Over in Orkut, where I tend to be a bit more lower-case and provocative than I am here, I re-engaged the Cosby argument. And as I was engaging in the discussion I think I had a breakthrough. I think can genuinely see exactly what it is that the right wing sees in the left wing. The difference, of course, is that I'm not afraid of the left wing and I don't believe they are a threat. A danger and a menace perhaps, but not a threat.
The thing that nailed it for me was the quotation of some Z Magazine article written by a political science professor from Ohio. I didn't parse it very closely because it immediately reminded me of something else that got me right to the edge of epiphany. That other something was the NPR segment about Freedom Schools in Kansas City. Basically there was this very uplifting story about those young people that Cosby recently loves to hate, beating the odds by attending a 'Freedom School' during the summer in an super supportive environment. I'm listening to this radio segment saying, man this is so cool but I would never do that work in a million years. That's for my buddy Monroe.
Now while it's true that I did a very heartfelt stint teaching Saturday School at St. Luke's parish in Harlem several years back and it was that experience that reintroduced me to my own family tradition of Kwanzaa, I have serious problems with the scalability of Ujamaa and a couple of the principles. So my enthusiasm is just for this very organic and grass roots sounding program. The voices of the people convinced me that this was done from the heart and that it was all good.
The KC program, which included about 7 of these schools was expanded because of the charity of a large [white liberal] foundation. Now the origin of the Freedom Schools was all about education of rural blacks to understand what kinds of things they would be getting that they have always been denied in the deep South. How government derives from the consent of the governed, so black people need to vote kinds of things that the redneck highschool teacher supposedly teaching civics wouldn't cover. But now 50 years later, it's part midnight basketball, drug-free, supplemental education, afrocentric support, summer school. In combination a great point of light for those who get zilch in the ghetto. (Remind me never to say 'inner city' again - I understand that American Apartheid was designed to create ghettoes and keep blacks and browns there - like Jewish ghettoes from where the term originated). I cannot presume to know exactly what Mr. Liberal Daddy Warbucks sees in these poor black ghetto kids, but I have a general idea about the parameters (poor, black, ghetto kids, money for programs).
At the end of the program, the NPR announce clinches it. Some university is sponsoring a study of these kids. ARGH!
Can you feel it? Little black kids are lab rats for a university study. The volunteers who dedicated their time in 'giving back to the community' in a modified form of Deep South rural education for poor blacks victimized by poll taxes, will be replaced by professionals. The university study gets read into the Congressional Record, several left organizations line up behind it. Daddy Warbucks elbows a couple of his cronies at a garden party and the whole thing is off to the races.
Now some of this stuff works. Headstart I would say, and the kind of stuff in California under the heading of the First Five. But that's not a black racialized liberal co-optation of more Civil Rights Era stuff.
So when this cat started quoting... hm let me find it:
Bill Cosby's decision to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision by proclaiming that poor black people deserve their fate at the bottom of America's steep socioeconomic pyramid has delighted many white Americans. Large numbers of United States Caucasians are grateful for Cosby's widely reported intra-racial top-down smack-down, which gave politically safe - because nominally "black" - confirmation to their own self-satisfied opinion that poor African-Americans have nothing and nobody but themselves to blame for their difficult circumstances in this great "color-blind" "land of opportunity."
Paul Street (email@example.com) is an urban
social policy researcher in Chicago, Illinois.
OK it wasn't Ohio. But it suddenly hits me. How does an urban social policy researcher make money? How do they pay their bills? The are professionally engaged in the 'industry' of politics that comes up with plans and politics and basically federal government money that goes to programs. So the Cosby us against them can get rendered into policy and dollars via university studies and policy research and all of that business that goes to direct our tax dollars.
If you asked me what makes the Freedom School concept work, I think I heard enough with the interview. People saw a need right in front of their faces and did something about it. I could immediate recognize those blackfolks valid concerns - the concerns we are all rightly facing. But it's the ways and means of the institutionalization of this abstracted thing that suddenly make me say whoa. And that's where the epiphany was coming from. I see the wheels cranking, and I see the whole thing growing from the original Freedom Summer (no foundation money, no corporate sponsorship, no tax dollars), to this Freedom School (no corporate sponsorship, no tax dollars) to the next steps. Where is all the money coming from? Non-black hands.
So at the end of this rainbow I see failure and bitter disappointment. And I think that is exactly how the right sees left tax & spend. Except a lot on the right wing as we know, think the whole effort is of dubious merit. Epiphany.