One refrain among critics of Bill Cosby's comments two (three?) weeks ago is the charge of classism. While I think these arguments hold no water in this specific case (particularly since we still don't have a complete transcript, so there's no way to properly contextualize the statements. According to Cosby, all the most "inflammatory" stuff is in relation to the number of high school dropouts), there's a discussion to be had on the degree to which we want "lower class" folks to imitate the behavioral norms of the "upper class" and the reasons for that preference. I'm not about to get into all that here, but I will raise a few questions that stem from it. Like I said yesterday, funny characters have a right to do things just because they're funny, regardless of the social impact. I guess this question really goes to the heart of the function of artistic expression, whether it's art for arts' sake, or art for the sake of some other purpose, religious, nationalistic, upliftment of the race, or otherwise. Personally, I don't think that art should necessarily be beholden to any ideological premise. If a Christian wants to MC, all zer raps don't necessarily have to be rhyming sermons. Of course, if ze comes out with some "money, hoes, and clothes" record, zer witness will be suspect, but I don't think it would be wrong or un-Christian of zer to come out with an album of pure MCing, with allusions to the Gospel throughout, a/la Lauryn Hill. Perhaps a better example is Bill Cosby himself. Again, Bill Cosby's comedy is not so much designed with a political purpose in mind, as it's just supposed to be funny. Perhaps its decidedly apolitical stance is something of a protest in and of itself, but either way, if you're going to take something substantial out of a Bill Cosby routine, it's going to be something that you as the listener work up and apply to the material. It wasn't there in the first place. "To My Brother, Russel, Whom I Slept With" is funny. It was funny when I was 12, when I first heard it, and it's funny now. Having been a lit major, I know how to deconstruct it and "unpack" the layers of meaning, and why certain allusions are made, and why certain strategies are employed, but that's all stuff that I bring to the work. To My Brother Russell is there solely to make the audience laugh. Nothing more, nothing less. All that to say that this conversation goes beyond stereotypes of Black folks. I'm just dealing with it at this level because this is what I like to talk about. Now. In the case of the most stereotypical portrayal of Black folk and other folk that you can think of, whatever that may be (cuz Butterscotch is complaining about how much I write about Soul Plane), the fact remains that there are some Black folks who don't think there's anything wrong with it. In fact, there's probably a good number who think that it's legitimately funny and wish that there would be a sequel. Because if you really think about it, even though SP only did about 5 mil over the weekend, that's probably not an accurate reflection of the number of people who saw it. If ever there was a movie that was tailor made to be hit by the bootleg market, this is it. That means that many more people have seen it than the official counts recognize. Hence, there is a market for this, and it's not white people trying to perpetuate stereotypical images of Black folks. For people, who may be unaware of the social ramifications of comedy or don't care one way or the other, Soul Plane and its ilk are okay. It all depends on what the individual thinks is funny. I think Martin is trash, but I like Good Times. Some other people think Sanford & Son is nothing but coonin' and buffoonin', but they know better than to say it to my face. Understanding, then, that the perception of what's entertaining is a matter of taste, it's important to determine if we want to keep "our" kind of artistic expression up front because we don't want "their" kind to be the only depiction of us, or because deep down, we don't want anybody to think "we" are like "them", i.e., we don't want white people to think that all Black people love chicken and watermelon, can't control their libidos, can't use words in context, dress in gaudy colors, and are always shuckin' and jivin'. If that's the case, then we're off base. Like I said last time, to a racist, it doesn't matter which foot you put forward, the Stacey Adams or the Chuck Taylor. For the majority of non-racist white folks, some of whom may simply not know anybody Black, the key is diversification of images. That's why shows like The Cosby Show and its progeny (227, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Different World), where they displayed a solid Black family structure were so important. For that matter, the first two-and-some-change seasons of Good Times could be included as well. But while Black folks have been acquitted well from time to time on comedies, what about on dramas? I'm not talking about fly-in-the-buttermilk shows like E.R. or LA Law, I'm talking about substantially or majority-Black shows. What happened to Franks Place?(who?) Exactly. Nobody watched it. The problem with that assessment is that it suggests that we all have to be on our best behavior for the advancement of "the race." I don't know if that's really true anymore, but personally, I still feel like that sometimes. Why should I, though? The West Philly thug knuckleheads have no more to do with me than the Jenkintown thug knuckleheads have to do with some other (read: white) graduate student. Yet, if we're all at the mall, I cringe when the Black thug knucklehead is getting dragged out in handcuffs. The other grad student may remark or shake his head at Jenkintown thug, but he's not worried about how J-thug going to reflect on him. He doesn't worry that Black folks are going to think that all white people are like J-thug. He's Grad Student, J-thug is J-thug and he knows that nobody's going to mistake one for the other. I, on the other hand, still have people getting worried when they see me coming. It could be because I sometimes walk with my game face on, but it's definitely irrespective of what I'm wearing. I've gotten the same reaction in ties as I have in t-shirts and sweats. (But at the same time, I've already written about how I feel shaky when I walk through neighborhoods where people are flying the confederate flag; I don't feel all that comfortable in all-white neighborhoods either. That's strange, considering that the probability is much higher that I would get bumped off in the 'hood than in the exurbs.) Are we at the point where we're judged on our individual characteristics as opposed to the group that we belong to? Conservatives are quick to condemn liberals for subscribing to groupthink, but is it not logical, at least to some extent, to think as a group if you're going to be identified as that group, regardless? Not really. When it all falls down, you have to do you. Can't worry about thug nigga or any of the rest of 'em, cuz they ain't worried about you. Bottom line, then, is let them have their fun. All people have a right to act a fool if they want. If the job of providing a healthy image of Black folks has been left to Snoop, it was over before it got started. If we want to see something else, then we should get about making what we want to see and then supporting that, but necessarily because we feel that we have to uplift the race. If that's a byproduct, then that's fantastic, but as far as stereotypes and the avoidance of them goes, the only ones we should be worrying about is us.