“Happy now, bitch?”
-Bunk Moreland, “The Wire”
With the feeding frenzy at a fevered pitch in the wake of the Associated Press publishing a 2005 civil court deposition giving an admission on the part of Bill Cosby that he purchased Quualudes, a controlled – and illegal – substance, and gave them to women he was intending to have sex with, I knew it would not be long before Brittney Cooper – the self-styled “Professor Crunk – would be along to extract her pound of flesh from Cosby’s carcass. Her Thu, Jul 9, 2015 column at Salon.com, entitled “Black America’s Bill Cosby nightmare: Why it’s so painful to abandon the lies that he told” didn’t disappoint. While the article itself reads like a sad lament of what could have been, Cooper’s crocodile tears belies a seething hatred not just of one of Black America’s leading lights for the past half-century, but of other prominent Black men as well.
Let’s count the ways, shall we?
The High-Tech Lynching Of William H. Cosby
Of course, since Mr. Cosby is on the hotseat, we’ll begin the accounting here. As mentioned above, this isn’t the first time that Cooper has written an venom-drenched attack piece on him; back in the fall of last year, Cooper wrote a column once again at Salon called “We must abandon Bill Cosby: A broken trust with women, black America”, where her principle argument then and now, is that “respectability politics” – a four-letter word as far as Cooper is concerned – is the root of all evil, in Cosby personified. Cooper believes that the politics of respectability has been an outright failure, a sham that protects Black male faces in high places, who do and say one thing in public, and act a quite different way in private – and therefore, it is better for all of us, that we throw out the Black patriarchal baby out with the white patriarchal bath water that infected it, and replace it with alternative notions and models of family life – one filled with gay and lesbian parents, and of course, single mothers. Given the sheer ferocity with which she writes and speaks about Cosby and other Black male figures, it’s hard to get away from the idea that this is more than a sterile exercise in “social justice”, and more an attempt to contend with inner demons.
And indeed, in the aforementioned article, Cooper comes clean with the source of her misandrinoir:
“Frankly, I think it is high time that these violent crimes begin to cost men something. And that might mean that it has to cost those of us who love them something as well. I have shared in these pages before that I do not romanticize patriarchal families because I did not grow up in one. My father was a complicated, brilliant, hilarious and violent man, and my home life and childhood were infinitely better after he left our home. His leaving and his alcoholism cost me a father. But it saved me a mother.”
Instead of examining the internal dynamics that are always at play between husband and wife (to say nothing of the role the latter just might have played in the grand drama), or considered, seriously, seeking much-needed therapy for the psychological scarring she incurred in what had to be a highly dysfunctional early home environment, Cooper, like so many Black feminists of the age, have taken to their perches in the mainstream media to act as their couches and their readers as their sounding boards. Meanwhile, Black men like Cosby, act as stand-ins for the Black daddy they either did not have or would not stand up to.
Throwing A Conscious Rapper Under The Bus
As noted above, the current bee in Cooper’s bonnet with regard to Cosby is by no means unique; a little over two years ago, on the heels of another rape controversy – this time involving rapper Rick Ross – Cooper went out of her way to shoot down conscious rap fixture Talib Kweli with a bit of friendly fire instead:
“Many folks have aptly broken down all that is wrong with Rick Ross’ faux-pology, his misunderstanding of rape culture and consent, and what he and others in the culture owe to Black women.
I am more interested in the quintessential case of #allyfail that was Talib Kweli’s participation in this conversation. On Monday, in a conversation at Huffington Post Live with host Marc Lamont Hill, and guests Rosa Clemente, Jamilah Lemieux, and Rahiel Tesfamariam, Talib went in on Rosa for suggesting that she didn’t consider Ross a part of Hip Hop culture.
She argued that her view represented a radical edge of thinking about Hip Hop culture, which attempts to separate what she referred to as the “rap industrial complex” from the broader culture. She also fully acknowledged the extent to which folks would disagree with her perspective. I think her critique and perspective is a valid one, meaning that while I’m not sure if I agree, her argument is worthy of debate and dialogue.
But what Talib offered wasn’t dialogue. Instead, he attempted to dress Rosa down for even having such a perspective. And then he dictated to her what her perspective should be and told her that ultimately, it didn’t matter what her view was, “Rick Ross and Wayne are a part of the culture whether you like it or not.”
Do women not get to draw boundaries? Do women not get a say in determining the cultural environs of hip hop?”
Certainly, Prof. Cooper – women like, oh say, Lauryn Hill, or MC Lyte; Nikki Minaj or Jean Grae, most definitely have a say in determining the cultural environs of Hip Hop.
But Black (and Latina) feminists like Rosa Clemente, or Jamilah Lemieux, or indeed yourself – who’ve never made so much as a demo or mixtape, let alone recorded albums, gone on tour or sold records? No – you really don’t get to determine who is and who is not, a part of the Hip Hop-making machine. As Kweli rightly pointed out to Clemente, he may not like what Ross says or does, but he is a part of Hip Hop whether Clemente (or you) likes it or not – and – that Clemente’s approach is fundamentally ill-suited to address the situation – that of getting Ross to see the light with regard to his “put a molly all in her champagne” lyrics in his song.
Just like that, Cooper turned on a dime and went from Rick Ross with his date rape-drenched single, to Kweli’s cardinal sin of not towing the party line that is demanded of anyone who deigns themselves to be an “ally” of the Black feminist crowd (and in so doing, belies her current handwringing with regard to Cosby’s alleged charges of rape and sexual assault); this, despite the fact that Kweli has literally spent a career crafting positive songs that depicted Black women especially, in a positive, uplifting light. Cooper could have simply disagreed with Kweli and kept the focus where it belonged – on Ross – but she chose to spend much of the rest of 2013 taking digs at Kweli via her social media (and especially Twitter) every chance she could get. Hey, not only is it good for ratings, Ross’ rough-and-tumble thuggery falls right in line with the “ratchet politics” that Cooper espouses – and that Black women themselves truly desire, as comedian and astute social observer/critic Chris Rock noted in a standup comedy special a few years back.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Barack Obama, 44th POTUS
Not to be outdone, the next Big Black Man on Cooper’s hit list was none other that the President of the United States, Barack Obama himself. Writing once again from her perch at Salon, Cooper acknowledges that MBK, as it has become known, is a real and much-needed thing, despite her tepid feelings about it:
“I am ambivalent about My Brother’s Keeper. Yes, by almost every social measure, African-American men, and boys in particular, fall behind at alarming rates. They are suspended from school the most, incarcerated the most, have the highest rates of unemployment, commit disproportionate amounts of violent crime, and have some of the lowest high school and college graduation rates. Frequently their encounters with law enforcement and white male authority figures end with black men dead.”
Yet, she simply cannot help herself from once again, derailing the topic onto her own narrow self-interests:
“According to the African American Policy Forum, black girls are suspended at a higher rate than all other girls and white and Latino boys. Sixty-seven percent of black girls reported feelings of sadness or hopelessness for more than two weeks straight compared to 31 percent of white girls and 40 percent of Latinas. Single black women have the lowest net wealth of any group, with research showing a median wealth of $100. Single black men by contrast have an average net wealth of $7,900 and single white women have an average net wealth of $41,500. Fifty-five percent of black women (and black men) have never been married, compared to 34 percent for white women.
This situation is dire at every level. But perhaps the most troubling thing of all: The report indicates that while over 100 million philanthropic dollars have been spent in the last decade creating mentoring and educational initiatives for black and brown boys, less than a million dollars has been given to the study of black and brown girls!”
Here’s the thing though, Prof. Cooper – as Roland Martin has so rightly noted, not only has President Obama saw to it that women and girls – which does indeed include Black women and girls – have a seat at the table to have their voices heard and their concerns addressed, with the creation of the White House Office of Women & Girls, only months into Obama’s presidency – but Obama has been a staunch ally of women in general, most notably in the form of the very first bill he signed into law with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, and of course his signature legislative achievement with the passage of Obamacare, with its strong focus on womens’ healthcare. Put this together with the fact that Black women also enjoy educational and career success that is at or near the tops of anyone in American life, along with longitudinal health studies like the Black Womens’ Health Study out of Boston University (there is no Black male equivalent), and it becomes difficult how you, more than 1,000 Black women and yes, some 200 Black men, can see a fledgling, largely unfunded de facto charity that really won’t be operational until after Obama leaves office anyway, is some kind of impediment to Black female wellbeing or that it crowds out the Black female experience.
Nevertheless, Cooper demands, toward the end of her spiel, “who will lift us?” – if you take a look at Cooper, to ask the question, is to answer it.
Brittney Cooper: The Imperfect Heroine?
That brings us to the present day, more than two years after Cooper’s made her bones by going after any Black man with a name and who dares to Do The Right Thing – and with Cosby’s brand going down in flames, with Kweli and Obama’s own brands rather anemic in the wake of their Brittney Cooper-fueled kerfuffles, one simply has to ask: now that Cooper has gotten her pound of flesh from these Black men, who will step into the gap to take their places? Will it be Cooper herself?
I mean, will Cooper stump for HBCUs and raise tens of millions of dollars, like Cosby did? As a Howard U grad, she has directly benefitted from Cosby’s tireless advocacy, hard work and largesse. Will Cooper become a dazzling rap star, doing what she feels Kweli has failed to do, showing him and the rest of the Hip Hop Patriarchy, how to do this, son? Perhaps Cooper will run for public office and join the state and/or federal legislatures, and craft laws that will be (even more) amenable to Black women and girls, proving that Obama was wrong, wrong, wrong about MBK?
The evidence, as best we have it, says “not likely.” Despite garnering a lot of attention and hype over the past few years, Cooper hasn’t lived up to anywhere near the buzz she’s been able to generate. An associate professor in a fuzzy field (“Womens & Gender Studies; Africana Studies at Rutgers) who’s been working on her first book since forever, Cooper’s biggest claim to fame, outside of her penchant for running down any prominent Black man who dares to disagree with her or the Sistahood, has been to be a columnist at a decidedly left of center website, co-founder of a Black feminist blogsite and lower-tier media personality with infrequent appearances on left-leaning stations like MSNBC. Her scholarship in terms of output is weak at best (she’s written more as a columnist at Salon than in her position as an academic in the Ebony Tower; compare her to Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Thomas Sowell, Nell Painter, John Mcwhorter or Mary Pattillo) and unlike the late great Christopher Hitchens, has never engaged in any debates with well known and respected scholars, intellectuals and academics (Hitchens’ debates with conservative Dinesh D’Souza, come to mind), live or taped. All of this, along with her insistence on a “dumbing deviancy down” ethos for one and all, suggests that the world without Cosby, Obama and Kweli, will be one that is that much worse off, especially if the likes of Brittney Cooper are at the helm.
Cosby, Obama and Kweli are in the twilight of their respective careers, and to be sure, none of them are perfect or saints. Nevertheless, each of them have left a legacy and a lifetime of real achievement and accomplishment that Cooper can only dream of.
Which is another reason as to why she hates on them so very much.
Recommended Reading: Brittney Cooper’s Very Personal Political Problems