I quite understand where comedian, Mr. Bill Cosby is coming from in his 2004 speech at the NAACP commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. The underlying principle of his speech is that every clear-thinking individual bears responsibility for his or her behavior and for the choices he or she makes in society. His opening anecdote of the manager who chides his boxer for that which he wasn't doing rather than for that which was being done to him illustrates his point. But as I indicated in Part 1 of this blog series, while that which Mr. Cosby observes from his vantage point is as he sees it, he does not provide the full picture of the realities of those whom he pejoratively characterizes as "These People" or as "knuckleheads".
Of course the young, black woman whose repeated neglect of completing her homework resulted in her dropping out of high school cannot blame white people for that result, just as she cannot blame white people for her unplanned pregnancy. Neither can the young, black man blame white people for his incarceration resulting from his robbing a corner store, nor should the able-bodied black man or woman blame white people for not having meaningful employment. However, the despair and hopelessness, the eviscerated will, the self-loathing, the inveterate sense of defeat, as well as other psychological factors that are deeply rooted in a historical and abiding relations between Mr. Cosby's "These People" and white people cannot be ignored.
Mr. Cosby is quite correct, "We cannot blame white people." On the other hand, "These People" are like Victor Frankenstein's "monster". They, or their mindset, or their consciousness didn't simply appear out of thin air but were shaped by relations and systems based on perceived notions of race and class. As such, "These People", these "knuckleheads", cannot merely be wished away or be made to simply disappear or go away because of some "deal" (which they are supposedly failing to uphold). This "monster" that was created, "These People", must certainly be held responsible for individual choices and behavior, but they must not be loathed, despised, dismissed, or their disappearance wished for. It is not about waging war against them as Mr. Cosby's notion of "taking back the neighborhood" would seem to suggest. It is about recognizing them as human beings with names and faces. It is about empathy, understanding, education, patience.