I see Bill Cosby’s name in the subject line of an email. So, of course I zoom in on it because, anything about Cosby I’m going to read. He’s one of my heroes.
What I read made me sad, then disappointed, and finally angry. It was an online response to an article that has been circulating the internet for quite some time entitled, “I’m Bill Cosby, I’m 83, and I’m Tired” (the original article said “I’m 76…”)
It opened with the rebuttal, which was so mean spirited, I had to read it twice to make sure I was comprehending what was being said. Given the wonderful body of work and contributions made to Black people in particular, and America in general by Bill Cosby, I am now, so angry, I could spit bullets. As with President Barack Obama, when it comes to The Cos, that’s where I put my foot down. I cannot in clear consciousness just sit idly by while anyone down-talks Bill Cosby.
My response to the hostile diatribe I just read in reference to a man who has devoted his life to presenting positive images – on and off the screen – providing educational and philanthropic opportunities, and underwriting programs for Black people, has been censored by myself. There were some real choice words I wanted to say, but I’m taking the “high” ground. Just know, however, that calling Cos a “a-hole”, and the other hostile remarks show that there are some seriously ill people who definitely need to seek professional help, take a look at their own sorry internal workings. I’m not naming names, but you know who you are.
I am really upset about this negative piece you wrote on Bill Cosby. You’re totally out of line!!
In the past, I’ve read other hostile comments directed at him, generally from those who are less well educated than yourself. They are the ones who think urban novels are literature, reality shows are real life; wearing sneakers is more important than buying books; and wearing blond hair is “a black thang.” They’re the ones who say “you was”, “you is”, “I were” and think using four letter words as punctuation marks in a conversation is appropriate. They’re the ones who think that Black families, where both the husband and wife work and have decent educations, and aren’t on drugs, or sleeping with someone outside the family does not exist. Those are the people who get upset when the Cos tells them to discipline their children, and make sure they get an education.
So I am shocked and dismayed at the piece you penned, where you spew out hostilities unabated at one of the finest Black men (FBM) at any age. How dare you!
By now you know that Cosby did not write this piece. It was actually written by Robert A. Hall, a former Massachusetts State Senator. It’s been verified by Snopes to be a hoax. Which makes your response even more appalling. But, that aside, whether he wrote the piece or not is not the question. What I’m very upset about are the statements you made – in red – in reference to Dr. Cosby. They were hostile, hurtful, heinous, and wholly unnecessary.
First of all, Cosby is a senior, an elder, and worthy of respect. He just celebrated his 84th birthday last month. He’s still one of the most dynamic men in entertainment.
Secondly, Dr. William H. Cosby, PhD ED is a man of letters. He actually went back to college in the middle of his entertainment career, earned his PhD in EDUCATION (!!!) from the University of Massachusetts, at Amherst, just so he could put together original, relevant, educational and entertaining programs for our youth. By and large his programs are simultaneously uplifting and constructive. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the use of media to educate as well as entertain our youth – his example was the Fat Albert character. And he has succeeded immensely in that regard. My kids grew up watching Fat Albert and the Electric Company, in addition to The Cosby Show and It’s a Different World.
Third, Cos has worked nearly all his life. As a youth he started out with menial jobs, prior to evolving into the mogul he currently is. Per Wikipedia: Having been born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, he worked before and after school, while attending school, and participating in varsity sports. The brother is no slouch when it comes to having a great work ethic: “In addition, Cosby was working before and after school, selling produce, shining shoes, and stocking shelves at a supermarket to help out the family. He transferred to Germantown High School, but failed the tenth grade. Instead of repeating, he got a job as an apprentice at a shoe repair shop, which he liked, but could not see himself doing the rest of his life. Subsequently, he joined the Navy…” He took that discipline and work ethic with him when he became involved in the television industry; but it started from his days as a youth. So, had he written that piece, he would be well within his rights to exhort youth to be mindful of the necessity of having a disciplined work ethic in order to succeed.
Fourth, Cos is a hands-on parent, like his wife Camille. Both were raised in homes where their parents were equally hands on. Those old fashioned values, which are not as prominent in today’s fractionalized, dysfunctional Black families, is what he is talking about when he asked mothers and fathers to take responsibility for their children’s behavior, their education, their comportment, their peers during a commencement address. Some people claimed it was “politically incorrect.” I applauded the fact that he had the courage to say it. It needs to be said more often, by more people to more of these parents who think it’s okay for their kids to act out in public. To those parents whose kids are not making the grade academically, but the parents are doing little to nothing to assist or encourage them.
President Barack Obama has also said as much when he stated, that he cannot personally come into each of your homes and make your children do their homework, or get to bed on time. That’s the job of the parents themselves. Some of our Black parents are doing a poor job of raising their kids.
Cosby often has stated that parents could do better for their kids if they them bought books instead of $100+ sneakers. People who take exception to that are either stupid, or don’t mean Black people any good. Our children will outgrow sneakers, but they’ll never outgrow a good education; and they certainly will never outgrow the skill of reading.
Fifth, Cos wants to see Black people succeed, not just survive. Anyone who thinks that where we are currently as a people is okay, is not in touch with reality. We’ve made great progress, true, but we are still below grade across the board Educationally, economically, as a culture, as a race. We still have so much to do to not be low man on the totem pole. Our kids still kill each others over nothing. Our babies are still having babies. We are less likely to complete a high school education, let alone a four year college. We own/run few if any of our own businesses. Black women are more likely to remain single (not by choice) than women of other races. And we use the most foul language towards each other and our children in common conversation, than any other group of people.
Sixth: At 83 Cos could have retired and rested on his laurels; but he is so concerned about his people that he risks their derision in order to continues to sret an example of a Black icon who’s made it, and gives back to the Black community.
If you check Bill Cosby’s website, you will see that he has denied writing it, and has instructed people to delete it if they receive such an email in his name. Of course, since people don’t really read, it’s continued to be sent around; and has updated it to his current age of 83. It’s an attempt by Robert A. Hall, the actual author, to get Black people to stand up, take back their power, and stop making or utilizing ready made, patronizing excuses for the situation we are currently in.
That said, regardless of whether Cos wrote it or not, anyone who is not cognizant of his love and dedication to Black people, and the fact that 90% of his work is reflective of that great love, is truly not plugged in to this fabulous Icon.
There are, of course, those who think that because Cosby is a comedian, he should not have an opinion or concern about “poor, underprivileged, culturally deprived, victimized, we-can’t-help-ourselves-Black people. It’s not our fault that we’re broke, poor, sick, or unhappy. It’s all the white man’s fault. And Cosby shouldn’t be criticizing us, cause we don’t have any power.“ The trick bag to that is, yes, whites by and large are responsible for racism, segregation, prejudice – true. Cosby is more than a comedian, he’s an educator. His comedy is more on the level of edutainment. You learn something new each and every time you tune into his shows.
But the other side of that coin is that we are responsible for getting ourselves out! And we should be doing that by any means necessary. That does not entail using drugs, gang activity, killing each other; out of wedlock babies; men not shouldering their responsibility for their families; and lack of education. Our ancestors got their education by banding together in an each one teach one mode; they didn’t wait for whites to provide it for them. They often made the ultimate sacrifice so we could have a better life. By any means necessary. We learned, started schools, learned more, started businesses; learned more educated our children; learned more began to rise out of the ghetto communities we were relegated to, or just improved the communities we resided in. But we progressed. This current generation is perhaps the only generation that has amassed more money than any other generation, but won’t live long enough to enjoy it. It’s a generation where the parents will actually outlive their children, and end up raising their grandchildren.
In addition to the obvious accomplishments – that of being the first African American in a drama on national TV, “I Spy” in the 60′s, and later putting together an educational tour de force for children, via the “Electric Company,” and “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” and later “Little Bill” for the more contemporary youth, is disconnected. Cosby, in speaking of his choice of stand up comedy remarked that he had originally followed the genre of the comedians who thought it appropriate to use four letter words, and put downs as a part of their routine. He changed that however, after he had delivered a string of four letter invectives, which got major laughs, and looked up to see his mother in the balcony. At that point he decided – vowed – to never use profanity or put downs as the basis for his jokes. “If they’re funny, they have to stand on their own merit, so every can relate to them.” And they’ve stood the test of time for over fifty years.
Since Cos did not write the piece, I’m not reprinting it in my Blog. Nor am I circulating the hostile piece that was written by an individual who should have known better. What I am doing, however, is saying the blogger owes Dr. William H. “Bill” Cosby, and the Black community, an apology for the hostile, vile, disrespectful things she wrote in reference to a man who’s example has yet to be matched by others, in either the entertainment or the educational realm. They would do well to take several pages out of the Book of Cosby. And this time read for comprehension and meaning, and apply what you’ve learned.
When you do you will learn that Bill Cosby has underwritten more programs for Africans Americans – from education, to health, to home ownership – and he didn’t have to. He did it because he wanted to, he could, and he loves his people.
Every year, in December, he does a special stand up comedy fundraiser at the Apollo Theatre for Harlem to a packed house!
No, he’s not painting us with a broad brush. He used to live in the worst part of Philly; he has made it his business to help those schools, businesses and other programs. He has consistently tried to pave the way for more brothers and sisters to follow. But he is definitely for those who buck the negative system, and take a stand for themselves and their families. We are our own worse P.R. We will be the only group whose parents outlive their children.
The Cosby Show was designed to be an example of Black people who had struggled through the trials and tribulations, gotten their education despite their parent’s financial challenges, and now were raising their own kids to do the same. Note they had 5 kids, not the American standard of 2. This was not just a situation comedy, this was real life utilizing the medium of comedy to provide examples that could be emulated. He left foot prints- a road map. Nearly all the references were Black, Afro Centric. He showed how to live in the context of a hostile meanstream society, and still be Black, proud, supportive and an exemplar for others. He gave life lessons in every show. He walked his talk.
I am currently residing in a part of Brooklyn where I see negativity all the time. It’s right out there in front of my door. It’s not a pleasant sight. It’s overwhelmingly appalling when you hear a mother call her cute little 3-year old everything but a Child of God. There are times when I want to shake her, or take the kid and remove her from the family before she is permanently contaminated. If I tried to intervene, I would no doubt either be cursed out or attacked. This is not a pretty picture. Mind you, girlfriend has on the latest G-F attire, as does her daughter. Multiply that by tens of thousands. Frightening.
I think Cos is more hurt than anything else that Black people have not moved up in the manner that Dr. King, Malcolm and he himself had hoped they would. People died for Blacks to have better lives; and yet their concept of better lives turns out to be buying bling, louis vitton shoes, over priced sneakers, wearing their pants off their backsides, and using m-f after every sentence, and ni–er at the beginning.
(Couple that with the fact that on the Continent, Africans are committing fratricide at an alarming rate, and I do wonder whether there is some genetic issue that we are not fully cognizant of that causes us to turn on each other instead of to each other).
If Cos is justifiably angry and disappointed, it’s because he sees something better for Black people, and they don’t. When you read him, see him, listen to him, you really get it. I’m just as pissed off as he is. Sometimes I write about it. Unfortunately, though, the people who need to see it, read it, or hear it, are off somewhere getting high. Their kids are shooting each other, because the parents thought it was cute to teach them to do so at an early age. You might say that a large percentage of Black people are at a stage of arrested development – something akin to where whites were in the 1800′s wild wild west; and the high crime era of the US during the prohibition era of the roaring twenties. Our kids are shooting each other at an alarming rate.
I think, given the genius potential we have as a people, Cos, as educator and parent, and a Black man, is justifiably angry. The saying, “a (Black) mind is a terrible thing to waste” is as true now as it ever was. It’s almost as if a large portion of our people are hell bent on self destruction. And if any among them move towards elevation, they will be pulled back down into the barrel and eaten.
Personally, I love Bill and Camille Cosby. I love their minds, focus, dedication and their marriage. He is one of top ten Black men I would clone. President Obama, the Late Percy Sutton, my Dad, both my Grandads, my Uncle Adolf Dulan, my Brother Sylvester Dulan, Bernie Casey, Don King, Frederick Douglass are among some of the others..
I am not an advocate for stepping down to where the people are; the idea is for them to step up. Does that mean that I don’t need to understand where they’re coming from? No. I over understand the situation. I also understand that our youth today are more victims of my peers – their grandparents – who dropped the ball and stopped raising their children (their parents), once they thought they had made it in white society. These kids are victims of neglect of Black parents of the post-Black power era. These kids are their grand kids. Their parents were not given the discipline, education – they were taught that they had made it; that they didn’t have to struggle; that the world owed them a living because of slavery (which was true, but the methodology was more self destructive than anything); when they became more involved with drugs and self hatred – and the rest is what we have today.
We went from being great kings and queens of Africa, to ni–ers and bitches and ho’s. This is why Bill is upset. He’s seen us do better, when we actually were working together, making a difference; making it work. And he sees us destroy our own progress.
There’s a rap piece called “Self Destruction – We’re Headed for Self-Destruction” which was a cooperative effort of various rap groups who were trying to get Blacks to wake up and get it together. That piece was short lived, and replaced by the most negative rap crap, to keep Blacks on the decline. Not to mention crack, crank, etc, and the prison, military, industrial complex – a new career track for whites to perpetuate the incarceration of Blacks.
Cos sees the impending destruction of Black people; his job is not to rage against whites, but to educate Blacks. Wake up call 101. When a kid goes to get a job and can’t even put together a decent sentence, or complete the form; or present appropriate identification; and he’s competing with an immigrant who speaks english better than he does, what do you do? You begin to teach him or her how to compete appropriately – not go on welfare. It may be whites who started this mess, but if we are to win, we have to develop a better arsenal to defeat it. Just blaming the evil is necessary, but not sufficient. We also have to be impervious to their crap. We have to be autonomous. That’s where Bill is coming from.
We need many more Cosby’s because we’re running out of people like him, Rev. Al, Jesse, Harry and those who have bridged that abyss and tried to make it possible for us to synthesize this information into something that we can move forward with, and help our family be all they can be.
I could go on, but I think you get my drift. Right?
Now that you know, what are you going to do?
Stay Blessed &
bullet Columnist Gloria Dulan-Wilson Is a veteran New York City Journalist. Her experiences, perspective & sense of history are an invaluable combination. “check out my blog:” www.gloria-dulan-wilson.blogspot.com
Gloria Dulan-Wilson is available for speaking engagements: Black History, African History, Foreclosure Prevention, Home Ownership, Education, etc., Contact her via [email protected]