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Spike Lee: The New Bill Cosby?

Bill Cosby has been pilloried for years by the radically chic who’ve disliked his efforts to get African-Americans to take more responsibility for their own success and education.  Now Spike Lee seems to be picking up the torch for education, discipline and hard work.

Speaking to an audience in Arizona, the film director made some trenchant points. As reported in the Tuscon Citizen, Lee was firing on all cylinders:

“Despite 100 years of slavery, our ancestors were smart enough to know that education would be the thing to lead us out of bondage,” he said. “At a time when to learn to read and write was against the law for African-Americans, our ancestors risked life and limb to learn.”

He spoke of his parents’ and grandparents’ generations greatest mantra: “Education is the key.”

Then, he asked the crowd how, with such a rich history, fewer than half of Black males graduate from high school in America.

Pandering, amoral Hollywood has a lot to do with what’s wrong, Lee continued.

Lee blamed the influence that crack cocaine has had in poor neighborhoods and the influence that media have had in glorifying drugs and gangsters, whom he said are primarily portrayed by Black actors.

“I am from the pre-crack generation. When I was growing up, we never, ever, never ridiculed someone because they were a good student,” he said.

“Your generation, they now equate intelligence with acting White and ignorance with acting Black, and they wear it like a badge of honor. They say, ‘I’m ghetto. I’m gangster.’ What they are is ignorant.”

Words to heed, but Via Meadia wonders.  Will the people who mocked and scorned Bill Cosby for trying to help families and kids do better now turn on Spike Lee?

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  • Kenny

    It is telling when you write: Bill Cosby has been pilloried for years by the radically chic who’ve disliked his efforts to get African-Americans to take more responsibility for their own success and education.”

    It implies that the dominant culture believes that blacks are not responsible for their dismal academic performance.

    Is this the soft bigotry of liberalism that assumes without saying specifically so that blacks on average are not capable of leaning?

    Or is it liberal ignorance to blame the bougy man of racism for that?

  • http://davidscommonplacebook.wordpress.com/ David Hoffman

    Do you even have to ask? Of course they will turn on Spike Lee. He’s left the reservation.

  • Jetzer Tigue

    When reading articles like this I can’t help but feel that African-Americans are wasting precious opportunities that are available to them. We have a lot of educated people in my country but little or no opportunity available after finishing college. Where do they find it when they leave the country? America! Hollywood plays a major role in dumbing down a people and culture.

  • Jim.

    Who’s to blame here? Multicultists who believe that European culture of past centuries have not discovered cultural traits that are superior to alternatives.

    This is not to say anything about the superiority or inferiority of any given baby born of a healthy mother in this country. Race is IRRELEVANT.

    Cultural assets, however, are critical.

    Literacy; work ethic; scrupulous honesty in business dealings; simultaneous attention to forgiveness and rigid observance of high standards; all of these are, let me say it, SUPERIOR.

    Multicultists who say otherwise should be deprived of academic soapboxes, and in fact any position of public trust.

  • Toni

    Me, I wondered whether the source newspaper capitalized “black” or someone at Via Meadia capitalized it for them. But the link doesn’t work.

  • lhf

    He will just be ignored. You won’t be reading about his speech in the New York Times or the Washington Post.

  • Nick

    “whom (sic) he said are primarily portrayed by Black actors.”

    Education isn’t what it used to be anyway. We used to expect a minimum threshold of grammatical understanding from editors and reporters.

  • Tyler

    Mr. Mead,

    I would be delighted to hear what you have to say about the Republican debate in South Carolina, particularly in regards to Newt Gingrich, as it relates to racism in America.

    A recent article on AlJazeera by John Stoehr I found to be the unfortunate, typical, and extreme characterization of ‘the south’ (and America for that matter) that raise interesting questions but are never the less based on weak arguments that seem to be just as prejudice as the accused.

    When reading these kinds of articles, like the one from John Stoehr, I get the feeling that ‘the Old South’ takes on the role of myth in the subconscious of ‘Northerners’ and the propagation of this myth has become vital to their identity. Just who exactly is more desperately clinging to the corpse of ‘the Old South’? ‘Northerners’ or Miss. Emily Grierson?

  • David Taylor, MD

    “Bill Cosby has been pilloried for years by the radically chic who’ve disliked his efforts to get African-Americans to take more responsibility for their own success and education.”

    I poked around a bit online looking for some references to the radically chic who might be pillorying Cosby, but the best I come up with is the assessment of The Atlantic author Ta-Nehisi Coates, who argues that Cosby’s critics are primarily African-Americans, few of them radically chic as far as i can tell. My hunch is that the era of radical chic was already on its way out in 1970 when Tom Wolff’s book ridiculed the movement.

    On the other hand, there have been any number of less than chic social science studies of the nature of poverty and its persistence, some of which support Cosby’s prescription, some of which point to the difficulties of doing so. The chic seem to have moved on, the radically chic, radically so.

    C’mon — name some names here!

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO: All
    RE: What He Said….

    “What they are is ignorant.” — Spike Lee

    ….adjusted.

    They are not only ‘ignorant’, but they are ‘proud’ of it.

    That’s my working definition of Stupid, i.e., ignorant and proud of it.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    [Life is tough. It’s tougher if you’re stupid. — Some dead White guy, f.k.a. John Wayne]

  • Chuck Pelto

    P.S. It is not for no reason that the vaunted American public education system is not teaching the on-coming generations to be ‘stupid’.

    They don’t teach reading. They don’t teach math. They don’t teach science. And let’s not get into how they don’t teach History. Let alone our Civics.

    There’s a reason for all of that.

    Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive. Easy to govern but impossible to enslave.

  • Mark

    It isn’t just blacks, now, it is whites, too. The same self destructive behavior that plagues the black youth has spread to parts of the white community, with the same destructive results.
    I’m an 80s child, and the smart were made fun of then, too, but only the nerds and geeks, who ironically are the ones In Charge, now, or nobody gets their email. :)

  • Mike G

    Spike Lee’s never been on the reservation, he’s just been good at hiding it. Murray Kempton pointed out that if a white director had made Do the Right Thing, a movie in which blacks trash the white business keeping their community going, it would be denounced as racist. Unfortunately, being a good liberal, he thought that was an indictment of Lee, not of reality.

  • D Palmer

    @Kenny: it’s not just liberals. Every time that black cops and fire fighters sue over the results of the tests they have to take for promotion they are saying the same thing. The tests are racist. They don’t take into account the ‘different’ way that black people learn. As if they are Lawrence Welk trivia tests.

  • http://www.sixmeatbuffet.com Brian

    Will Spike Lee be the next Bill Cosby?

    Hrm…no.

    Is Bill Cosby blaming the current ills on black society on the CIA selling crack to them or inventing AIDS just for them? Doubtful.

    Oh, he didn’t say the AIDS thing some detractor might say. Well, not to this particular audience but he said as much in a Rolling Stone interview a few years ago.

    So, no worries. Spike Lee will never have to worry about being criticized by Black America as long as he remains as uneducated as they are.

  • patrick

    Failure to address this problem has been Obama’s greatest failure.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    How Dagger John Saved New York’s Irish:

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/7_2_a2.html

  • bob

    Lee’s stance is commendable, but I don’t believe him when he says “we never, ever, never ridiculed someone because they were a good student”. In whatever socio-economic setting, the “brainiacs” get teased, even if just good-naturedly.

    And I believe he’s rewriting or at least misconstruing history when he says “education was the key” for his parents and grandparents. I went to a NY city high school when there was still tracking and which was at least 25% black. In my three years there, I had just one black girl in any of my classes. I am simply not prepared to believe that this is due to innate ability. Surely if education was truly taught to be the key in black families of Lee’s generation, there would have been more black students in the more academically challenging classes I attended.

  • pst314

    “Will the people who mocked and scorned Bill Cosby for trying to help families and kids do better now turn on Spike Lee?”

    They might, because at least Spike Lee is a stone-cold racist.

  • Kenny

    Toni,

    It is Mr. Mead who insists on capitalizing “Blacks” while writing ‘whites’ with lower cases.

    A while back Mr. Mead had a posting that offered his convoluted reasoning for this, but to many objective observers, he is guilty of blatant pandering.

    But you see, Toni, that is how it is in today’s colleges & universities.

  • Eurydice

    It’s an odd thing about this blog – some articles, like those on foreign policy, are up to the minute and insightful – other articles, like this one, seem to have been plucked from a time machine. Since when does anybody even remember Bill Cosby’s name, let alone that he championed African-American responsibility? In the decades since, haven’t we had a black president who’s been saying some of the same things? That hardly makes Spike Lee a revolutionary. That’s not to say the problems aren’t the same, but the old radical chic has switched to sensible shoes and is worrying about its retirement – the new radical chic has moved on.

  • Eurydice

    @David – ooops, I wrote my post before reading the other responses. Obviously, I agree with you – eerily so, it seems. :-)

  • Jennifer

    This is great. Now if we can get a certain subset of whites to also tell their kids that growing up ignorant is not what their ancestors would have wanted and is nothing to be proud of…

    I’m in education, and it breaks my heart to see kids who ignore everything I try to teach them because somehow succeeding is selling out. Selling out to whom? They don’t seem to understand that being ignorant perpetuates cycles of poverty that their ancestors, black and white, risked their lives to escape.

  • BigSoph

    Eurydice said “In the decades since, haven’t we had a black president who’s been saying some of the same things?”

    No, you have had a black president who has kept alive the notion that blacks need constant help and favour or they will fail, you have had a black president who regards his grandmother, the woman who raised him when his communist father took off for greener pastures (well, red anyway) as a racist
    You have a black president who attended a church for some two decades failing to notice the anti-white screeds of the pastor

  • ATL

    Spike Lee should also focus on the knee jerk defensive posture that is taken by the black community when any dares to criticize it. The inability of the black community to deal with modernity and the demands of society has led them to ruin and destruction. Their culture which at one time was the glittering jewel of the world is now a bad joke of epic proportions. Hip hop has replaced blues and jazz. Ignorance has replaced the beautiful raw expression of Langston Hughes. It’s sad that this has happened, what’s even sadder is that they can’t face it.

  • Optimus Primed

    “Failure to address this problem has been Obama’s greatest failure.”

    As a cynic I wonder, where is the incentive for an uber-partisan political shill like Mr. Obama to address this problem? What are the likely outcomes to his party if they were to successfully address this problem? The most logical seems to be a big shift in their voting block away from D policies to policy directed more toward the individual (ie, the R’s). Can’t have that…

  • Eurydice

    @Big Soph – I’m not trying to make a case for Obama’s sincerity, I’m just saying that he’s made statements similar to Spike Lee’s.

  • bflat879

    My question isn’t so much about Spike Lee being pilloried, of course he will be, my question is:” Where is the President of the United States?”

    The one person who could have straightened out this whole things has been silent on the issue. The one person, who could have invited Bill Cosby to the White House to discuss education in the black community, has been silent. The one person who could have continued the voucher program, in the D.C. schools, failed to push for it. $800 billion in stimulus and all he did was save union jobs, for the most part, and waste millions on solar projects.

    What a waste!!!

  • AAB

    I have seen this problem first hand. I worked in public health in Dallas and had a black patient with an elementary school daughter who pleaded with me to help get her out of the project’s public school. The patient had been living with her sister in a better part of town but had been kicked out for earning money as a prostitute. Her daughter had been a straight A student in the good school district but was now struggling, because the kids in the all-black project school were taunting her for “talking white” and following her home from school, yelling “wannabe” (as in, want to be white) and other less pleasant names. I made several efforts but ran into persistent dead ends trying to work with an indifferent and over-whelmed school district. The patient dropped out of our study soon after so I lost track of her but I often wonder what happened to that little girl. Her own people were determined to have her limit herself, all in service to some stupid tribal identity.

  • RED

    ——Since when does anybody even remember Bill Cosby’s name, let alone that he championed African-American responsibility? In the decades since…..

    Eurydice has a very poor sense of time..

    Jan 25 2012!!!! According to Cosby, the country can try as many education reforms as it wants but the real key is getting parents involved and concerned about their children’s education. Cosby added that additional funding is

    Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2012/01/25/bill-cosby-on-education-more-funding-is-not-the-answer/#ixzz1ks94dkLc

    and someone asked about radical chic…

    how about Cornell West and Tavis Smiley in 2004 — not decades ago if you have normal orientation in time

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1910649

  • Instructor

    Spike promoted that “ghetto-type” in some of his films. Now that doesn’t make him money anymore…seems he’s trying a different tack.

    IOW, I’m extremely skeptical.

  • cubanbob

    The problem is easily albeit painfully solved. Change the eligibility for ‘entitlements’. If you require people to have ten years of working credits and a high school diploma to be eligible for the ‘benefits’ acting ‘white’ will be seen as a virtue.

  • ejhgf69r9di

    Spike Lee seems to be developing wisdom.

    This is a crucial point.

    When families break down, young children are not exposed to the wisdom of their grandparents, and instead they take their culture from their peers and from the entertainment industry.

    When government policies facilitate and accelerate the breakdown of the family, they destroy the underpinnings of civilization.

  • bill

    as long as black americans align themselves with the democratic party they will never progress,”be a victim” is the democratic mantra,getting duped by liberal ignorance for the past 45 years is enough!
    time to move from the liberal past to the conservative future!!!

  • Rich

    I once heard Chris Rock, when someone talked about the racism of the “system”, reply “I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about picking up the trash in front of your house”. All three men (Cosby, Lee, and Rock) know how to succeed because they’ve done it. They relied on intelligence and hard work, and they made it. Too many people of all colors have failed to notice.

  • http://www.tempeteaparty.org Lee

    They’ll ignore him, and he will be taken aside quietly and warned that speaking truths that underming the cult of victimology will get him into trouble.

    If he listens to them, then this will be the last time these statements will ever see the light of day.

    If he does not listen to him, and persists in telling the truth, then the character assassination machine will move into gear and begin working to destroy his public reputation from all sides.

  • Sardondi

    So black America has institutionalized ignorance. What a surprise. Not that conservatives have been doing everything they could to tell you this day would come, ever since LBJ’s Great Society.

    Black America was destroyed by the government and our human tendency to opt for getting something for nothing if it is available. The left, the statists who believe more government was the answer to everything, took a highly stable and healthy black middle class, which had educated its children far better and successfully than the alternative in the last 50 years, and destroyed it.

    The black middle class was a vigorous, thriving, secure and, dare I say, happy community, made up of a solid population of successful merchants, doctors, nurses, lawyers and teachers. But government took blacks and essentially made them wards of the state. And now the greatest single class of blacks in America by far is made up of those on welfare, food stamps, ADC and all the other alphabet of government support programs…and long before we spent ourselves into a depression. Indeed today it isn’t unusual to find young black Americans who are descended from four generations or even more of welfare recipients.

    Because liberals “knew better”.

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO: All
    RE: Addendum to Item #11, January 29, 2012 at 10:08 am

    People doubt that the vaunted American public education system is the root-cause of our problem.

    Let me offer you this tidbit….

    I sit on a citizens oversight committee in my community. It was established about 20 years ago. I joined it 6 years ago.

    A year ago, last Fall, i.e., 2010, at a monthly meeting, the two local institutions of higher learning—one state university and one community college—BOTH reported that 38% of the new enrollees, i.e., those fresh out of high school, required remedial ENGLISH training before they could participate in the regular curriculum.

    THERE IS—as we say in the Army—a KEY INDICATOR.

    Teaching the following generations to be ‘stupid’, by teaching them NOTHING and boosting their ‘SELF-ESTEEM’, i.e., pride, is teaching them to be ‘stupid': IGNORANT and PROUD OF IT.

    This sort of ‘education’ makes them susceptible to being ‘enslaved’.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    [Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; Easy to govern, but impossible to enslave. – Lord Henry Brougham]

  • Chuck Pelto

    P.S. Don’t you just LOVE IT, when a ‘plan’ comes together?

  • MassJim

    It is Hollywood and it is drugs according to Lee. He portrays the black community as mere passive players. Maybe, just maybe they have to look more inward and realize that the fault may lie within themselves. It is time for them to hitch uo there pants and accept responsibility for their own attitudes.

  • MassJim

    It is Hollywood and it is drugs according to Lee. He portrays the black community as mere passive players. Maybe, just maybe they have to look more inward and realize that the fault may lie within themselves. It is time for them to hitch up there pants and accept responsibility for their own attitudes.

  • Eurydice

    @RED – stop the presses, Bill Cosby was in a panel discussion about school choice, just the kind of up-to-the-minute, cutting-edge condemnation of black society that so inflames the radical chic. As for Cornell West and Tavis Smiley, when the mainstream calls you radical chic, you’re neither.

  • John

    I was in the NYC public school system a few years ahead of Lee and by the late 1960s-early 70s the denigration of black students for “acting white” was already well in place. But what isn’t mentioned was it was in place in part because by the same time period, white liberals had begun to celebrate the “authenticity” of street culture, and in some cases, emulating it (with the group I hung around with, the one who worked the hardest to “act black” was also the only one whose parents sent him to private school in Grades 7-12.

    Acting ghetto while you’re going to the Dalton School is almost a sitcom parody of goofy white teens, but the point is that African-American students for the past 45 years have been basically told there’s nothing wrong with not getting an education by rich white liberals who may like to mimic the ghetto culture, but who can go running back to their safe havens to avoid the negative consequences of that lifestyle).

  • Corlyss

    Wow! A breakthru!

    Time to drag out the Charles Murray papers! Time for black families in the inner city to stop depending on “baby mamas” and their procreative power for $$$. Time for women to demand marriage first. Time for black boys to learn the habits of success. Black women know what the habits are. Black women have always been the engine of progress within the black community. Time to bury the gangsta image beside Jim Crow. Go Spike!

  • Fred

    31.Instructor says:

    Spike promoted that “ghetto-type” in some of his films. Now that doesn’t make him money anymore…seems he’s trying a different tack.

    Where is your evidence? I can’t think of any Spike Lee films that glamorize “ghetto-types.” By contrast, I can think of Lee films that are critical of drug addicts (Jungle Fever), gangmembers (Inside Man), and thieves (Malcolm X).

    Given Lee’s track record on the silver screen, I’m not shocked that he would condemn the glamorization of ignorance as “acting Black.”

  • John Fembup

    He’s not Bill Cosby–he’s Spike Lee. Always has been.

    Have you watched his movies? Have you thought about them?

    What is “the right thing” after all? Do it.

  • Scott Huse

    I remember seeing Spike doing a “townhall meeting” type event on the streets of Harlem 15+ years ago and he had high school students sitting on bleachers asking questions of him. His main point to them then and still seems to be his drumbeat today, “Education is the ONLY way out. It will not be drugs, gangs or theft. Eduction is the ONLY way out.”

    In my work with families and schools, I have learned about the culture within urban communities. (e.g. Memphis, TN, as with many other urban communities, has the opportunity to turn things around, but it will not be because they need more funding or policies. It will only turnaround when the commitment to parenting and family comes to the forefront. With 73% of all children born out of wedlock in urban markets , the children have a minimal opportunity to receive a quality education, find local jobs to learn work ethic, pursue college, etc. The list goes on and on for the challenges they will face. Nobody can do it for Memphis, they must do it for themselves.)

    I think that is exactly what Spike is trying to point out.

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