Monday, March 27, 2006

YOU asked FOR IT

Today in my mailbox, I found this little gem from my Christian-Republican Cousin Hal:

"You've got to admire this man [big pic of Bill Cosby]

"Looks like New Orleans is waking people up. Cosby is shaking their bed again.

"We Can't Blame White People"
Wed, 7 Sep 2005 15:23:29 EDT

"They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English. I can't even talk the way these people talk:

"Why you ain't,
Where you is,
What he drive,
Where he stay,
Where he work,
Who you be...
And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk.

"Where were you when he was 2? Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18 and how come you didn't know that he had a pistol? And where is the father? Or who is his father?

"People used to be ashamed. Today a woman has eight children with eight different 'husbands' -- or men or whatever you call them now. We have millionaire football players who cannot read. We have million-dollar basketball players who can't write two paragraphs. We as black folks have to do a better job. Someone working at Wal-Mart with seven kids, you are hurting us.

"We have to start holding each other to a higher standard. We cannot blame the white people any longer."
To which I replied:

"I have to admit that this was somewhat effective in making me think there might be a need to motivate *some* people to pull themselves out of poverty.

"But you know what they say about "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" -- it's laughed at as an old saying that let's the rest of us off the hook. It's a way to blame the poor for being poor -- even though most of them don't have "bootstraps" big enough to get a grip on. If we can find a way to blame the poor, then we don't have to help them. It's all their fault. We have no responsibility for being Jesus."
Whaddya think? Are Cousin Hal & Mr. Cosby right on this one?
Thnx to leroys and indiand for the fotos


Anne Johnson said...

Professor Cosby is entitled to his opinion, and certainly has more cachet to talk about black folks than I do. But as an expatriate hillbilly who substitute teaches at an inner city high school, I can only say that I'm fascinated by Ebonics. It has its own grammar and pronunciation and is as different from my English as a thick Scottish brogue. My students can't understand me any better than I can understand them, and sometimes the miscommunication is so profound that the kids are insulting each other and I don't know it. (The Spanglish is completely out of my league.) But who's to say I speak better English than they do? I speak different English, that's all.

Morgaine said...

I think there's plenty of failure to go around. There will always be people who cannot care for themselves. A functional society provides for them and allows them ways to contribute whatever they can.

We DO need higher standards in this country, and it all comes down to education. I don't agree with making English the official language, but I do think that a person who lives in a culture in which they are not proficient at the primary language will always be at a disadvantage. This isn't just an issue of ethnicity, though. If you ever watch any daytime TV - Judge Judy is a good place to start - pay attention to the middle class white people as they try to express themselves. Even "mainstream", Anglo-Americans born and raised here are unable to construct a sentence. The vast majority of white adults cannot conjugate a verb. In a country with free education required by law, that's appalling.

I don't believe in censorship and I don't believe in draconian impositions of one moral code or another, but I do believe in personal responsibility. Do I think violent video games should be illegal? No. Do I think a person ought to make the choice not to buy them? Absolutely.

The same goes for racist, homophobic, misogynistic music; reality TV that rewards venality, greed, dishonesty, criminality, cruelty and just plain trash; advertising that puts money ahead of the public good. You can't codify responsibility. You can't force people to learn. You can't make them have taste, dignity or a sense of community. You can, however, teach all of those things.

Cosby speaks of shame. That's a useful tool to reinforce tribal values. The problem is that patriarchal culture attributes shame to things that make people easier to control, rather than healthier. Sex shouldn't involve shame. Having a baby should be a choice made joyously in a supportive and safe environment. Selfishly accumulating wealth that adds nothing to your life but could sustain others should be seen as shameful. Begrudging a child a home, an education, or even just basic nutrition is shameful. Allowing 53% of the population to go underpaid and oppressed by violence and codified discrimination is shameful.

We do need to demand more of everyone, but we need to demand most from those with with options and resources. Not making the most of what we have is the greatest shame of all.

Athana said...

Anne, in one of my past lives I taught 6th grade for a few years, mostly black kids. I told them their English was stupendous and gorgeous, but that they needed to learn "standard English" *too* (not "instead of"), to get nice jobs. So we did a lot of practice with "standard English."

Athana said...

Morgaine, you've said so much good, interesing stuff I don't know where to begin. "... we need to demand most from those with options and resources..."

I so agree! And yet this is a crux in our society. Cousin Hal would, I'm sure, decidedly *disagree.* He would say it doesn't matter what you begin with, unless you end the race alongside everyone else, there's something wrong with you. It's the old Horatio Alger thing.

Where does this attitude come from?!?

"...shame ... a useful tool to reinforce tribal values. The problem is that patriarchal culture attributes shame to things that make people easier to control, rather than healthier."

Humans need culture to survive (learned, shared, patterned behavior transmitted from generation to generation). So you need something to make sure everyone is on the same page, more or less. Shame is one way to do it -- if and when education doesn't work.

But what we have now is a defective, highly unhealthy culture. So on the one hand I want to excuse anyone who can circumvent it and still do at least okay. But how many can do okay by spitting in the wind of the powers that be? I suppose we have, to a certain extent, but we may be anomolies. How many can exist reasonably comfortably without towing the patriarchal line?

Who's more moral, in this situation -- you and I who tell people to spit at patriarchy, or Bill Cosby, who tells them to bow down and take what fruits they can get?

Morgaine said...

That's the question - do you go along to get along, or do you stand up for what you believe and take the consequences? If you're a Jewish musician in a concentration camp, do you play for the Nazis and stay alive, or piss them off?

I know what I hope I'd do. You don't live long that way, though, or you have to fight like hell to stay alive. I've fought the system and it kicked my ass. I wouldn't do anything any differently, though. I have to live with myself, first and foremost and that means I have to do what I think is the right thing. Damned inconvenience, this sense of honor or integrity.

The problem right now is that we're on a disasterous course. Our culture is imploding, and if those of us who see it coming don't try to wake people up, we will all suffer the consequences. Nothing good will come from allowing patriarchy to continue unopposed. Our one best hope is to re-educate people and create options for women and children in our own communities of women.