Friday, September 30, 2005

So-called 'authentic' street culture is just plain destructive


When we look at the ongoing crisis in the depths of black America, it is sometimes hard to understand why there was such an explosion of outrage at Bill Cosby. One would have thought that he did the very worst thing possible when he called on the carpet the self-destructive behavior that separates prosperity from poverty. What Cosby showed was how dangerous defensiveness in face of the facts can be to any serious discussion of poverty.
Poverty and ignorance have always been well-acquainted. Part of the problem at the bottom is ignorance. Part of the problem of those who suffer from it is those in the black middle class who pretend to be engaged intellectuals but come up with nothing more than long-winded dismissals of accurate observations as some variation of "blaming the victim."
I began thinking more about this when I read in The New York Times about the health problems in Nigeria that are being addressed with the hard science of medicine rather than a "respect" for indigenous culture that allows backward ways to maintain themselves. Young women who are suffering from fistulas, a problem largely gone from Western life, are being treated by European doctors who take the catastrophe seriously. These young women find themselves with babies lodged in their birth canals, which result in the tearing of their bowels or their urethras. In the backward way of people who live at least part of their lives in the world of incapacitating superstition, these girls are usually rejected in exactly the same way as the rape victims of marauding African "revolutionary" troops who turn available women into sex slaves.
None of these problems are determined by genetics or are explained by the superstitions of racism. The human being is a learning animal. Any barbaric tradition can be rejected in the face of education.
What we need in America is the same kind of hard science that has no sentimental investment in authenticity or diversity when it amounts to ways of living that are self-destructive.
An ignorant person never represents an ethnic group or a religion. An ignorant person represents, most of all, every other ignorant person - regardless of color, sex, ethnicity, class, religion or any other particulars.
Once those facts are faced, we can get to work on changing the popularization of backward ideas and barbaric behavior that the popular media promotes as "pushing the envelope," which can result in middle class black parents finding their well-reared children aspiring to be the knuckleheads and street hussies.
A belief in education, the development of skills and the refinement of character are the best weapons against backwardness of the self-destructive sort. People like Cosby and Oprah Winfrey understand this well, and we would do ourselves a favor by getting up on the level of perception from which they are making clear observation in the most important terms, the human ones that are always stronger than tired rhetoric and predictable ideology.


Post a Comment

<< Home