Letter Of The Week
Barkun up the right tree
Re part one of Gary Indiana's "No Such Thing as Paranoia" [May 26-June 1]: I am an academic who is relieved to see that someone has decided to expose and discuss the bland hysterics of Michael Barkun. I've been trying to get a critical review of his book published since it came out, and no academic journal will touch my comments. So, am I paranoid about something? Do I have a reason to be? (I've been studying UFO cultures for 20 years, and he has it so wrong and so shallowlike there has ever been a consensus reality outside of ideology to begin with.) Anyway, it took an intelligent and thoughtful person outside the mélange of university claptrap to cleverly say most of what I've been wanting toit's gratifying to see that someone else is paying attention.
Carol S. Matthews
Lies and the Liars
Your "Paranoid Nation" articles [Kareem Fahim's "Lost in America" and Gary Indiana's "No Such Thing as Paranoia," May 26-June 1] seem to overlook one of the biggest uses of conspiracy theories and one of the main reasons that they are so abhorrent: to spread ideological hate. Whether it is the 4,000 Jews (or Israelis, depending on how open the tellers are about their anti-Semitism) not showing up to work on 9-11 or the mainstreaming of such age-old ideas as the Jewish control of the media, banks, etc., conspiracy theories and websites that carry them are being used to breed a new generation of haters. And while sometimes there is a grain of truth buried in the bushel of lies, when skepticism turns into actual belief in unsupported theories, the truth becomes far more obscured and sullied than any corporation or politician could ever hope to do.
Upper East Side
Kids See the Darndest Things
Re Tobi Tobias's review of the John Ollom dance piece The Journey [Ongoing, May 19-25]:
I am a parent of one of the children, and you should know that John Ollom and his company have taken the most extreme precautions to ensure the children were not exposed to the nudity and violence of the show. They have been professional and considerate of the parents' concerns. John Ollom and his company deserve credit for the care they have taken.
Anne Swanton Newman
Green Brook, New Jersey
Tobi Tobias replies: The mother of one of the young dancers proudly pointed her child out to me and engaged me in conversation. After I'd duly admired the girl's evident beauty, talent, and sound training, I asked if the children in the cast had been allowed to see the piece as a whole. The mother said, firmly and happily, "Yes."
Re Ta-Nehisi Coates's "Ebonics! Weird Names! $500 Shoes!"[villagevoice.com, May 26]:
Coates really hit the nail on the head with his article on Bill Cosby. I am not black, but the statements on class really hit home. It's sad to see social irresponsibility coming from such prominent places. The brutal honesty of the piece was a bittersweet pleasure. Thanks!
The Buck Stops Here
What Bill Cosby was saying was that people (white and black, rich and poor) have to take responsibility for themselves. Parents aren't parenting, criminals have turned into the victims, and the buck is being passed because, in the words of so many, "it ain't my fault." I am a teacher outside of D.C. I see this type of behavior day in and day outthe $500 sneakers and no books at home. I have to listen to parents tell me how to teach when they can't speak a lick of proper English and possess zero parenting skills. It's a shame and it must stop. This is what we have allowed our society to become. Cosby is saying that what we have now is far from Dr. King's dream.
Yes, Cosby is well-to-do. So what? That makes his observations wrong? That means he is not in touch with reality? Give me a break. When you point the finger of blame, there are always four fingers pointing right back at you.
The Bill Cosby News Hour
What is Coates's point? That Cosby's diatribe is totally unwarranted? That "lower-income blacks" are simply victims of circumstance, and the last thing they need is a "black elitist" like Bill Cosby giving his opinions? It's an age in which popular black icons are r&b singers and rappers who promote sexual activity and reckless spending, while African Americans are dying of AIDS and going into debt in high numbers. Coates seems to mock Cosby for trying to remedy this image. Racism continues to set African Americans back, so a little moral conservatism in the black community to combat this sickness is needed. As a young African American, I see these damaging stereotypes and all I hear are black activists, authors, and ministers talking and not doing anything. Turn off the B.E.T., turn down the Hot 97, put down the Jet, and do something. Thanks, Bill, for your diatribe. Somebody give this man a news hour.
San Antonio, Texas
Deft Hands, Hit Nerves
Coates shows a deft hand at political commentary while respecting the legitimate contributions of men like Cosby. He hits a nerve that needs thorough exploration. The world holds a special view of African descendants in America. How we respond to our oppression and opportunities is often a standard-bearer for people across the globe. This question of class struggle must be resolved, or at least put on the table in an intelligent way. Coates did a much better job of it than Cosby did. Let's hope others follow his lead.
Defending the Cos
Bill Cosby may be a lot of things to a lot of people, but at Constitution Hall during the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, he was something many people have come to fear and despise, a herald of truth.
From the news coverage, it appears Cosby spoke of real issues facing black people: apathy, ignorance, and a lack of discipline. His words cut like a knife through the amorphous ideological conceptions of embedded black leadership that fosters dependence among the masses of people. To suggest his motives were directed by an elitist agenda is without merit and a disservice to intelligent people in general and black people in particular.
With this in mind, black people everywhere need to heed the words of Cosby and seriously consider their position in a society structurally determined to destroy them with their own vices.
Paying the Bill
Re "Ebonics! Weird Names! $500 Shoes!":
In my current employ, it is very obvious to me that if your name is Shaniqua or something with apostrophes and hyphens where letters should be, you had better believe that before you hit the door there is a very distinct visual of who will be showing up. And don't blame the white man for that oneour brothers and sisters who are making it in showbiz have made sure that this is the vision of (their) "black" America. If you want to be a stereotype, then by all means go to a job interview speaking Ebonics. The rest of us take offense because we have to pay for it after you leave.
Poughkeepsie, New York
When I first heard about Cosby's comments, I said, "It's about damn time." His points are quite valid. There is little outrage at academic failure in the black community in Baltimore. There are libraries that have been closed and very few black people voiced opposition to this. Like Chris Rock said, "You get more respect coming out of jail than out of college," which tells of how little importance education is in our community. Cosby was right to vent his frustration about our people's lack of progress. He should be commended, not criticized, for having the guts to tell the truth. And the truth hurts like hell.
Re Rick Perlstein's "The Jesus Landing Pad" [May 19-25]:
I dispute Perlstein's closing statement that "[The problem] is that [Bush] is discussing policy with Christians who might not care about peace at all at least until the rapture." An even bigger problem is that by doing so he is violating the Constitution that he swore to uphold and protect by violating separation of church and state.
Congratulations to staff writer Chisun Lee, who received the Best Continuing Coverage Award (Print) from the New York Press Club. The award recognized her series of articles on post-9-11 civil liberties, which include "Devil in the Details", "A Lifetime in Limbo," and "'Red Means Big Brother's in Charge.'"
Leslie Camhi's "Being and Nothingness" (June 2-8) mistakenly attributed a piece of artwork on the third-story window at P.S.1 to James Turrell. The piece, Observation Deck (Queens), was created by Patrick Killoran in 1996.
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