by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Former Congressman Allen West is always fighting for attention. It’s difficult to figure out exactly what makes him the man that he is today, but every time he opens his mouth, the mystery is a little closer to being resolved.
West, surprisingly, took issue with Bill Cosby during a recent twitter attack. West admitted that he was a bit irritated with an article entitled, “A plague of apathy” written by Cosby for the New York Post. In the column, Cosby was defending Black Muslims for what they give to the Black community.
Here is some of what Cosby had to say:
“I’m a Christian. But Muslims are misunderstood. Intentionally misunderstood. We should all be more like them. They make sense, especially with their children. There is no other group like the Black Muslims, who put so much effort into teaching children the right things, they don’t smoke, they don’t drink or overindulge in alcohol, they protect their women, they command respect.”
But Allen West, being the ultimate patriot, lashed out at Cosby for his comments.
“2day in NY Post, Bill Cosby said we should b more like Muslims. U mean honor killings, beheadings, suicide bombings? Hope ur kidding sir,”he said on Twitter.
I found this dialogue between two Black men, both of which have conservative leanings, to be interesting. Both Cosby and West have taken a lion’s share of criticism from the black community for their comments about the state of black America. But conversations like this one create a clear dividing line that we should all take a second to observe.
Both Bill Cosby and Allen West can be considered honorable men in their own right. West served his country in the military and has worked to raise what he considers to be a strong Black family. I don’t care what anyone says; I respect the men and women who put on uniforms and carry guns into places that most of us wouldn’t go in a million years. This, of course, doesn’t speak to US government sponsored terrorism initiated around the world via the military industrial complex. But there are people who must protect us, and most of the time, I’m certainly glad they do.
Cosby created one of the most popular television shows in history, using this valuable time to promote Black colleges and to provide a positive image of a well-structured African American family. He consulted with psychologists to ensure that the imagery of his show was responsible and productive for the people he cared about. That is what makes him a hero. Michael Jordan or Bob Johnson would never do such a thing, since their primary objective has been to make money for themselves. Celebrities should be acknowledged when they do something good for other people with brown skin.
On the other hand, there is plenty of room to critique both Cosby and West. West seems to think that American sh*t doesn’t stink, and aligns himself with the very same Fox News bigots who would have been stringing most of us up 70 years ago. He makes his living by insulting everything he doesn’t understand and is a reminder of the dangers of what can happen when you have both ignorance and arrogance inside the same mind.
Cosby, on the other hand, has to be careful about being labeled an elitist. His public attacks on poor single parents were well-intended, but sorely misguided. I also wish that when Cosby lashes out at poor single mothers for not raising their kids in the way he would want, that he would be just as diligent about speaking to the structural factors that have served to destroy the Black family over the last 40 years: These might be toxic media images, the prison industrial complex, and a destructive educational system. You can’t just attack the victim for not standing up….you must also speak to the perpetrator for not standing down.
At the same time, I have empathy for Cosby because his son was murdered in senseless violence, and he reminds me of my own father, who also has little patience for people who don’t know or care to know how to take care of themselves. The truth is that there is room for tough love in the conversation about how to advance our community, because it is only through the rebuilding of our culture, families and value systems that we can overcome the structural obstacles that have been designed to destroy us. Anyone who spends time in the Black community knows that there are some of us who are determined to facilitate our continued oppression.
With this being said, the spat between West and Cosby reminds us of the differences between these two accomplished men. Cosby, even when his efforts are off the mark, always has the interests of the Black community at heart. West, on the other hand, is a puppet for those who seek to harm the Black community. Cosby is the relative who spanks you when he thinks you’re out of line, while West is the person who takes money from your worst enemy so they can both beat you down at the bus stop.
My father is more conservative than I am (actually, I am neither liberal nor conservative and refuse to be put in a box), but I respect him. I respect him for the same reasons that I respect Min. Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Julianne Malveaux, Cornel West, Bill Cosby, Maxine Waters Steve Perry and all the other strong people who stand up for the people they love. I don’t always agree with them, primarily because we don’t all have to agree. But the common denominator is that we all care for our people and have our own ways of fighting for what is right. Allen West fights for those who hate Black people, which is why he is not an ally of Black America.
With that being said, this odd interaction between Cosby and West also speaks to the lost opportunities of the Republican Party. Because the party has remained addicted to historical racism, they are missing out on millions of Black voters who are not in agreement with gay marriage, don’t like Obamacare, and are appalled that the word “God” has been taken out of the Democratic Party platform. But most of these people will continue to support racist and patronizing Democrats because Republicans don’t even respect Black leadership in their own party. They also don’t seem to consider Black people to be decent, intelligent and civil human beings worthy of a meaningful political voice: Both parties don’t want to hear what Black people have to say, but are always glad to tell Black people WHAT to say.
The bottom line is that a lack of respect and fundamental belief that White is always right will keep Republicans from getting Black votes for a very long time. This disrespect is also the foundation of West’s ignorant remarks about Muslims and Black Muslims in particular. Anyone who has spent time around the Nation of Islam knows just how much good this organization has done for the Black community, and I appreciate Cosby’s acknowledgement of this fact. But West will never mention such a thing because his overseers will not allow it. That’s why he’s no friend of mine.
Dr. Boyce Watkins co-stars in the Janks Morton Film “Hoodwinked,” starring Dr. Steve Perry, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu and Dr. Ivory Toldson.