Sounding off about pubic hair. Pubic hair is a very charged issue for me, because not only did I start growing it early, my hair is very coarse. This means that my pussy might be considered unacceptable. This of course is a problem, because how can a PUSSY be unacceptable? I feel a real sense of ownership over my pussy.
Also, here's an essay from the Black Business Owner's Network Mailing List:
Dear Dr. Cosby,If the members of the Black lower class have "dropped the ball" then I would like to suggest that you, sir, have done absolutely nothing to move that ball down the field. It doesn't take much intellect or insight to point out the problems of the disenfranchised. Blaming them for their circumstances, however, is counterproductive to the problem. Standing atop your pedestal of condescension, you have somehow come to believe that only middle-class African Americans possess the ability to pass on some mysterious "personal responsibility" gene. Apparently, the Black people who are the most privileged, most educated, and most acculturated can readily determine what's wrong with the Black community and it always seems to be the fault of the least advantaged, the least educated, the most disenfranchised portion of the population. Apparently, if you are Black and "ghetto," it's because one has made a personal choice to throw the standards of upstanding Black people by the wayside and opt for behaviors that will keep you tied to a life of despair. I'm here to assert that the reasons for "ghetto mentality" are far more complex than Black people wallowing at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder saying, "I know exactly how to raise myself out of these dreadful circumstances but I'm content to be underprivileged, uneducated and ostracized by society."
The existence and perpetuation of "ghetto" behaviors is not the result of choice, it is the result of decades of racism, oppression, degradation and abuse gone untreated. It's a very simple equation. Emotional, physical, psychological, sexual, drug, and alcohol abuse gets worse generationally. Add to that, a poor diet, bombarding the subconscious mind with violent and sexual images, guns, violence, poverty, no jobs, piss-poor education, and music that pounds offensive and degrading messages in our minds daily and you get ghetto behaviors.
If I were a teacher assigned to teach Algebra and on the first day of class I ridiculed the students for not knowing complex theorems, I wouldn't be a very good teacher. Algebra is not something that you inherently know; it's something that's taught. Teaching does not just mean that I stand in front of the students and lecture and expect them to absorb what I've said and hold them accountable for the information later. Teaching is interactive and it's only successful if the student has absorbed the knowledge. If the student doesn't learn it is most assuredly not the fault of the pupil. It has much more to do with the teacher not being able to reach the child at their level of comprehension.
If a child isn't taught the basic fundamentals of life, if they are raised in horrific and debilitating conditions, how is it that you are now holding them responsible as an adult for knowledge they never internalized? Black children are under and miseducated in the public school system, they are the victims of cyclical, poor-parenting, and you expect them to automatically know how to raise children, manage their money, and be personally responsible when they reach the age of majority and pass on skills to their own children that they've only seen on TV? For one to assert that everyone has the same learning curve is irresponsible. Not everyone can or should learn in the same way nor should anyone be ridiculed for not having been taught in a way that reaches them either.
Ghetto behavior is not exclusive to persons of African descent; we have no "baby mama" gene, no predisposition to illiteracy. Any group or race of people that had been the victims of the complete annihilation of their cultural and spiritual memory, subjected to a lifetime of physical, psychological and emotional abuse will surely show signs of dysfunction . . . regardless of color. Once society in general can stop comparing other tragedies to that of slavery, once we can fully acknowledge that the only reason black people behave in such dysfunctional ways is because we have a set of circumstances uniquely different and exponentially debilitating, maybe then we can move past the racist belief that certain groups of Black people are prone to commit more crime, be unemployed and wear saggy pants. If the Holocaust and slavery had been the same in terms of devastation, both Jews and Blacks would be behaving in similar ways now. To imply that Jews behave in socially acceptable ways after the Holocaust and Blacks should be capable of the same after slavery because there was no difference in tragedies is to imply that African Americans, or the black lower class more specifically, are somehow truly inferior. I'm here to say that if there is a certain portion of the population of the AA community that exhibits dysfunctional behaviors, the reasons are not because it's a choice. We are human beings, born with the same potential as any other people on the planet, but we are not capable of healing from hundreds of years of generational abuse with without the benefit of counseling. (Notice I did NOT diminish the tragedy of the Holocaust in any way or imply that it was not horrific. I simply noted that if the two tragedies had been the same, the resulting behaviors of the survivors would be the same.)
Slavery, among a multitude of other factors, can be directly attributed to the psychological conditions of the ghetto mind. Certainly, there were enslaved individuals that suffered such egregious and horrific trauma from birth to death, that were damaged so completely, that they had no choice but to pass on pain and a debilitating sense of inferiority to their children. That pain, gone untreated for generations, has multiplied and metastasized and been passed down to create the conditions of the Black underclass. Just because some of us were able to "overcome" some of the more egregious violations against our race to become acceptable to the majority doesn't mean that everyone has had that same opportunity or was able to process the generational abuse in the same way. We've lost our ability to be compassionate as our society; we're quick to point accusatory fingers and blame individuals for their misdoings so we can feel superior, that we have ceased looking to the root cause of problematic behavior and are content to arrest individuals, not behaviors.
The black middle class is quick to jump on the "slavery was in the past, let it go" "stop being a victim" and "just pull yourself up by your bootstraps" bandwagon as a way to prove that they are better than the Black lower class. That is reflective of a pathological, assimilationist trend that says that we should deny our history, that what happened to our ancestors has no significance, and that we should believe the distorted lies branded into our consciousness like burning hot steel branded the slave masters mark into our ancestor's flesh? Black middle-class African Americans are so terrified to be identified as victims that they will disavow anything that would indicate that we have the blood of unbelievable heroes coursing through our veins. Being a victim doesn't mean that you are inherently flawed, being a victim doesn't mean that you aren't capable of healing. Being a victim means that someone else has committed a crime against you. Period. There is no shame in being a descendent of the victims of chattel slavery. The crime is in pretending that it has no long lasting legacy and that we have completely healed our untreated and cancerous wounds.
Spending more money on your hair weave and your pedicure than on books for your child, or buying him or her $200 sneakers, is a manifestation of materialism and superficiality, nothing more than a desire to be seen as being beautiful, of having worth in this society that places more value on appearance (and the appearance of wealth) than intellect. There is no master plan by the Black lumpen-proletariat to embarrass middle-class black people with burgundy hair weaves and ill-behaved children in McDonalds. We think Beyonce' is beautiful with her blonde hair but we cringe when we see the ladies of the ghetto trying to emulate her, trying to get the same level of accolades as she receives. We blame ghetto mothers for having multitudes of children by different men, yet we don't see them as having a very human desire to be loved and desired at the base of their promiscuity. YES, by all means, they should practice safe sex but let's construct a program that teaches them to see themselves as other than sex objects, that combats the grossly misogynist images that tell a woman that she has to wear her breasts and buttocks as accessories to be attractive. How about a plan that speaks to them at their level of comprehension? Let's not cast them off like an untouchable class of lepers to be despised. The Black middle class is just as guilty of materialism and superficiality as is the Black lower-class; they just have more education to know that naming a child after a consumer product is dysfunctional. The problem of women having unsafe sex with multiple partners, of placing more importance in their appearance than their character, is not exclusive to the lower class. It's not okay for a woman to have $20,000 in debt for a wardrobe of shoes and clothes and no savings just because she has a college degree. Believing that clothes somehow make us better people is the core belief that is destructive to us as a people and it is not limited to the people that think Sean Jean will make them a better person, it's prevalent in those that think Armani will as well. I have no problem if you critique the problem; I do take serious issue if you critique the people whose only "choice" was to be born black and poor in a society that despises both.
The insistence that everyone instinctively knows right from wrong is fallacious. If the key stages in a child's development; when a child learns valuable lessons that shape their perceptions for life; is filled with abuse rather than discipline, filled with neglect rather than love, then that child is going to grow up with a distorted sense of reality. Young men that see drug dealing as a viable option are only manifesting a belief that money gives a person value. They've been bombarded with messages that are reinforced daily in the media which stipulate that a big car and shiny jewelry are the measure of a man. They choose drug dealing as the means to get those things because they never learned (meaning they never internalized the information, not meaning that they haven't been told) that there are larger consequences to dealing drugs than getting money. I've know quite a few Black men with professional careers that believe that the more toys they have, the more expensive they are, the more value they have as men. That's the core belief that is wrong. Let's work to correct that misperception rather than blaming the most naïve of the population that are only trying to seek validation and approval.
Instilling knowledge of healthier value systems to a person that didn't learn them is not an insurmountable task, it's just one Black middle class doesn't want to take on because they don't want to get their hands dirty with the stench of ghetto. Yeah, it's much easier for the Black middle class to look down their noses at those that haven't been given the same advantages rather than say, "There but for the grace of God go I." Black middle class people need something to make themselves feel superior, and the poor and disenfranchised are the easy targets. If we as a people are truly to heal, we have to look in the mirror and see our own misperceptions, we have to challenge our sense of reality and analyze the things that were taught to us in captivity still are very much a part of our perceptions. How many black women, from every educational background, believe that they don't need a man to raise a child? How many black men, with all levels of financial stability, find it perfectly acceptable to father a child and have no role in that child's life? How many parents believe a child should be beaten to silence them? Those are examples of flawed thinking learned in slavery and are a perpetuation of inherited, unhealthy beliefs. Aren't we attacking the wrong things, Dr. Cosby? Shouldn't we, as Black scholars, be dismantling those dangerous perceptions rather than attacking the people that are the least capable of climbing the corporate ladder?
Fortunately, the people who are the brunt of your lashing, people who've done absolutely nothing but play the horrible cards they've been dealt, either don't care what you have to say or don't understand. I stand proudly as one of the lone voices of dissention against your position because I'm not afraid to acknowledge the multilayered and complex issues that contribute to our history as black people. We must not be so desperate to identify with the society that stole from us our ability to form healthy relationships, to pass down the qualities of strength, integrity, and responsibility, that I can't see how these diseased behaviors have become so rampant today. As it stands now, the conversation you waged is nothing more than a chance for the "haves" and the "have debts" to look down their noses at the "want to haves".
I am an Africentrist at heart. I'd love to be able to teach black women that putting toxic chemicals on our scalps, next to our brains is both physically and psychologically damaging. That won't happen in my lifetime because Black women are CONVINCED that straight hair makes us more attractive and that our own natural, nappy hair is an embarrassment. Isn't that what white slave owners told our beautiful and elegant ancestors? Perhaps one day I'll be able to convince my people that women with dark skin and full features are exquisitely beautiful but too much damage has been done to our psyches for us to see that. How do I inform the Black middle class that believing in a male God, believing that men have dominion over women, that women are the reason for the downfall of man, that believing that there is only one way to salvation, are beliefs detrimental to our psychological health and our survival as a people? I wish I knew of a way to instill knowledge to all of our people that men and women should be equal partners in a relationship, not have the woman be a subservient receptacle of male pleasure. Perhaps there is a way to teach African Americans that African religions actually have validity, that they had value, and weren't heathen as we've been brainwashed to believe. Yeah, the lessons learned in slavery are still with us today. That slave master's whip was yielded with efficacy to be able to have the descendents of slaves, some 150 years later, believe that African names, beliefs, and aesthetics are offensive. The issues of dysfunction in the Black psyche extend far beyond the lower-class Dr. Cosby; let's not haphazardly diagnose the problems without serious introspection about the root issues first.
No one is immune from harboring slave mentality. An example of a misguided perception is the insistence that Black people not name their children "Black" names. Naming one's child a name that ties them to his or her ethnicity is one of the most psychologically healthy things one can do in a society where the majority insists on homogeneity. What's the benefit of supposedly embracing diversity if everyone must be named Sally or Bob? What's wrong with naming your child Malik, Dr. Cosby? The problematic behavior is in the fact that people who tend to name their children with decidedly African American names is that they are more likely to let that child stay up until 1 a.m., drinking soda and eating junk food. The name isn't problematic, the behavior is. The names Tynesha and Janquail are only offensive to some because Black people want to show the majority that they are separated from and offended by the "those other Black people." I can assure you that I know two young ladies with those names that have more strength, warmth, and untapped brilliance than society would give them credit for. I'd love to introduce them to you so that you can know first hand that their names are beautiful reflections of wonderful human beings.
The names Heathcliff and Claire aren't more proper or indicative of a more upstanding and morally righteous person, just ones that have European origins. I might suggest that the very souls that survived the brutal kidnapping, rape, abuse and torture of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade would hang their head in shame at the thought of you telling their children that the only names that have validity are the names of their captors. As long as Black people are ashamed of anything that will identify us as Black, as long as we deny the things that tie us to our history, then we will forever be shackled to our dysfunction.
I'm not here to just offer a critique of your position. I'm here to offer substantial solutions how to change the behaviors of the ghetto-not-so-fabulous. It's groundbreaking in its scope. My solution? Teach them. Imagine that! Parenting skills can be taught. Grammar can be taught. Financial management can be taught. And here's the kicker. Black people in the ghetto can learn those skills just as readily as anyone else. Not in the same ways that most people. It will take different approaches with different techniques but it can be done. What they can't be expected to do is to somehow have skills without the benefit of having been taught them. What should be taught it addition to those skills are the techniques to heal the deeper emotional wounds that we insist should be repressed, ignored and denied in an effort to make the majority more comfortable and to make us fit in.
Dr. Cosby, if you are interested in helping the people that you think aren't holding up their end of the deal, I would like to ask you to lend a million or two to some of the initiatives that I've developed that will help eradicate ghetto mentality. I have plans for a boot camp that will help train the inhabitants of the urban jungles in mastery of mind, body and spirit. I'd love to see organic vegetable gardens in each and every city housing project so that there can be a community co-op of healthy, FREE food for people to eat that isn't infested with pesticides and genetically modified produce. I have plans for a CD that will combine the brilliance of black scholars with the verbal mastery of today's musical artists. Will you volunteer your efforts and time to lock yourself in a room for a weekend with the likes of a Ludacris or Jay-Z until you come to an understanding of your commonalities as Black men that can educate and entertain? Maybe you can lend your fiscal support to my plans for a time capsule that will instill a sense of history in African American children, a nation-wide journaling contest that will help African Americans heal some of our collective psychic wounds, or a photo-essay contest that sheds light on the realities of ghetto dwelling not that perpetuates unfounded stereotypes. If you are seriously committed to healing the pathologies of the Black lower class, perhaps you and some of your investor friends can provide the backing for my Africentric prison that teaches inmates the principles of well being from a completely holistic perspective, employs intensive counseling, incorporates true vocational rehabilitation and allows the opportunity for people to go back into society with not only viable employment skills but a love of self and sense of peace.
In closing Dr. Cosby, I would like to say that I know your objective was to help and I'm sure your heart was in the right place. If you walk away from reading my missive with no greater insights, no greater compassion, I've failed as a teacher. Regrettably, my words will more than likely not comfort those that you've berated in your lectures, nor will they shift the consciousness of the people standing behind you in solidarity to proclaim, "Yeah, I'm not one of those niggers." White people will not have come to the realization that it's not okay to let a significant portion of the population wallow in poor conditions because of their skin color. All I've done is speak my mind and give honor to those that came before me so that they may know that I don't believe that their offspring are the wretched of the earth, that they are simply children of a lesser god. Sincerely,Scottie Lowe
Scottie Lowe is a graduate student at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA currently studying African and African American Studies with a concentration in psychology. She intends on writing her Master's Thesis on the Psychospiritual Stages of Disability of African Americans and intends on developing her hypothesis towards a transcendent Africentric paradigm that lifts the collective consciousness of descendents of slaves. She has spoken at The Collegium for African American Research in Winchester England on the Ending Passage: Healing the Duality of Consciousness in African Americans. She is a member of the Association for Transpersonal Psychology and intends on pursuing her Doctorate degree in Consciousness Studies. Tired of seeing black women being portrayed as bitches, freaks and whores, and black men as thugs, dogs, and pimps, she decided it was time to show black people in a positive sexual light. Ms. Lowe is the sole owner and founder of AfroerotiK, a company dedicated to eradicating the negative and stereotypical depictions of Black sexuality and providing customized, personalized erotic stories for and about people of color from an Africentric perspective. Raised by civil rights activists in the 60s, Ms. Lowe has inherited a strong sense of commitment and cultural perspective that drives her to question the status quo and to fight to dismantle the vestiges of oppression, racism and discrimination that exist today. She can be reached at fantasies @ afroerotik.com (no spaces)