Monday, May 19, 2008

When Cosby blamed whitey

A couple of years ago, I tracked down and bought a copy of Bill Cosby’s doctoral dissertation.

Y’all know Cosby likes to flaunt his doctorate, right? He even puts “Ed.D.” on some of his television credits. You ever wonder what his thesis was about?

Here’s the title: “An Integration of the Visual Media Via ‘Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids’ into the Elementary School Curriculum as a Teaching Aid and Vehicle to Achieve Increased Learning.”

Cosby presented this dissertation in September 1976 at the University of Massachusetts.

Here’s what’s interesting about it. Whereas Dr. Cosby has lately been stressing personal responsibility and the failure of black folks to lift themselves up, he was humming a different tune 30 years ago.

Back then, it was all whitey’s fault.

“Schools are supposed to be the vehicle by which children are equipped with the skills and attitudes necessary to enter society,” Cosby wrote in his introduction. “But a black child, because of the inherent racism in American schools will be ill prepared to meet the challenges of an adult future. The ‘American Dream’ of upward mobility is just another myth.”

Yeah. Bill Cosby wrote that.

He was wrong then. He’s right now.

“Far from being prepared to move along an established career lattice, black children are trained to occupy those same positions held by their parents in a society economically dominated and maintained by a white status quo,” Cosby continued in his dissertation.

“Because urban children come from a poor socio-economic environment, teachers – instilled with their own racist attitudes – are quick to make assumptions about the cognitive abilities of their students.”

Hmm...

“The failure that minority children experience from the very outset can only reinforce the debilitating sense of worthlessness whites convey in a variety of ways,” Cosby wrote, “and so feed the self-hatred produced by discrimination and prejudice.”

Damn. He was on some Jeremiah Wright shit! He even quoted from Stokely Carmichael’s book “Black Power” to define the scope of white racism in American society.

According to Cosby, “[t]he ferociousness with which racism is perpetuated transcends all class levels.” And white people “are raised with a counter myth of white supremacy (power and domination) and intellectual superiority (by which to assert their power and domination).”

Of course, with the passage of time it’s now evident that no matter how high you pile the leftist horseshit, it won’t make black kids do better in school... and it won’t decrease the rates of black violent crime.

Those are things only black people can fix.

39 comments:

Kellybelle said...

Interesting shift on Cosby's part.
Maybe way back then, there was more of the soft bigotry of low expectations--like on 'Everybody Hates Chris' whenre the white teacher always assumes his mother is a heroin addict.

Thembi said...

Wow, I always thought it was honorary since he dropped out of Temple. I cant wait til I get old and mean!

Phelps said...

I have to disagree. I think that there was still a good degree of racism and bigotry in public schools 30 years ago. We taught white kids and failed to educate black kids.

Now we fail to educate all kids equally.

Bay Radical said...

I think I have a sense of where you stand on politics and social issues UBM, and then you surprise me: do you really think kids of the 70s weren't impacted by racism in the school setting? Was there NO racism, unequal allocation of resources, or culturally biased content in schools 30 years ago? And if I'm misunderstanding what you're getting at, can you clarify?

The thing that bugs me about Cosby's whole bootstrap rap is that his own particular trajectory is the very one he's saying is impossible: he dropped out of school (initially) and made it big not in business or academia, but as an entertainer. When he did go to school, he relied on sports scholarships (which clearly aren't available to everyone) and he only got that dissertation years after he was already successful in a field that relies heavily on blind luck. The guy has determination, stick-tuitiveness, and a strong sense of what people want to watch too, but shit, his life just isn't possible for most people.

Bay Radical said...

And more importantly, have you checked out this comparative analysis of who Obama should choose as a running mate?!

fishesalot said...

Racism, what racism?? ...Cosby is nuts!

Man, I can still remember my jr. high/high school days in the late 60s' and 70s', my teachers were great. Mr. Mathews taught me everything there was to know about metal shops, shite, I was an expert at making ash trays. My woodshop teacher was a great mentor too, constantly encouraged me to focus more on constructing those wooden birdhouses instead of the simple name plaques. Then, my print shop teacher would always let us out early because we never had enough ink to press our papers, and sometimes he just didn't show up himself, ...that was nice. Oh yeah, can't forget typing class, even got to see Cortez Peters. Rest of the time I just hung out in art and music class all day. The fine arts instructors were cool, I could cut all my other classes and hang out there as long as I cranked out at least one painting or pastel drawing per day. I found out later that my white art teacher was selling my works. Best thing is, all my teachers always gave me excellent grades, even got B's for some classes that I hadn't been to for weeks at a time - go figure???

So, I don't know what Cos is talking about. My white teachers were great, taught me all the skills I needed to get out here and make that money. Yeah!

BTW,...anybody interested in some nice vintage ashtrays, ..cheap!


Out!

Undercover Black Man said...

Was there NO racism, unequal allocation of resources, or culturally biased content in schools 30 years ago?

Bay Radical: I attended elementary school in the '60s and early '70s. Every teacher I had was black. I excelled. Why? I was raised in a house full of books, for one thing.

What can a public school do if a kid isn't raised in a home or a neighborhood where academic success is highly valued?

Bay Radical said...

What can a public school do if a kid isn't raised in a home or a neighborhood where academic success is highly valued?

Sure. I agree that a single school can't solve all the social problems of a community. But if we're going to have public schools at all, shouldn't we expect them to serve all kids equally, and to provide appropriate resources for all kids? Shouldn't we critique them when they fall short of that?

Given the massive challenges facing poor people of all ethnic backgrounds, what do you see as a solution to the problems that urban kids face? If your parents don't have a house full of books, let alone if your parents lack job skills or struggle with drug addiction - then what should you do?

I see the limit of only blaming the system, but I also see the limit of only emphasizing personal responsibility in a world where there are structural inequalities.

Undercover Black Man said...

If your parents don't have a house full of books, let alone if your parents lack job skills or struggle with drug addiction - then what should you do?

The question is what should the state do? What can the state do? The state can't raise children. The state can't prevent people from becoming drug addicts.

The root of my disenchantment with the left is the ideological belief that the government -- and not the family -- is responsible for creating productive citizens.

Anonymous said...

How to make fucked up families whole and healthy enough to raise healthy kids? The miracle child from a fucked up family that is motivated and bright needs all the help he can get from his school. School should be the last safe place for our kids. If their parents are too poor, too stupid, too high or too busy to have an impact then the government should do something beside lock them up later. It is fucking frustrating watching kids swirl down the tubes because of fucked up families and schools still waiting from Ronnie Reagan's bullshit to trickle down.

dez said...

And more importantly, have you checked out this comparative analysis of who Obama should choose as a running mate?!

I think this is my favorite:
"CONS:
- is Joe Lieberman
- no, seriously, is Joe Lieberman"

HA!

DeAngelo Starnes said...

I have to agree with bayradical on this one, Dave. I think you take too narrow a view point on Bill's dissertation versus where his head is now.

I won't repeat radical's well-articulated position. I will add, however, that I don't see a problem with the dissertation nor do I see it as a flip-flop with where he is now. People change based on what they experience over time. Hell, I thought Spyro Gyra was some hip music at one time. Had up there with Weather Report. Now how sad is that?

Anyway, Cos might've gotten frustrated along the way. Maybe he doesn't disagree with some of his points that he made in the 70s but by the 00s feel like expecting white benevolence ain't the answer. And if you consider that, at the time he wrote his dissertation, Reagan hadn't even come into office to take money out of the schools, he probably threw his hands in the air. You get older, you get less patient with some things. Bill was crossover before crossover was big. He doesn't want to bite the hand that fed him and so he won't continue the same critique. He turns to the Black community and shouts "Wake Up!" Black people are more apathetic now than they were in the 70s.

That's my take.

Check me out getting my ass kicked on backing the elimination of gay marriage over at ebonyjet. Check Critical Evaluation: Expanding the Social Order. Talk about closed-minded and apathy.

DeAngelo Starnes said...

I meant my support of the elimination of the ban against gay marriage.

Undercover Black Man said...

Here's the link for DeAngelo's latest at EbonyJet.com.

eeaster said...

Speaking of the whole books in the house thing, David, a recent study found that no matter the school and no matter the race, there is a direct correlation to a child's academic success and how many books the family OWNS. Not gets from the library or reads at bedtime, but OWNS. The suggestion being that the presence of books as a constant seems to be the most significant motivator of children to take the initaitive to read.

i guess a naysayer would tie that to income, but there's a whole lot of $1 book days at bookstores. You can pretty much make a Kool Aid vs. book decision in somebody's Goodwill store fairly easily.

cuz said...

I have to go along with UBM about the book thing. And when books weren't around in plenty, the uncles and aunts took us to the museums. Even church played a role. They didn't have the opportunities and resources we had (they gave us) growing up, and they treated books with reverence and the ability to read as a treasure. Even the old drunks and addicts in the neighborhood would tell us to "go to school" and be somebody. It's a question of priorities for these people with humble resources - which is why we have to make the options available for advanced education or vocational training.

I'm also on the same page to a point with UBM about how people learn (previous blog). I was never told there's a Black way, a White way, a Hispanic, Asian, or American Indian way to learn. There are cultural approaches in the K-12 years to teaching or passing on information, but it's not about race, it's about culture. And in the end, if you want to go to college or university, you have to shift gears to make the transition to learn and put the information out "their way." Cosby still had to defend his dissertation in the format, tradition in which these things are done. I'm a visual, hands on learner. Teach me plain math - nothing; teach me how to apply the math and assign me a project - I'll build you a city. But bottom line, I still had to do it "their way" too to graduate.

And can somebody tell me what is up with this "elitist" thing? The whole verbage about "elitism" in the USA signals an anti-intellectual, anti-smart vibe in the American culture overall. I've even seen on television, characters starting out average dumbing down to the point of wanting to pull the plug. At one time it was cool to be smart. Or am I going Cosby on this?

Wonder Man said...

Cosby is right, I know people disagree, but we need to take control of our future and our growth

Bklyn6 said...

The whole verbage about "elitism" in the USA signals an anti-intellectual, anti-smart vibe in the American culture overall.

Really, who wants a bunch of intellectuals running the government? :p

The culture of anti-intellectualism may seem like a current phenomenon but it goes as far back as "post-WWII society," at least that what Susan Jacoby says in "The Age of American Unreason." She talks about elitism, anti-intellectualism on The Colbert Report. She also mentions that half of Americans didn't read a book last year.

Maybe 100 years from now when the history books talk about this era and the mess this administration has made, the writers will trivialize it all as the ill-effects of the age of anti-intellectualism.

varneer said...

UBM:

You're right about books.

Cosby was right in the '70s.

Cosby is right now.

Undercover Black Man said...

The suggestion being that the presence of books as a constant seems to be the most significant motivator of children to take the initaitive to read.

Interesting, Eric. Makes perfect sense. After all, my dad didn't tell me to read. He didn't have to.

And let's not forget newspapers. My dad used to get all three D.C. dailies: the Post, the Evening Star and the Daily News. Unfortunately, the last one standing -- the Post -- is losing a shitload of talent and institutional memory with a round of buyouts. That industry is shrinking.

My dad -- who never went to college -- also was into the Reader's Digest. Particularly the "Increase Your Word Power" game. That got me into it.

It's all about the importance of the written word.

Brian W said...

"Those are things only black people can fix."

Oh yeah? How?

Cosby was selling horseshit then, and he is still selling horseshit now. And you, my brother, are buying the new improved equine scat.

Undercover Black Man said...

Oh yeah? How?

By embracing the values of education, law-abidingness and work, of course. The same thing Du Bois was talking about 100 years ago.

You got some enlightenment to impart, Brian? Is it white people's problem to solve?

RC said...

Is it just me, or was that kind of an easy slide in there for a doctorate?
Do you read other dissertations Dave?
Just wondering what you thought of the overall argument and whether the work was even worthy of the PHD.
I also have to confess right here that while I do read an awful lot and always have, my respect for most academia above college level is limited since so much of it is about politics and minutiae. Let's not even go near Deconstruction. I missed most of the Cos oeuvre since
I don't live in the US and for the same reason I have very little practical knowledge of the status of the schools at present.
It does seem to be a prima facie argument that if you want to see improvement in your part of the society, improve yourself. There is only a limited amount of incentive for the greater society to act upon the needs of the subsets and at the moment I think most of those actions have been taken and they come up rather short. So that leaves either DIY or whine.
Another painful and shocking reality coming down the tracks right now is that the economy is burned out. Anyone expecting any help from the government or other magic entities during the next ten years will be very disappointed.
To revisit my Cos doctorate question one more time and frame it correctly: is this to say that if he wrote a thesis around it John Waters might receive a Human Sexuality PHD for his insights promulgated in Pink Flamingos? Scorcese could receive an anthropology doctorate for The Godfather?
Now, I do have friends who have received Master's degrees for films on Blues musicians, but these were films made for Film degrees.
I'm all confused now. Maybe I need to get me some higher education so I can have the tools to figure it all out.

Brian W. said...

By embracing the values of education, law-abidingness and work, of course. The same thing Du Bois was talking about 100 years ago.

You got some enlightenment to impart, Brian? Is it white people's problem to solve?

# 1: You offer platitudes and nothing more. I don’t know a single black person who doesn’t embrace work, school, and “law-abidingness” (rhetorically, at the very least). Excluding the deranged and the sociopathic, who doesn’t, in theory?
#2: I never said I had anything enlightening to say.
#3: What does white people have to do with what I said?
I love your site, but your analyses sometimes border on the simplistic. Cosby and you seem to have a class problem --that is, you don’t see that all the problems you highlight about blacks are basically the problems of poor or lower-middle-class or working-class blacks (pick your designation). These problems cry out for class-based or race-class based or geographically based solutions, not bromides, and surely not the resurrection of Du Bois.

Love your New Orleans post, by the way.

gs56ca said...

I think education is a very powerful thing. Even if you are poor, you can be educated, and when you get that break , you have everything you need. All it is , is a break. Schools give you that 'break'. They show you how things are done in the society that you live. THey legitamize your studies. I was telling my friend the other day, I can very well educate myself and have the same knowledge as someone with a university degree. ALl I have to do is buy the books and read,but having legitimate resources , such as labs, industry connections ,etc. is hard because you are not working at a university. The university gives you confidence in the work environment.

So, not only do you need the parental backing but the school backing as well. It works both ways. Me and my siblings have had bad experiences with teachers at school that can be considered racist or prejudice; now add these to the normal problems students have with teachers. These experiences discouraged us alot,but thank God , I had my parents. Still, why did I have to go through such shit, especially in the 21st century. Not all parents are as supportive as my own, and not all of them are as strong either. Some students don't even have all their parents present. So how do you help a guy that really wants to learn, but needs that extra push?

MIB said...

I'm taken aback by this,

"... with the passage of time it’s now evident that no matter how high you pile the leftist horseshit, it won’t make black kids do better in school... and it won’t decrease the rates of black violent crime.

Those are things only black people can fix."
,

as it suggests the structural racism Cosby wrote of in the 70's no longer exists today. Now that is horseshit, David. Pointing out the condition doesn't make one a Marxist.

I'm inclined to give Cosby a wide latitude for his (recent) comments, for I believe Black people understand a) the existence of racism and, b) the limits of public institutions simultaneously.
Outside of a few noisy crickets, I don't see or hear many contemporaries of Kwame Toure. The
'victimology' meme kicked around by so many right-of-center Blacks is a straw man.

I don't think Cosby intended to scapegoat the Black underclass for the entirety of socioeconomic ills that befall so many of us. Unfortunately, with his sidebar into 'those people' that's how he came off. As such, a lot of Cosby's audience -- the Black bourgeois -- conveniently excused themselves from having any responsibility for the structural conditions facing many predominantly Black communities.

We're reading too far into Cosby at this point, however. He's delivered a rant, and it should be understood as such.

Undercover Black Man said...

The 'victimology' meme kicked around by so many right-of-center Blacks is a straw man.

I'm afraid you're wrong, MIB. Leftist "victimology" is becoming institutionalized in the academy... as with the rise of "critical race theory" and its legalistic focus on the institutionalized oppression of racial minorities.

Undercover Black Man said...

I don’t know a single black person who doesn’t embrace work, school, and “law-abidingness” (rhetorically, at the very least).

Brian, 20 black people are murdered (by other black people) every day in America. This doesn't bespeak a culture that embraces "law-abidingness."

Black folks commit more than half of all murders in the U.S.A. Those who've been bitching for the last 40 years about "institutional racism" haven't done a damn thing to resolve this crisis.

Undercover Black Man said...

Outside of a few noisy crickets, I don't see or hear many contemporaries of Kwame Toure.

Oh, and... ummm... don't forget "Black Liberation Theology." :^o

Black radicalism is alive and kicking.

MIB said...

Having spent more than enough of my years in higher ed (we both attended U of MD at the same time, BTW), I can speak directly to the myth of Black people being inculcated into the philosophy White supremacy explains completely the socioeconomic ills that affect 'us'. To begin, the percentage of Black students and faculty are so low on most campuses as to be a non-factor in matters of Black intellectual study or production. AAMOF, Leftism isn't as pervasive on college campuses as you'd have everyone believe -- judging by the conspicuous lack of Che Guevaras coming out of Harvard, Yale, et al.. Even HBCU's are notorious for their ultra-conformist policies and environment.

What does exist is a few (mostly White) neo-liberals who use their media access to propigate Black stereotypes that fit their agenda. It's an ignorant reference point for a discussion on Black culture; just as oversimplified and knee-jerky as Cosby's scapegoating of the Black underclass.

Undercover Black Man said...

To begin, the percentage of Black students and faculty are so low on most campuses as to be a non-factor in matters of Black intellectual study or production.

Say wot? Doesn't every university in America have a black studies or Africana studies department? You think those are hotbeds of conservatism?

Julius Lester, former Black Power radical, got chased-da-funk-out of the black studies faculty at the University of Mass. at Amherst, shunned and harassed by his colleagues, after he converted to Judaism and became a supporter of Israel.

MIB, please get real about what's being taught at America's universities under the banner of black studies.

RC said...

Maybe Julius just had a hero worship thing goin' on with Sammy D.

MIB said...

"Doesn't every university in America have a black studies or Africana studies department?"

You're kidding, right?

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Dang, I didn't think I was...

Brian W. said...

You take the intersection of complex phenomena and then caricature it to the point where it fits easily in your breast pocket. This makes it easy for you to proffer the kinds of solutions one hears at the bus stop or at the bar stool or on the front porch --you know, the kinds that are the only options open to those such as you who reject the idea that the state of the political economy matters.

Also, you don't want to admit that out of the continuum of blacks in the US (urban, suburban, rural; wealthy, bourgeois, petit bourgeois, working class, near-poor and really poor), it is primarily a small subset of the very poor, the near-poor, and the working poor who commit the kinds of crimes and other offenses you bring up. Does this fact at all suggest to you a possible approach for dealing these problems?

Crime: UBM, I take it seriously because it is a serious issue which requires well-thought-out and serious solutions, no matter where it occurs and who commits it. What you reduce it to is a character flaw of the wrong kind of blacks who have failed in your eyes because if they aren't murdering each other, they are dropping out of school, or failing to show up for that minimum-wage job someone so graciously hired them to do.

The only thing that would satisfy you it seems is some kind of collectivist authoritarian character-building movement in the black community directed solely, of course, at the very poor, near-poor, and the working poor; after all, they are the ones murdering each other, the English language, and honest-work time --all at once. And if that is your only solution, one without ties to politics and the political economy at large, then that makes you no different from a Farrakhan, I am sorry to say.

Lola Gets said...

Dude, you paid for his dissertation? Please tell me it wasnt too expensive??

L

Undercover Black Man said...

^ I'm afraid I did... and it kinda was. I don't know what possessed me, Lola. I just got tired of seeing his "Ed.D." credit and had to find out what the deal was.

Vince Spence said...

David,

Dr. Cosby's statements 30 years ago are not in contradiction of his belief that blacks (males in particular) have failed to progress past 1968 due to the lack of personal responsibility.

Screaming about white racism and blaming whitey for the crab grass in their lawn in a blog 200-300 times per week doesn't further any black cause one inch. If the black men who participate in this and other 'black is always right and white is always wrong' blogs spent 20% of that time mentoring young black males, real black growth could be realized.

Of out curiosity, what is this "Y'all" and "black folks" stuff?

Vince Spence said...

bay radical said...
I see the limit of only blaming the system, but I also see the limit of only emphasizing personal responsibility in a world where there are structural inequalities.

deangelo starnes said...
I won't repeat radical's well-articulated position.

I question 'radical' but I am not surprised with Mr. Starnes' total agreement with him. We should not expect black personal responsibility until all structural inequities in the world are remedied. What if they are not resolved for 20 years, 50 years...?? Black females have already accepted responsibility and currently shoulder the majority of the economic burden in the black household - job, car, insurance and mortgage (rent) payments, etc. They obviously disagree with DeAngelo and 'Bay Radical' and have decided not to wait.