Thursday, April 14, 2005

Cosby the Afristocrat

Penn Professor Michael Eric Dyson has answered Bill Cosby's criticisms of poor, inner-city blacks in the alternative Philadelphia Weekly. If you remember, Cosby publicly skewered poor black parents at the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision, arguing their lot in life was their responsibility. Dyson's rebuttal is worthy of a read. He argues Cosby's attacks are classist and elitist - employing the rather ridiculous word "Afristocracy" to describe him - while prominently displaying Cosby's ignorance of the socio-economic forces the poor are up against today. Largely, I think Dyson's right, but Dyson's method of argument and his carefree (even careless) use of "white" tends to shut me down while reading. Here's an example:
Cosby's position is dangerous because it aggressively ignores white society's responsibility in creating the problems he wants the poor to fix on their own.
Dyson writes with such generality here that I don't know if "the poor" he speaks of include white people. Also blaming "white society" for creating the condition of the poor confuses me. If white society creates both poor whites and blacks alike, doesn't this mean our society isn't so much predicated on racial privilege (which certainly exists) than it's predicated on wealth and its translation into power? Maybe to Dyson "white society" is the outgrowth of democratic capitalism, nevertheless, it would be more useful to just substitute "capitalist" for "white" so these confusions don't arise.