In my mind’s eye, I saw this rudderless ship floundering in a gathering storm of tumultuous proportion, and in somewhat of a theological sense the thought really was a metaphor about the plight of black America (and by extension, black people throughout the world).
What’s happening? Where are we going black people? What’s the course and how are we going to get wherever? And is it ever discovered that the ship is without a rudder, or do we all go down in the storm through mass passivity and ignorance?
Many events during the last few months converged to conjure up this focus. For one, it was heart wrenching to witness the Barack Obama campaign, where, incredibly, potential black political power dissipated when black luminaries supporting Hillary and the Clinton machine went public, illustrating the destructive vestiges of the antebellum Willie Lynch syndrome.
Led by poet laureate Maya Angelou, a billionaire fool named Johnson – founder of BET, multi-millionaire entrepreneur and former basketball star, Magic Johnson and a bevy of black congresspersons and other elected officials, the schism within the ranks of the so-called “talented tenth” is, unfortunately, alive and well.
There were also an unprecedented number of attacks on Obama by radio commentator Tavis Smiley on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, a work week radio program with a national audience of 8 million listeners. Smiley has revelations from somewhere that he is a black leader and chaffed when Obama missed his annual day long summit, televised on C-Span. Smiley sounded ridiculous going after Obama and the listeners called in and e-mailed their displeasure. Smiley’s voice is no longer heard on the TJMS!
And then I saw Bill Cosby and his longtime collaborator, Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D. on “Larry King Live;” and a few days later on “Meet the Press,” talking about their new book, Come On, People. I had heard a little about these community call-outs Cosby has been holding in or near inner cities in various parts of the country, but what they communicated on both shows got my full attention.
Within 30 minutes after “Meet the Press” I had the book. When I remembered that Juan Williams’ New York Times bestseller, Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End
Movements, and Culture of Failure That are Undermining Black America–and What We Can Do About It was also on my reading list, both books became my homework.
From the outset in his brief four page introduction, Cosby gets your head turned perfectly straight: “How many of you are looking at perfectly healthy friends and family who have done nothing since they dropped out of high school other than a little hustling and a little welfare? How much is that person worth to the community or to the state or to himself or herself?”
In Enough, Williams, a black senior correspondent for National Public Radio and a former White House correspondent during his twenty-one year career with the Washington Post, describes in great detail how Bill Cosby came to doing these call-outs.
Williams tells how Cosby was invited to give an entertaining talk at the 50 year celebration of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in Washington, D. C. But instead of providing jokes as scripted, “Cosby called on black Americans to keep their self-help traditions alive.” According to Williams, Cosby lashed out at “poor parenting . . . cultural rot . . . disproportionate fatherlessness, bad schools, high rates of unemployment, and lives wasted in jails.”
Williams reports that Cosby was attacked by some in the civil rights community and also by “black academics and self-styled black radicals.” Cosby told one interviewer that he had been saying these things to black audiences for awhile, Williams tells us. But “it was only when the white press heard him at the fiftieth-anniversary celebration that the controversy erupted.” So Cosby took to the road and has been all over the country since.
A very sturdy smaller vessel has pulled aside and people like Obama, Williams, Cosby and Poussaint are trying to attract the attention of the squabbling, panicking mass of black people aboard the big ship without a rudder, to tell them how to use certain resources available on board their ship that can quickly be fashioned into a good rudder. Will they come to their senses in time to listen and quickly organize? Or will they continue to drift, aimlessly, right into the great storm ahead?