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Is Bill Cosby Right?: Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind
Is Bill Cosby Right?: Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind
by Michael Eric Dyson
Edition: Hardcover
178 used & new from $0.01

31 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A REVIEW FROM ONE WHO ADMIRES BILL COSBY, June 3, 2005
First of all let me say that I admire Dr. Cosby for his very positive depiction of blacks in his work as a comedian and actor. When I first heard excerpts of his speech last year, I was one who was beating his drums saying, "say it Mr. Cosby, it's about time some of these knuckleheads are told the truth". So when I first got this book, I read it with a slight degree of trepidation, because I was scared I was going to read another dissertation on how "everything wrong with black people is due to some form of institutional racism". If it were not for the fact that I admire and respect Dr. Dyson's work, I would not have picked it up in the first place (although, I must say the title did amuse me). But slowly, however, as I read the book, I realized that the problem with my cries of self-righteousness upon first hearing excerpts of Dr. Cosby's speech was that I had not heard the whole speech and had not put his words in the right context of reality.

Unless you read the book in its entirety, you will not get the point that Dyson is trying to make. It is somewhat hypocritical for Cosby to heap all this blame on working and poor black families in light of his own struggles growing up, and considering many of the social constraints that make it challenging to raise a black child in today's America. At first glance, you would think that Dyson is trying to give an excuse for all irrational behavior by black youth and their parents, but this is not the case at all. He goes through a lot of research to present facts that make you think and at least have more empathy before giving the "I-made-it-from-nothing-to-something-so-why-can't-you" speech. I find it very troubling that in America today, there seem to be two broad schools of thought in the political arena, without room for compromise: first, there is the "let-the-government-solve-all-you-problems-for-you-because-you-are-a-victim-of-racism-or-cirscumstance" school of thought, and then there is the "pull-yourself-up-by-the-boostraps-because-I-did-with-only-a-fraction-of-the-resources-you-have" school of thought. We often label these philosophies liberal and conservative respectively. But the truth of the matter (as Dr. Dyson suggests in his book) is that the solutions to the problem of bridging the socio-economic gap between poor blacks and the black middle class are not always as simple as getting your child "hooked on phonics". Yes, education is an essential part of the growing process, but there are several constraints within the education system within urban communities that must be addressed. Whether our kids are buying $500 tennis shoes (as Cosby suggests), or wearing their pants backwards, or have names like Shaneka, Lakwanda (etc) is a secondary issue and does not address the issues that contribute to the hopelessness plaguing many of our poor communities.

Do we ever examine the fact that an aggressive capitalistic business empire would rather your kids buy those expensive tennis shoes as they pawn famous athletes (who are predominantly black) to be used as spokespeople for their communities to get more sales to those "poor communities"? Can we blame our kids for wanting to have a piece of the American dream, when for many just having those tennis shoes is a symbol of making it when names like Iverson, Lebron or Garnett are on those shoes [they themselves being positive models of going from rags-to-riches]? Whatever your political affiliation, I would still suggest you read this book, if not for anything else, but the facts that Dyson raises about our school systems, Cosby's up-bringing and background, and how ironic it seems that a man like Cosby who has always tried to avoid being labeled a black-leader (in an attempt to be seen as a human being first, not a black comedian) now all of a sudden deems himself a spokesperson for issues concerning poor and working class black families and children. It just makes me wonder, after reading this book, if Cosby has lost touch with the realities facing many of our poor communities.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 7, 2009 8:56 AM PST


I May Not Get There with You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr
I May Not Get There with You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr
by Michael Eric Dyson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.82
145 used & new from $0.18

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, June 18, 2004
I have always been fascinated with Dr. King as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. I love the work that Dr. Dyson did in writing this book, because he is authentic in talking about Dr. King the man - strengths, weaknesses and all - while exposing the myths about him. Being African-American, I can understand why many within our community woud want to scold Dr. Dyson for exposing Dr. King's dirty laundry. I, however, consider it not only essential, but relevant that we talk about the true humanity of our leaders (espcially one as esteemed as Dr. King) to avoid the danger of us elevating them as idols. It is a great reminder that God uses people (albeit flawed people) for magnificent works in a fallen world. This is a great book that I highly recommed!!


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