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Amy Alexander's article is one of the best I've seen about Cosby's crusade to criticize lower-class black people. I think Alexander makes an important point in comparing Cosby to Tavis, who both have the same concerns about uplifting and improving the image of black people, but Tavis is much more willing to work from the ground up and to actually interact with folks who are part of the problem rather than preach from the ivory tower. Tavis travels the country a good part of the year and hosts town hall meetings that are open to anyone who wants to come, and he goes out of his way to interact with local media when he comes to town. During these town hall meetings, and on his broadcasts, Tavis welcomes critics as long as they agree to be civil and respectful in their disagreement. Compare that to Cosby, whose focus meetings are usually not widely publicized and are held before hand-picked audiences; the only media usually allowed into these sessions are reporters invited by Cosby.

I'm a journalist and agree with Alexander about Cosby's distain of media people who are not part of his "Amen Corner." I have been to more than several events where Cosby has appeared, only to be told "Mr. Cosby will not be available to the media." Cosby has been criticized by many, including Dr. Dyson, for his refusal to subject himself to questions and debate from the media, academy members like Dyson and the subjects of his criticism. I would be more impressed with Cosby if he held a series of town hall meetings around the country seeking proposals on how to improve Black America; an all-day session where people would have five minutes each to make a pitch or PowerPoint presentation to Cosby. Bill could pore through the proposals and chose the best ones to fund, and write a book about why the good proposals were great projects, why some of the other proposals weren't so hot, and encourage people to submit more proposals and his peers to fund similar projects.

Harrison Chastang

San Francisco, CA

Nov 16 2007 - 11:55am

Web Letter

Thank you, previous letter writers, for saying so much I wanted to. I will simply add that in my more than ten years of reading The Nation, I have never felt such a combination of disdain and confusion. What is the substantive point Ms. Alexander is making, and where is her fact-supported defense of that point? How do the snide, ad hominem attacks on Dr. Dyson help her? And why is that whenever people start talking about airing "unpopular truths," these truths are already very popular among the Fox News crowd?

As for the fascinating assertion that Dr. Pouissant is America's singularly relevant black intellectual, I would offer in response the name of a thinker who writes for this very magazine and who could address this puff piece while typing with one finger: Patricia Williams.

Jessica Rosenberg

San Francisco, CA

Nov 15 2007 - 7:23pm

Web Letter

If it is too much to ask that The Nation refrain from handing over its webspace to people defending their friends from criticism, is it too much to ask that the friends being defended at least be on the left? Apparently.

Steven Sherman

Carrboro, NC

Nov 15 2007 - 6:42pm

Web Letter

First, let me say I have not read Come On, People. However, I did read a transcript of Bill Cosby's diatribe against poor black people, and I also read Michael Dyson's book. I'm in my mid-40s, pretty well informed, and I am and have been a popular-culture junkie for many years. With that said, I don't remember hearing Bill Cosby speaking out in any public way about racism in this country. I might be wrong, but did he say anything about the Jena Six? Again, I might be wrong, but did I hear Bill Cosby--or Dr. Poussaint for that matter--say anything or much about the plight of the people of New Orleans? Now I realize I could be totally wrong about the things mentioned above, maybe both men have been speaking out all over about these things and it just has not been reported.

So here's my problem. The first time I hear about Bill Cosby talking about the plight of black people in this country in any public way, it's a vicious, rather mean-spirited attack not on racism but on poor black people. You might want to call it truth-telling, but the way I see it here was a guy with a whole lot of power attacking people who were powerless to fight back and the most likely to not fight back. Was there some truth to what Bill Cosby had to say? Sure there was, but that is not the point. How many of the many poor neighborhoods in this country did Bill Cosby go to, how many poor black people did he talk with? Yeah, I got a problem with Bill Cosby; I'll wait to read the book to see if I have problem with it. I think people have good reason to call out Bill Cosby--at least he has the power and the means to defend himself.

Crystal Mason

San Francisco, CA

Nov 15 2007 - 3:14am