Friday, May 25, 2007

The Rap On Culture & Why Cosby Was Right

Bill Cosby was strongly criticized by many African Americans for his call for Black introspection and the need to restore certain values in the "Black Community" such as Black pride, putting a high value on Education, Parenting and restoring the family, particularly regarding the need for Fathers to return to their role. Yet, evidence before and since suggests that Cosby was right. I think most Black folks know full well that Cosby was right, but felt uncomfortable with being slapped with reality. His arguments against the anti-intellectualism, thuggery, and the degenerate values embraced by the Rap culture just hit too close to home for a lot of people, and they were not ready to hear it, not even from Cosby. But I see signs that Black America is starting to accept the wake up call. Whether they will heed the call is another question, but folks are certainly beginning to pick up the phone, so to speak.

Now, the Policy Bridge organization, an African American advocacy Think Tank in Ohio which concentrates on issues surrounding Education and Public Policy, has just released a stunning new report about the Black youth achievement gap. Many of the criticisms offered by Cosby are rearing their ugly but truthful heads once again. But before we get to the Policy Bridge report, here is an interesting story to lead off with, from Mr. Bill Maxwell, a professor of Journalism at Stillman College, an HBCU in Alabama. His commentary is entitled "A Dream Lay Dying" and it hits right at the heart of what Cosby was trying to say and of some of the findings mentioned in the Policy Bridge report.

The 16 page Policy Bridge report, entitled "The Rap On Culture", looks at how Popular culture, particularly Rap culture, and the lack of guidance at home impacts low achieving African American students. The report goes beyond the old arguments about poverty being the primary factor for this problem and instead focuses on the role of Cultural conditions. The lack of family support and family structure also seems to play a role.

The Rap On Culture cites an Ohio Board of Education report that stated:

"Contrary to some beliefs, achievement gaps between Black or Hispanic students and White or Asian students cannot be completely explained by economic disadvantage".

I have never fully bought into the argument that being poor was a major excuse for the problem of underachievement for African American youth. I always believed that there were other factors, mainly cultural factors that were involved.

The anti-intellectual message of Rap culture...particularly the notion that being smart means not being "cool", "hood", or "thug" enough, has been a very serious problem for Black youth. Carrying books home from school when I was a youngster often meant that there was something wrong with your manhood. You were basically considered soft...a sissy. Today, the problem has gotten worse, because this message has been fully adopted by Rap culture and is also being accepted in the mainstream.

When I was a youngster, there was at least a sense of African American pride that was still alive in the Rap culture and beyond. That (for the most part) no longer appears to be the case, so todays Black youth are catching even more Hell. The peer pressure to behave like the Rap Minstrels on TV, in the music videos and in the songs themselves, is tremendous. The rap culture is like Poison to Black America, especially the youth.
The negative images from Rap culture are being internalized to a certain degree by urban youth, and folks like Bill Cosby were highlighting the product of that internalization.

The Rap On Culture leads off with the following:

The furor over radio talk-show host Don Imus’ slurs aimed at the Rutgers women’s basketball team sparked a national discussion of the racist and sexist language and imagery that pervade hip-hop and rap music and the urban culture. What seems to have been largely ignored in this debate are the anti-education messages that have led so many African-American youth away from the academic achievements exemplified by the talented Rutgers women. It’s interesting that this uproar over urban culture has erupted at a time when Congress prepares to debate whether to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, which was enacted in 2002 to improve educational opportunity and accountability. In pushing his plan for education reform in 2001, President Bush spoke of the need to end the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” What if those “low expectations” not only refer to schools and teachers who fail to hold minority students to high standards of academic achievement, but also describe a devalued view of education in the black community itself? What if something about the culture enveloping black students, particularly those in low-income, urban environments, impedes academic progress?

Read the full text of "The Rap On Culture".

Related Link

The Rap On Culture

Related Posts

Don Imus Under Fire

Don Imus Is Out at NBC and CBS: Now What About Us?

The Imus Distraction

The Return of the Minstrels

The Return of the Minstrels Part 2

An Interview With Juan Williams

Is Cosby Wrong?

The Black Minstrel Show Continues

Black Family Channel Folds


rikyrah said...

I don't even remember what Cosby said in his original speech that was publicized so.

But, I will never forget one line that he said when he went to Rainbow PUSH's convention less than a month later.

I'm being asked about airing dirty laundry. Look, your dirty laundry is aired at 2:30 every afternoon.

He was on the money. The five years I spent in the school system, I knew every word Cosby said was true. You won't get me to say that the man was wrong.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post and the information about the Rap on Culture report. When I first heard Cosby's speech I thought he was so right. Then I heard other Black people in the media were angry with him. I think that the best way to change things is by first changing yourself. If parents change what they do then their children will change. If Black children change then the condition of Black people in the world will change. It is much harder to try to change the world first and then expect it to trickle down to the children. Telling people 'do as I say and not as I do' doesn't work. Thats what the Black community does sometimes. We expect other people to operate by standards we don't try to meet ourselves. Providing positive examples to people and demonstrating what is desirable is more effective. If the examples for Black children are crimminals, uneducated people, sexists, and ignorant fools then who do yoy think they will try to emulate, and how do you think they will end up? If we change ourselves, our families, and our immediate surroundings enough that can bring on enough change and positive results that what the majority culture does will not matter. They won't have an effect on us. Intelligent, happy, successful, secure, confident, and healthy people don't need to worry about what their neighbours are doing because their lives are so great they don't even care.

rikyrah said...

Read the articles from the gentleman who was teaching at Stillman. I could totally relate to him about his intentions, and running into a brick wall. My heart broke for him,and for the students who didn't take advantage of what was offered.

g-e-m2001 said...

At some point are we preaching to the choir? I found the article heartbreaking as well, but are people who don't necessarily value education going to appreciate why we are so broken hearted?

I wonder if there is anything we can DO other than shake our heads at people committing economic suicide.
I had actually thought about leaving my career and going to teach at an HBCU. For some reason, I too had a view that I could help mold and shape the lives of future generations. This article makes me question that.

When you have a school taking 11,000 a year to cater to the limitations of its students, is that really higher education or would these kids have been better off spending a quarter of that amount learning a trade?

If you are not challenged by your college or university, what is the point?

Angela L. Braden, Writer, Speaker, Professor said...

Great post... I know this Cosby thing is a little dated now. But his remarks are still true.