LIKE SARAH PALIN, BILL COSBY JUST keeps on talking. He has shown up yet again with more comments lately on cable news, and on the lucrative lecture circuit, continuing to malign and slander African Americans (witness his latest middlebrow, psychobabble Walmark book, "Come on, People: On The Path From Victims to Victors" another mediocre tract contemptuous of real socio-political causality and of real material conditions faced by African American in general and by young, urban African American men in particular, co-written with his favorite hack academic, Harvard meerkat, Alvin Pouissant). Unlike Palin, if Bill Cosby would just shut up, perhaps sit down somewhere and read a book, perhaps one of Karl Marx's books, or hell, perhaps just one of Howard Zinn's books, or perhaps Cornel West's book, "Race Matters", whose analysis is not of Black 'victimhood' but of Black nihilism, which would include not just the Black underclass, but the Black middle class as well, and include Bill himself in its indictments: the problem with the Black race is not just young Black men with their pants hanging off their butts, but also the Black bourgeoisie with its sense of humanity and consciousness hanging off the bumper of a damn BMW and dragging like a tin can through the endoburb streets of Detroit, Philly, and Prince George's county and through the genteel streets of 'Blacklanta' cul de sacs and over-priced condos.
With his periodic spates of appearances (such as a particularly invidious turn he took on "Meet the Press" along with Meercat Pouissant in January, 2009 (depicted in the still photo of he and Pouissant together, at right) Cosby has enthusiastically participated in some of the most overtly racist, reductive, and slanderous mass media denigrations of Black American identity and social reality. Some of the damage done by that particular January appearance can be tracked by the plethora of reactionary responses found in the media and on the internet. Popular blogger, John Lawrence (http://www.socialchoiceandbeyond.com) wrote, in response to Cosby on "Meet The Press" that,
" Cosby is right about black culture in the sense that it seems to elevate pimps, drug dealers, thugs and gangstas making some blacks very rich as purveyors of such in music and movies. But this is part and parcel of the American cultural penchant in general for sex and violence...while black culture seems to glorify gangstas and pimps, white culture makes a big deal out of white criminals also. It's just that the white criminals can't sing or dance as well. Oh well, maybe that excludes Frank Sinatra who, while not being a criminal himself let me hasten to say, was reputed to be an associate of some less than savory characters as, I am sure, everyone who has performed in Las Vegas has been...So I think parents of African-American or biracial children do need to be diligent to pick and choose what influences they want their children exposed to, who they want to hold up as role models, whose examples they want them to avoid following"
This kind of anti-material analysis is only fostered by the way in which Cosby, an enabler of American bourgeois assumptions, is speaking along with rather than in critique of, the echo chamber of a decidedly racist, and viciously unconscious, a-historical mass media. He manages to do untold damage to the psyche and public persona of Black Americans, using the power of his celebrity and the uncommon access he enjoys to the public stage of television to cynically reinforce stereotypes rather than challenge the underlying corporate and social exploitation that those very same stereotypes obscure and enable. He does this, of course, because he is himself the product of, and a toady of, that corporate and social exploitation. He has nursed at the teat of corporate commercial culture for nearly two generations now, and he would rather bite the people who birthed him than bite the hand that feeds him residuals of Jello.
If Cosby would just stop and remember back to when he was 'Disco Bill' (see above) and had to do that shit for a buck because of racism's material effects, it would be possible to forgive his trespasses against us. He has, after all, suffered, just as we all have.
We know Bill. We know him because we know our own bitter-ass Uncle Stan, who shows up uninvited every single Thanksgiving holiday and we let him in even though he will sit in a corner in one of his stupid multi colored knit sweaters glaring resentfully at the the football games and complaining that there was too much salt in the cornbread dressing, and why can't Black people realize we give ourselves high blood pressure with all that salt, and even though we all feel the same way about the damn cornbread dressing, unlike Stan we have the grace and the compassion to not say it so obnoxiously to the host, our Aunt Minnie, who we are all thankful to God is still alive, still on her feet, and still able to cook a meal for us all in the first place, given all she has suffered, including gout, diabetic amputations, and the dirty double cross of the insurance company that betrayed her earlier in the year by refusing to pay out on a catastrophic illness policy that would have allowed her to provide more comfort and dignity to her husband, our uncle, Stan's brother, Uncle Arthur, who died hard of a horrible cancer he in fact might have avoided if he hadn't had to work like a horse for thirty years in a factory packed to the gills with dioxin, and with asbestos insulation.
In other words, Uncle Stan is a selfish ass, who has, yes, earned a place at the table, however much we hate to see him coming 'round, simply because he too has suffered and has brought the family up, has borne it upon his back like all the others in his generation did, and who knows what it is to suffer and pay and pay to be here; yet will not, perhaps cannot, it is beginning to dawn upon us all, pull his head out of his ass and be a mensch.
And so he comes around, he won't take off his sunglasses in the house or even at the table, he nags and complains, he tells the younger generation everything that is wrong with them, but won't let them talk back in their own defense. He farts at the dinner table, and he refuses to let the majority decide if the TV will be tuned to romantic comedies or to the games, or to his beloved John Wayne movies by pulling the rank of his superior age. He complains when everyone settles it by negotiating and compromising: football. He insults the women and the children, and finally falls asleep in front of the football game, and farts one more time in his sleep.
Sarah Palin? Well, if she came knocking, this dyslexic, arctic troll spouting her insensitive malapropisms and hateful drivel, her people could quite justifiably kick her illiterate ass out on that keister of hers that knows so little. We haven't that same recourse with Bill, because those who have come together across the middle passage are tied for eternity together, 'Soul II Soul' as the late great genius, Doreen Waddell would tell us to remember. We cannot afford to cast out any of the family. The humanity of the one is equal to that of the many, of the whole. And so, same time next year, we will have to put up with Uncle Stan's shit all over again.
Yes, like Stan who lives and breathes beside us in the heart of our very own family, Bill Cosby is our paradigm, no, our PHENOM of self hatred and of ugly, snarling cynicism of the type that can only dog we the children of one of the four greatest holocausts of modern times (the other three being theJewish Shoah, the Aboriginal holocausts of North America and South America, and the genocide against the Armenian peoples).
The nerve, the gall, the unmitigated discursive cruelty of this man, to schlep about in public as he does of late, preening in those gauche sweaters of his (however well the bastard thinks he's dressed when he puts on his NBC expense account suits), collecting fees for denigrating the descendants of a people who have suffered historically the kidnapping, rape, mutilation, enslavement, dispersal, and thehistorical marginalization, brutalization, forced illiteracy, economic and physical terrorism, theft of labor and well being, and repeated, racist, mass violence that African Americans have endured! We, the children of the very same peoples who forged post paleolithic human civilization in Ethiopia, migrated north to the Nile Valley where we founded the colony of Kmet--Egypt, invented megalithic construction, invented agricultural, technological, architectural, and cosmological knowledges, and who educated and suckled ancient Rome and Greece, the cradles of the very Western culture that now denigrates us! We, who have built, unacknowledged and un-remunerated, the very infrastructure, under pinning, and rational, material, and economic basis of American society as slaves and as wage slaves up to this very day!
Likewise, the nerve, the insensitivity and venality of a Black ‘entertainer’, who presumes to wield a ‘PhD in education’ (!?) who cannot seem to act as if he has good sense; a Black millionaire who himself achieved those millionsonly as a consolation prize, hard won by he whose very own talents, skills and genius went, as did those of his entire generation, unappreciated, denigrated, and insulted by the social and structural reality of the Jim Crow and segregation which victimized and short changed him and which he has lived to see simply remake itself into a newform of economic segregation even after the hard fought racial struggles of the Civil Rights Movement, which he witnessed and which he took part in! His wealth is a ‘consolation prize’, you damn straight, because he might have been far more than an ‘entertainer’ a ‘comedian,’ an ‘actor’ in world history and on the world stage, had he been born into a just society rather than into the witheringly brutal and stupid, violent and pernicious United States he was cursed to have been born into as a man of limitless talents, which Dizzy Gillespie has said of him, but of towering bitterness, as other of his former musician compatriots have lamented about him.
Despite everything he has witnessed, everything he knows, and everything that is imprinted into his very flesh–the wounds and scars and carbuncles that no million shekels could ever compensate him for, despite all he surely knows of the truth of U.S. history and culture and the way in which it is stacked against Blacks when we actually dare to do what it is he excoriates us for in his opinion not doing, Mr. Jello Puddin' Pops berates and chides, and expectorates upon us, his people, as if we were somehow deserving of his slander.
Dig: he knows by his own first hand knowledge that Black ‘achievement’, what ever that means, can and will be tolerated in the U.S. only on an individual basis (and even then only in prescribed and narrow avenues of endeavor such as the low avenues he his individual self was confined to--the exception of Barack Obama is thus actually proof of the rule, not repudiation of it!). Surely he knows even better than I and the others of my younger generation, that when we collectively achieve power, pride, grace, wealth, and literacy we are freaking murdered for it (Rosewood, Detroit and the Algiers Hotel, and Tulsa, Bill!). Why else do Rap artists perform and front such vile, hateful, violent material? Because the recording industry and entertainment industry that control Rap and every other artistic, commercial, political, and economic expression in America systematically destroyed the promotion and distribution of artists such as Public Enemy, Disposable Heroes, Rage Against The Machine, Jungle Brothers, Tribe Called Quest, Roxanne Shante, De La Soul, KRS One, etc. The very same mass media global corporations that own Rap and Hiphop in America are the very same ones affiliated with Kodak film, Coca Cola, Jello, and Kool Aid-- Bill's pimp daddy employers; the corporations that made him rich and put him in Bentleys and knit sweaters.
Rap music is just like cocaine: young Black males may sell it, indulge in it, glorify it, and pass it between themselves, but they sure cannot and do not globally distribute it. So how does it travel from East Coast Black community to West Coast Black community and back again? From white suburb to white suburb? From North coast Great Lakes to South Coast Lake Okeechobee and from the U.S. to Germany, Brazil, Port Au Prince, France, Spain, Brixton, and Italy?
According to Black scholars and cultural critics like Michael Eric Dyson and Cornel West, white corporate America is the culprit. Corporate America in the form of Columbia, Atlantic, and Warner Bros., moved stealthily and shrewdly to lay down the framework for an eventual economic takeover of Rap even as Hiphop of the late 70's and early 80's took America by storm as a vibrant, politically outspoken, consciousness raising and pride promoting cultural movement informed by dynamic, new urban forms of dance, song, vernacular, music, clothing design, visual, and techno art, spawning literally thousands of wealth-nurturing, economically empowering, community based, ingenious, free market, profit generating businesses and collectives from Brooklyn, to Atlanta, to Miami, to Detroit, to Chicago, to Dallas, to LA.
The recording industry moved to co-opt, to dominate, to control, and then eventually to direct the very evolution of what it saw as being, for itself, the most lucrative aspect of Hiphop culture: Rap music, the music Bill Cosby so truculently attacks as causing 'brain damage'. But this reality of Rap's colonization by corporate executives is not a mystery. This history is an open history, backed up by public record and by dozens of books that were not written by Bill Cosby and Alvin Pouissant, and apparently not read by these two hucksters either; books such as Nelson George's "The Death of Rhythm and Blues," Leroi Jones'/Amiri Baraka's "Blues People," and Chuck D's "Fight the Power: Rap, Race, and Reality." The history of the white, corporate takeover of Rap is clear for anyone willing to do research or willing simply to read a few books and to consult corporate, journalistic, community, and legislative records.
White entertainment media corporations, suffering a plunge in their profit curve on the tail end of the very lucrative Beatles, Stones, Jefferson Airplane, KISS, Queen rock/punk era of the 70's and then suffering severe profit losses due to the slow fizzling out of the temporary cash flow 'bump' of the disco era, yet not yet realizing the profits that would eventually accrue from The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and the second British invasion, saw their immediate salvation in a brand new art form called 'Hiphop', and saw that by 1980, willful destruction of independent, conscious Rap artists and an artificial promotion of misogynist, nihilistic, violent Rap aesthetics, was their surest avenue to a revival of their dying domestic record industries. The destruction of Rap's economic and aesthetic self determination was easily enforced by their corporate command of the collective public relations, distribution, legal, and liquid resources of an industry which shrewdly withheld profits and promotion from progressives such as The Black Rock Coalition, Queen Latifah, Chuck D, Shinehead, Ice Cube (in his better incarnations), Poor Righteous Teachers, X Clan, The Sugar Hill Gang, Tommy Boy Records, Cold Chillin' Records, Russell Simmons, FUBU, Brand Nubian, Scott La Rock, Boogey Down Productions, Eric B and Rakim, Mos Def, and Zack De La Roca while showering quick cash, cheap jewelry, automobiles, and other such low percentage, transient rewards upon inner city lumpen prole and unconscious victims--the 'thugg rappers' of so-called 'gangsta' aesthetics.
This information is provided openly by scores of congressional hearings into evidence to justify the introduction of the industry's 'explicit lyrics' stamp, state legislative hearings into Rap and 'criminal enterprise', and community conferences and rap collective seminars examining corporate colonialism's legal and economic attacks upon and against Hiphop's self determination and economic independence. These public fora took place and have continued to take place since at least 1990, exposing, among other things, a detailed paper trail of corporate profits, profits that have skyrocketed since the period (1980-1991) that so-called 'gangsta rap' was invented and then aggressively promoted by business suit wearing, white executives at media companies such as Interscope Records and MCA. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in one of these fora, in 1997, as much as admitted that Rap was owned and controlled by multi-millionaire executives, promoters, publicity churls, and industry mouthpieces such as Edgar Bronfman Jr. of MCA; Jim Noonan, senior vice president of corporate communications, Warner Music Group; Joe Fitzgerald, vice president of investor relations, Joseph E. Seagram and Sons (owner of the Universal Music Group); and Sharon Christians, director of corporate affairs, EMI Group. Most of these people happened to testify in 1997 before an 'Investment Committee of the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System' at hearings spurred by the Maryland State Legislature's consideration of a bill that might have mandated divestiture and prohibited further Maryland state investments in companies associated with 'gangsta rap' commodities, profits, and publicity.
The Investment Committee sought to engage in a dialogue with the recording industry, which came out with bells on, eager to defend 'gangsta rap' from Maryland's criticisms not because they sought artistic justice but because, as their disproportionate attendance betrayed, they wished to protect their own phenomenal profits, profits they had amassed from this musical niche market that they had created. RIAA corporate members even at that time, created, manufactured and/or distributed approximately 85% of all non bootlegged, legally copyrighted, industry-created sound recordings produced and sold in the United States.
This single event, in this single state, in the year 1997 reflects hundreds, if not thousands of other such events across the U.S., between approximately 1982 and the year 2000. That these events, public cross examinations both public and private, in state house committee rooms and in sealed corporate boardrooms, took place at all signals an unavoidable truth about the relationship between largely anonymous capitalists and the street level reality of thugg rap (as upper level corporate capitalism in the 1980's was directly tied to street level cocain distribution). It is undeniably clarifying, to say the least, that these cross examinations of music industry executives were undertaken to codify and to interrogate the solvency of the profit motive associated with Hiphop; these events demonstrate the profit motive for the mass media demonizing of the young Blacks who created Hiphop while inadvertently betraying the reality of corporate control of Hiphop!
These facts, this history is available in newspaper articles, journal articles, in oral histories, in legislative records and even in court cases (such as State of Florida v 2 Live Crew & Luther Campbell, in an infamous 1984 obscenity trail). If Bill Cosby cared to seek out the historical and economic context these facts can bestow upon any debate of the conduct of Black people who not just in the realm of Rap music but in every other endeavor, cultural expression or production, and socio-economic situation must react to and contend with overwhelming economic imperialism in America, he could very easily enlighten himself and more justly denounce American capitalism which preys upon the Black race at least as zealously as he denounces Blacks' behavior under that economic yoke.
But no. Despite what he surely knows of the truth of history, this man, this mountebank, this manque, this minion, dares to bray and bray at us in the newsprint and in the electronic flicker of our and his oppressor that we should ‘do better’??
Uncle Bill, go to hell. Or, are you perhaps already there?