Airing Dirty Laundry

By Dodson, Angela P. | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, December 27, 2007 | Go to article overview

Airing Dirty Laundry


Dodson, Angela P., Diverse Issues in Higher Education


Airing Dirty Laundry Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors by Bill Cosby andAlvin E Poussaint, $25.99, Hardcover, Thomas Nelson (October 2007), ISBN-10:1595550925ISBN-13:978-1595550927,288 pp.

Cosby and Poussaint's book stirs up a caldron of commentary pro and con.

Remember the hilarious, kid-friendly father figure who made us beg for Jell-O pudding and run to the television set to see a normal, upper-middleclass couple loving each other and raising strong Black children? He does not seem himself these days.

For this book, Bill Cosby has joined forces with one of the nation's most respected and often-quoted psychiatrists. Their message is simple, Black people need to get it together. No argument here. The premise seems sound: Our people need to take personal responsibility for their lives.

The execution of this work, however, is troubling. Its tone is often angry, and it offers vague data without comparisons and without citing the sources, while telling us "the numbers speak for themselves." The authors have had a blitz of television appearances, and the book quickly achieved best-seller status (#14 on The New York Times hardcover advice list in mid-November). The work also has attracted no small measure of controversy.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, an author, political analyst and blogger, wrote, "While Cosby is entitled to publicly air Black America's alleged dirty laundry, there's more myth than dirt in that laundry."

Conceding that "some knuckle heads" within the African-American race deserve criticism, he says, the book "makes a Grand Canyon size leap from them to paint a halftruth, skewed picture of the plight of poor Blacks and the reasons and prescriptions for their plight The cornerstone of Cosby mythmaking is that they are crime prone, educational losers, and teen baby-making machines."

Real data, Hutchinson argues, would portray a very different Black America with documented progress and success in all those areas.

In The Nation, Amy Alexander, who once co-authored a book with Poussaint, offers an explanation, if not a full-throated defense, of this book. …

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