James Leroy Wilson's one-man magazine.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Cosby's Crusade

The May 2008 Atlantic arrived today, on the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. In it, Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses Bill Cosby's crusade for black empowerment. (Update: the article is now-online.)

In a way, Coates reveals, Cosby has historical amnesia. For instance, why condemn hip-hop when jazz, which Cosby loves, was once condemned for similar reasons? Some other complaints sound like old-fogeyness: "In my day nobody was named Shamiqua AND WE LIKED IT THAT WAY!!!" That said, Cosby's form of "black conservatism," which hearkens back to Booker T. Washington, resonates.

I think race provides an awkward situation for white libertarians. We don't think the State should try to abolish "racism," or violate property rights and freedom of association to "make sure" no one is unfairly discriminated against. On the other hand, this position can, by itself, can attract racists to the movement and discredit it, even though there is nothing racist about the libertarian philosophy. I imagine most libertarians are like most white people these days - not consciously racist, unwilling to do anything to offend minorities, and not opposed to racial diversity in their professional and social lives.

I support integration, but not legally-enforced integration, and do I hope for the day no one is judged by the color of their skin. On the other hand, I also have no objection to blacks who want to strengthen their communities even to the point of separating themselves. As Coates notes, one Nation of Islam minister says there's a Koreatown and a Chinatown: "where is your town?"

That's a reason I oppose discrimination laws. Why shouldn't a black-owned business favor hiring blacks over others? Why shouldn't blacks live together and have their own schools, if that's what they want?

I think the strength of Cosby's bootstrap-type message is this: blacks shouldn't wait around for racism to end, and they shouldn't try to earn the respect of whites. Do your own thing, as an individual or as a community.

By ending victim-less crime laws like the War on Drugs, and by de-regulating the economy to allow for free enterprise within the black community, I think the libertarian program has the most to offer both those who want to integrate and those who want to separate.


  1. Hey,

    I just wanted to thank you for commenting on my piece. The online version of it should be up somewhere around April 15, should you want to link to it. Your insights come from a perspective that I don't think those of us obsessed with the "race dialouge" often hear from. It's good to get some other perspectives.

    Thanks again,

  2. Anonymous2:25 PM CDT

    To follow up on what Ta-Nehisi said, both the article and an associated video interview are now up on The Atlantic's Web Site:
    Article: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200805/cosby
    Video: http://www.theatlantic.com/movies/cosby/

  3. Thanks to Mr. Coates for stopping by and for his gracious remarks. And thans to anon for the links!