"You have to seriously see yourselves not as the old women where the men stood in front and you all stood behind, because the men, most of them are in prison."
In the 1980s, we watched Bill Cosby glamorize the black family through "The Cosby Show." For me, I wanted to be a Huxtable. Growing up in South-Central Los Angeles, I saw myself and my family as somewhat of a 'hood Huxtables. My parents, while not doctors or lawyers, made enough money to keep my brother and I in private schools, go out to fancy restaurants, and take trips to Vegas, Cleveland, Florida, and New York. I thought we were rich. I was the first kid on my block to own a pair of rollerblades and one of the few to have ever been on a airplane. Then it all fell apart. My mother was laid off from her well-paying job with aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, my parents divorced, and my mother, brother and I moved into my grandparents house. Our lifestyle completely shifted. No more trips, no more Friday night dinners out, my father became distant, and my mother was left to struggle to pay my tuition, our rent, and keep us afloat. She effectively became both mother and father, playing both roles fairly well, while somehow able to keep it all together.
At this year's commencement speech at Spellman college, Bill Cosby warned the graduates of the all-women’s college that they will have to be the ones to lead the race because black men are lagging behind. Cosby went on to tell the graduating class that "it is time for you to pick up the pace and lead because the men are not there. They're not there and every one of you young women know it.”
I know I am late to this issues and his comments, but this quote was posted in this month's Essence magazine, and so it got me to thinking. When I was in college, we (black women) would have these discussion amongst ourselves about brothas not being on our level. We noticed that we outnumbered our black male counterparts in nearly every class, major, and every dorm. We wondered who would we marry after we got grown, got our education, and had established ourselves in the world.
Lately there has been a string of articles and special reports about the plight of the black male in America. While I am torn by Mr. Cosby's comments, I think there is a bit of truth in his words. Unfortunately, black women are making greater and faster strides in corporate/academic America than black men. Because of this we do bear a certain amount of responsibility to be leaders in our communities to help facilitate success for the next generation of black youth. However, Mr. Cosby's comments rubbed me slightly the wrong way because, to me, they seem to call for the abandonment of black men. He seems to be saying that black women must lead, without trying to simultaneously help our brothas succeed. If that were the case I would not be with beloved. I have two degrees (BA/MFA), a well-paying job, and am about to return for more schooling. Beloved, on the other hand, was working toward his BA and is currently incarcerated. He has a great heart and a determined work ethic, but he is not on my "level" academically or economically. If I were to overlook him because of these things, I would have missed out on someone who loves and cares for me unconditionally.
If we write off our brothas and abandon them, how can we rise as a people? We can't. While I applaud Mr. Cosby for bringing these issues to light and begining a dialogue, I am skeptical at the message he is sending our young women. We cannot rise and succeed as a collective without ALL of our members performing their duties. Instead of merely claiming our place as leaders, we need to figure out ways to help our entire community to succeed.
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