Saturday, October 27, 2007

Come on People

Come on People:
On the Path from Victims to Victors
by Bill Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D.
Thomas Nelson
Hardcover, $25.99
288 pages, illustrated
ISBN: 978-1-5955-5092-7

Book Review by Kam Williams

“For the last three and a half years, I have been holding community call-outs in cities around the country... This book will cover selected topics that mirror the concerns of the different people-- rich and poor, young and old, educated and uneducated, married and single—who attended the call-outs. The trials of black people are at the core of Come on People.
In this book, we look at the issues with an eye on what we need to do to help our youth and re-energize our neighborhoods to move in positive directions… We can change things we have control over if we accept personal responsibility and embrace self-help.”
-- Excerpted from the Introduction by Bill Cosby (pg. xvii-xviii)

Ever since Bill Cosby delivered what might be called the historic Ghettoesburg Address in Washington, D.C. during the NAACP’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision, there’s been a big brouhaha brewing in the black community over his controversial remarks. On one side, you have those folks who applaud the successful entertainer/role model for having the courage to send a no-nonsense tough love message, while others resent the general tenor of what they feel was a diatribe by a bourgie brother who has lost touch with his roots and is now allowing himself to be used by right-wing conservatives simply to blame the victim.
Certain public intellectuals, like pro-hip-hop Professor Michael Eric Dyson, have wondered aloud whether Cosby and the black middle class might have lost their collective minds. However, in Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors, Bill manages to mount an admirable defense in collaboration with Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint while elaborating further on just what he meant.
Like latter-day Booker T. Washington, the authors call for African-Americans to embrace self-help while shedding self-destructive behaviors. Never mincing their words, they state their positions on any number of subjects, unequivocally.
For example, when it comes to Ebonics, they say, “Shaky grammar can project ignorance, even hostility. This means it can make your kids look dumb to many people.” They also argue against the use of the N-word, explaining that it “is a vile symbol of our oppression by slave masters” whose meaning can’t be changed by altering its spelling or pronunciation slightly, ala rapper Nas who recently announced that the title of his new album about to drop in December will be “Nigga.”
This timely opus reserves perhaps its harshest criticism for the purveyors of this musical genre, stating, “The enemy—namely the bad guys in the gangsta rap industry and their white enablers—is calling this a culture.” It then proceeds to question the wisdom of calling anything a culture that promotes misogyny, immorality, anti-intellectualism, irresponsibility, black-on-black crime and the breakdown of the family.
The Cosby’s agenda here, though powerfully persuasive, might still fall on deaf ears due to its non-negotiable tone and because his adversaries are equally enthusiastic in their embrace of the diametrically-opposing values. Clearly, he and Dr. Poussaint are honestly more concerned with rescuing youngsters at risk than with making peace with the defenders of the antisocial, patently suicidal alternative.
Ultimately, in a cultural war, you have to pick a side, and I suspect that most parents who truly love their children will consider straight talk of this nature not only appropriate but downright necessary in the face of the degeneracy directed daily at African-American youth in the battle for their bodies and minds.

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