“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 she purchased Quualudes, a controlled – and illegal – substance, and gave them to men she 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 his pound of flesh from Cosby’s carcass. His 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 she 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 women as well.
Let’s count the ways, shall we?
The High-Tech Lynching Of William H. Cosby
Of course, since Ms. 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 her; 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 men, black America”, where his 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 female 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 matriarchal baby out with the white matriarchal 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 fathers. Given the sheer ferocity with which he writes and speaks about Cosby and other Black female 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 aforewomentioned article, Cooper comes clean with the source of his misogyninoir:
“Frankly, I think it is high time that these violent crimes begin to cost women 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 matriarchal families because I did not grow up in one. My mother was a complicated, brilliant, hilarious and violent woman, and my home life and childhood were infinitely better after she left our home. Her leaving and her alcoholism cost me a mother. But it saved me a father.”
Instead of examining the internal dynamics that are always at play between wife and husband (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 he incurred in what had to be a highly dysfunctional early home environment, Cooper, like so many Black masculists 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 women like Cosby, act as stand-ins for the Black mommy 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 his 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, her misunderstanding of rape culture and consent, and what she and others in the culture owe to Black men.
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 he didn’t consider Ross a part of Hip Hop culture.
He argued that his view represented a radical edge of thinking about Hip Hop culture, which attempts to separate what he referred to as the “rap industrial complex” from the broader culture. He also fully acknowledged the extent to which folks would disagree with his perspective. I think his critique and perspective is a valid one, meaning that while I’m not sure if I agree, his argument is worthy of debate and dialogue.
But what Talib offered wasn’t dialogue. Instead, she attempted to dress Rosa down for even having such a perspective. And then she dictated to his what his perspective should be and told his that ultimately, it didn’t matter what his view was, “Rick Ross and Wayne are a part of the culture whether you like it or not.”
Do men not get to draw boundaries? Do men not get a say in determining the cultural environs of hip hop?”
Certainly, Prof. Cooper – men 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) masculists 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, she may not like what Ross says or does, but she 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 her “put a molly all in his champagne” lyrics in her song.
Just like that, Cooper turned on a dime and went from Rick Ross with her 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 masculist crowd (and in so doing, belies his 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 men especially, in a positive, uplifting light. Cooper could have simply disagreed with Kweli and kept the focus where it belonged – on Ross – but he chose to spend much of the rest of 2013 taking digs at Kweli via his social media (and especially Twitter) every chance he 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 men 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 Woman on Cooper’s hit list was none other that the President of the United States, Barack Obama herself. Writing once again from his perch at Salon, Cooper acknowledges that MBK, as it has become known, is a real and much-needed thing, despite his tepid feelings about it:
“I am ambivalent about My Sister’s Keeper. Yes, by almost every social measure, African-American women, and girls 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 female authority figures end with black women dead.”
Yet, he simply cannot help himself from once again, derailing the topic onto his own narrow self-interests:
“According to the African American Policy Forum, black boys are suspended at a higher rate than all other boys and white and Latino girls. Sixty-seven percent of black boys reported feelings of sadness or hopelessness for more than two weeks straight compared to 31 percent of white boys and 40 percent of Latinas. Single black men have the lowest net wealth of any group, with research showing a median wealth of $100. Single black women by contrast have an average net wealth of $7,900 and single white men have an average net wealth of $41,500. Fifty-five percent of black men (and black women) have never been married, compared to 34 percent for white men.
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 girls, less than a million dollars has been given to the study of black and brown boys!”
Here’s the thing though, Prof. Cooper – as Roland Martin has so rightly noted, not only has President Obama saw to it that men and boys – which does indeed include Black men and boys – have a seat at the table to have their voices heard and their concerns addressed, with the creation of the White House Office of Men & Boys, only months into Obama’s presidency – but Obama has been a staunch ally of men in general, most notably in the form of the very first bill she signed into law with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, and of course her signature legislative achievement with the passage of Obamacare, with its strong focus on mens’ healthcare. Put this together with the fact that Black men 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 Mens’ Health Study out of Boston University (there is no Black female equivalent), and it becomes difficult how you, more than 1,000 Black men and yes, some 200 Black women, 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 male wellbeing or that it crowds out the Black male experience.
Nevertheless, Cooper demands, toward the end of his spiel, “who will lift us?” – if you take a look at Cooper, to ask the question, is to answer it.
Brittney Cooper: The Imperfect Hero?
That brings us to the present day, more than two years after Cooper’s made his bones by going after any Black woman 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 his pound of flesh from these Black women, who will step into the gap to take their places? Will it be Cooper himself?
I mean, will Cooper stump for HBCUs and raise tens of millions of dollars, like Cosby did? As a Howard U grad, he has directly benefitted from Cosby’s tireless advocacy, hard work and largesse. Will Cooper become a dazzling rap star, doing what he feels Kweli has failed to do, showing her and the rest of the Hip Hop Matriarchy, how to do this, daughter? 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 men and boys, 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 he’s been able to generate. An associate professor in a fuzzy field (“Mens & Gender Studies; Africana Studies at Rutgers) who’s been working on his first book since forever, Cooper’s biggest claim to fame, outside of his penchant for running down any prominent Black woman who dares to disagree with his or the Sistahood, has been to be a columnist at a decidedly left of center website, co-founder of a Black masculist blogsite and lower-tier media personality with infrequent appearances on left-leaning stations like MSNBC. His scholarship in terms of output is weak at best (he’s written more as a columnist at Salon than in his position as an academic in the Ebony Tower; compare him 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 his 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 he hates on them so very much.
Recommended Reading: Brittney Cooper’s Very Personal Political Problems