What can be said about a mother who exploits the tragic death of her own son to deliver a racist diatribe against a nation that has showered her with privilege, making her family wealthy and famous beyond the wildest dreams of almost anyone alive, including the very objects of her hate? Yet that is exactly what Camille Cosby has done in a USA Today column: "America Taught My Son's Killer to Hate Blacks."
Unlike the mothers of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, Camille Cosby was able to see swift justice rendered by the American court system to the criminal psychopath who murdered her son, Ennis. But this result was apparently unsatisfactory. In her eyes, the killer himself, Mikhail Markhasev, was a victim of America.
"Presumably, Markhasev did not learn to hate black people in his native country, the Ukraine, where the black population was near zero. Nor was he likely to see America's intolerable, stereotypical movies and television programs about blacks, which were not shown in the Soviet Union before the killer and his family moved to America in the late 1980s."
Paranoid logic bleeds all over these words. Cosby enjoys a fortune that is estimated in the hundreds of millions, thanks to the success of a television show that featured a model black family in which her husband played a doctor. Year after year, "The Cosby Show" was made the No. 1 television program in America by tens of millions of viewers who happened to be white. It was ritually attacked, on the other hand, by black militants using tones not unlike those employed by Camille Cosby, as being allegedly "unrepresentative" and "unrealistic." In other words, in this perverse black militant view, "The Cosby Show" was attacked as an effort by white America to portray African-Americans as better than they were.
On what basis, moreover, is the claim made that the presence of a persecuted group is necessary to provoke the irrational hatred directed toward it by bigots? Is Cosby suggesting that bigots need evidence to substantiate their racism? There are no Jews to speak of in countries like Poland and Japan, but Jew-hatred is rife in both places. Has Cosby forgotten (or as a leftist has she merely blanked out the memory of) Russia's protest at the Olympics that American teams had an unfair advantage because of the presence of blacks?
"Yes," she writes, "racism and prejudice are omnipresent and eternalized in America's institutions, media and myriad entities." Eternalized? Perhaps it is appropriate to recall at this point that the Cosbys were the most public supporters of the racist lies of Tawana Brawley a few years back, putting up money in the hope of proving that the lies were true.
In her current rant, Cosby begins her "proof" of America's ineluctable racism with the fact that the Voting Rights Act will expire in 10 years. From this fact she concludes preposterously that "Congress once again will decide whether African-Americans will be allowed to vote" and comments that no other Americans are subjected to this oppressive nonsense.
On what planet is Camille Cosby living? What majority in this country is going to deny African-Americans the right to vote (which is, after all, a constitutional right)? In fact, the only African-Americans so denied in the past resided in the American South, a region whose major cities today are run by African-American elected officials, and where black legislators like Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., are elected in majority white districts.
It is her second example, however, that reveals the full depth of her hatred of country: "African-Americans, as well as all Americans, are brainwashed every day to respect and revere slave-owners and people who clearly waffled about race ... several slave-owners' images are on America's paper currencies: George Washington ($1), Thomas Jefferson ($2), Alexander Hamilton ($10), Andrew Jackson ($20), Ulysses Grant ($50) and Benjamin Franklin ($100)."
Forget that the characterizations of Hamilton, Grant and Franklin (whose last act was to file an anti-slavery petition to Congress) are probably inaccurate. What American is taught to revere the fact that these men owned (or may have owned) slaves? Perhaps Cosby should direct her concern to Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan, who are still waffling about slavery in Africa more than 100 years after the spiritual heirs of Washington and Jefferson abolished the institution in the United States.
Cosby also picks up the hoary chestnut of language: "America's educational institutions' dictionaries define 'black' as 'harmful; hostile; disgrace; unpleasant aspects of life.'" The idea is that the term "black" was applied to African-Americans to denigrate them. The reality, however, is that it was militants like Malcolm X who demanded that African-Americans be called "black" at a time when whites and their dictionaries universally referred to them as "Negro" and "colored."
The irrational hatred of America in general, and of white America in particular, that is manifest in Cosby's screed is unfortunately the expression of more than a single individual's paranoia exacerbated by a wholly understandable grief. Suppose, for example, that the grieving mothers of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman had authored a parallel column titled "Black America Taught Our Children's Killer to Hate Whites?"
Is there any white-owned newspaper in America that would even print it? In contrast to Camille Cosby's perverse view of America as a nation of racists, this is the only nation in the world where children are indoctrinated from preschool on that racism is morally wrong, that blacks in particular have been the victims of egregious racial crimes and that the expression of prejudice is socially unacceptable. In fact, the only group in America allowed to vent racist venom these days is African-Americans themselves, as Cosby's outburst exemplifies.
For she is hardly alone. In her column, she quotes the most celebrated and honored African-American writer of his generation, James Baldwin, to this embarrassing effect: "The will of the people, or the State, is revealed by the State's institutions. There was not, then, nor is there now, a single American institution which is not a racist institution."
How many African-American leaders will dissociate themselves from slanders like this or from the vicious hate-America, hate-whitey sentiments expressed by Camille Cosby?
Ironically, a kind of answer was provided the day before Cosby spewed her racist rage in the pages of USA Today, when it was revealed that the chairman of President Clinton's race panel and its most distinguished African-American member, John Hope Franklin, had urged the president to abandon the idea of creating a "colorblind" society. If this was what enough African-Americans actually wanted, they might be able to get it. But not without a fight from the rest of us.