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A letter to Bill Cosby, Mr. Joseph and Mr. Mootoo of Canada
By: Linda E. Edwards
July 13, 2004
Three men, middle class, educated, fairly wealthy recently garnered some fame, one already had it, for themselves, by pontificating on African American poverty, an easy subject of the popular press.
So, this is a response.
You men have forgotten some things.You cannot pull yourselves up by your bootstraps if you have no shoes. You cannot get out of poverty if you have no education. Your brain does not absorb learning when it is protein starved. All three are parts of the same system.
In addition, the greatest beneficiaries of "Free handouts" worldwide are big business people, true in the USA, true everywhere. The governments' bailouts are not for the small businessman struggling to hold his head above water. Tax rebates are not given to those too poor to pay anything because they have no income. The crumbs fall down to be scrambled for by the poor, usually poor women, with children. Landed immigrants in Canada are assisted by the government to get on their feet, but they have skills, with which they could help build the country. African-American poor are here, been here, and are still poor because processes are set in place to keep them poor.(First Americans on Reservations make this a telling point. Australian Aboriginal people are another similar group) A few make it out, to turn back and deride those who did not, and get tremendous media coverage for it.
So why do they have children then? well, Follow the debate during the World AIDS Conference, and notice that the wealthy and the powerful have gathered to lecture poor women again, on their sex lives, on the contents of their wombs, on "safe sex". The Anti-condom groups are there, well funded by churches world wide, as well as heads of states of countries where women do not have the right to say no to their husbands. The loud trumpeting about "say no" and "Abstinence" can only be effective for women with an education, a life of their own, who are free of husbands, and do not need to exchange sex for food, as millions of women in Third World countries do daily.Those anti-condom people are forgetting that a condom can protect against HIV as well as pregnancy.
The anrti-abortion people are also there, well educated, well financed by churches and other groups needing poor women to produce many children to supply the labor force, THE CHURCHES, and the armies of the world; for it is a truism that the children of the rich do not go to fight wars. ( Bush's two daughters, and his nephew the Governor's son did not go, nor did the sons of John Kerry and John Edwards.) Anti-abortion, anti-condom, practice abstinence, just say no, are combined forms of the same nonsense sprouted by well-heeled people fighting a war for the reproductive rights of poor women, and the contents of their wombs.
Now in America, the problem can take on bizarre aspects. The richest women, Oprah, Martha Stewart have no children. Lea Fastow, has two, and was given a one year jail sentence for stealing. She stole from many poor women who have more than one mouth to feed, and who were thrown out of work by the Enron scandal. There are thousands of poor women serving prison sentences in America, doing much longer terms than Ms Fastow, for much less. To a woman, they are poor, many are African American or Hispanic. I am thinking of my former student, now finishing university, whose mother "came back into my life when I was seven". Where was she I asked? In the army? No, she was in jail, serving time for drug addiction and distribution. She went to prison pregnant, came home, gave birth, and returned to prison three days later, for seven years. The grandmother raised the child with no help from the state.
Now, which wealthy white woman would be in such a situation? Which wealthy African-American or Hispanic?
So, after working with students like the one above for thirty years, I presume I can say a thing or two about those poor African-Americans that are the whipping post of all and sundry, including Dr. Bill Cosby, who ought to have known better. He grew up here. He is slightly older than I am, so he knows Jim Crow and Brown vs The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, from either his personal experience, or that of his family members.So when he uses a public podium in a major forum, to castigate African Americans next time, the first is already behind him, I want him to pause to reflect on two things. That young woman who sued him for being his child, and was proved to be wrong, and the death of his son, tragically murdered by a Russian immigrant, may have made him bitter; and he should re-examine his motives for castigating all poor black people the way he did. The chances of both these things happening to a white PhD entertainer is almost nil.
Africans of the diaspora are still the only people still surviving, whose stolen labour was not compensated for, the Jews got reparations. Our struggle is still going on. It is not a struggle for money, but for dignity.
The battle is being fought in Darfur in Western Sudan, at AIDS conferences in Asia, in newspaper debates in Trinidad and Tobago, and everywhere where people presume to speak for the poor women of the world, who are mostly of African ancestry.
All of the fights, Mr. Cosby, Mr. Mootoo , Mr. Joseph, are one fight. Some third world immigrants move to First World countries and do well, and do not see themselves as having recieved a handout. V.S. Naipaul, Born in Trinidad and Tobago, was given a scholarship to an English university, after a free education in Trinidad's most famous public school, Queen's Royal College. He turned his back contemptuously on the entire nation, and prefers to be regarded as a brown Englishman.
We should be careful about how we castigate the poor, the hopeless, the uneducated. The God of Plenty, who has not yet visited them, except with children that they cannot feed, might be tempted to take our goods to feed them.
If you have no shoes in America, you cannot be educated. Public school is free, but you can't go barefoot. If you are in a refugee camp, you cannot lock your door against sexual predators. If you live in any poor part of the world,(many parts of inner-cityand rural USA also) as a poor woman, you cannot succesfully manage your own sexuality, you cannot even manage what you might eat.
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