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An open letter to Camille Cosby
Posted By Elizabeth Farah On 07/14/1998 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
Dear Mrs. Cosby,
I am writing to you in response to your USA Today article blaming
America for teaching your son’s killer to hate blacks.
I remember the day your son’s murder was reported. I reacted just
like all people I know, with sadness for your family and outrage for the
I was so surprised to read your accusations in USA Today. As one of
those Americans you charge with the immorality of fomenting racism, I
must counter your accusation and the selective facts you use to support
Yes, you have a right to speak your mind but because you enjoy
prominence due to your husband’s celebrity, your words carry a greater
weight in our society than do the words of someone like me. Your
prominence affords you privileges the average Joe would never have (for
example, your son’s murder was given top priority over every other
murder investigation in L.A. County). But because of your prominence and
privileges, you bear an added responsibility to your community and
nation. Your words do you discredit, insult millions, and do great harm
to our country.
Let me pause here and diffuse the potential charge of racism which
you might feel free to direct now to me as an individual. Yes, I admit I
am white. So is my husband and our four daughters. Sorry. Have we ever
taught our children that people of other races are inferior to
Caucasians? Nope. My daughter Ashley’s very first best friend was
Patricia, a black girl. My daughter Kathleen’s three best friends
(before we moved) were all black or multi-racial: Nika, Brandon and his
brother Beau. My daughter Alana’s hero is Martin Luther King. Every one
of my girls thinks Michael Jordan hung the moon. By the way, my three
heroes, besides my husband, are Alan Keyes, Walter Williams and Thomas
Sowell, my favorite show — while it was on was of course, “The Cosby
Show.” So what you say? Yeah, so what, that’s the point. My family is an
ordinary, average American family. We don’t hate and we don’t teach
Let’s talk about the crime. Your son was driving alone on a freeway
when he had car problems. He pulled over to the side of the road, where
a drug user robbed and killed him. A friend of your son witnessed part
of the crime but was too frightened to do anything and sped away.
Was this crime unusual? No. Was your son killed because he was black?
I doubt it. If the perpetrator was black, would Ennis be any less dead,
and would the crime be any less heinous? No to both.
Now, why don’t we look at the truly outrageous contributing factors
of this case? Let’s see if your rage is directed appropriately.
Why was a violent, vicious criminal like Mikail Markhasev out of
prison after stabbing a black man in 1995? Because of the liberal
restructuring of our judicial/criminal system which is designed to
protect criminals instead of potential victims like your son Ennis or my
kids. If Mikail Markhasev was in prison, Ennis would be alive today.
Your son was driving in California, a state which is notorious for
its abuse of the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to keep
and bear arms. In California, virtually no one has the right to carry
arms to protect themselves. These restrictions are in place despite the
overwhelming — yes, overwhelming — evidence that the more law-abiding
citizens arm themselves, the lower are the crime rates. Let me give you
an example: in the U.S. guns are used 1 to 2.5 million
times a year to foil a crime. The vast majority — about 90 percent never fire
the weapon. These of course are only the reported instances. These
figures are probably very low because of the fear of reporting defensive
actions to the authorities in states which have trashed the Second
Amendment. If Ennis had had a gun, he probably would be alive today. If
his friend had had a gun, she would have been able to help him. We can
thank our California Legislature for their hubris.
You say, James Baldwin wrote in his book “The Price of the Ticket,”
”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.”
This statement is so outrageous as to be laughable . I suppose the
NAACP, the Rainbow Coalition, and the Congressional Black Caucus are in your opinion
racist? How about the billions of dollars which are spent by
philanthropic organizations or by our government on programs whose
primary benefactors are black children. Historically, what of the
abolitionist societies which were primarily driven by white Christians
who put their lives and indeed their families’ lives on the line to
bring black slaves to freedom. Duh.
You say racism and prejudice are omnipresent and eternalized in
America’s institutions, media and myriad entities.
Let’s first take the word “omnipresent.” The use of the prefix omni
is usually reserved to describe God’s attributes. The definition of
omnipresent by the New World Dictionary, “strictly applicable only to
the Deity in its implication of presence in all places at the same time,
is loosely used of anything that is ALWAYS present. In other words,
racism is pervasive in every institution, every family, every church,
every person, every mind, everything, place and thought. Hmm. That makes
me wonder how all those millions of viewers of “Cosby” suppressed the
omnipresent racism within themselves every Thursday night at eight. Go
Camille, you tell us that “African-Americans, as well as all
Americans, are brainwashed every day to respect and revere slave-owners
and people who clearly waffled about race.” You say that, “In truth, the
enslavement of millions of Africans immeasurably enriched the treasuries
of America’s government and individuals.”
Let me tell you something about the Founding Fathers of our country.
Those men were born into a country in which slavery was well entrenched
before they were born. Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, etc. all made
strong statements condemning the ancient institution of slavery. Most
states had outlawed the slave trade prior to the War for Independence.
In some southern states it was against the law to release your own slaves. In
order to form the Union, the Founders knew they could not directly
abolish slavery so they did the next best thing, they constructed
America’s charter, the Declaration of Independence. That one document
was intended to serve as the basis for the Constitution which would come
later. Why didn’t the Founders address slavery in the Declaration?
Jefferson wanted to list slavery as one of the institutions which
England had forced upon the colonies. Why did they delete that point?
Because the southern states would not support the Declaration if it was
included. So, they did what is done every day in every country, they
compromised. I hate compromise. But they did what they felt best served the long
term interest of all involved. If
they did not, the southern states would not have joined in the fight.
Slavery would continue unabated. If the Founders had abolished slavery
in the Constitution, the southern states would have refused to be part
of the Union. If the southern states did not join the Union, slavery
would have lived on long after it did. The Founders enacted
sunset laws (the Northwest Ordinance).
I’d like to remind you that it was the United States which fought a
Civil War, the price of which was the loss of more American lives than
those of all of our other wars combined. Tell me, can you name another
nation which sacrificed so much for the sake of the few? (I should say here
that the primary point-of-contention between the north and south was the principle of states’
rights, which arose because of the issue of slavery).
Regarding slavery in general, there is no society in the world which
has not at some time allowed slavery, including Africa. It is well known
that most slaves were not captured but traded by African tribal leaders
to the slave trade. Were the black tribal leaders less evil in their
intent than the white slavers? That would be a tough argument to make.
A question: is slavery less evil if it is perpetrated by one race
against those of their own race? Slavery in Africa has been present from
the beginning of history, the same is true of Asia, the Mayans, Incas,
Aztecs, American Indians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Europeans, etc.
If we examine the state of slavery in the world today, (yes, slavery
still exists) we find Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia among others practicing the trade.
If we asked the slaves in these countries if they feel less enslaved
because their masters are black, I do not doubt their answer. I wonder
why African-American leaders who so reviled South Africa’s racist system
refuse to speak out about the atrocities committed today in African
countries (multi-millions have been exterminated, tortured, enslaved and
relocated in the last few years).
You say the American government was immeasurably enriched by the
slave trade. In fact, only 1 or 2 percent of the southern population
Camille, you say, “God and most Christian holy people artistically
have been recreated in images of whiteness. This shrewd propaganda
undeniably lessens the worthiness of most of the Earth’s people. Because
of those visual constructs, the churches have a deep problem with race.
I hope you haven’t forgotten that Jesus, Mary and Joseph, along with
Abraham, Moses, et al were not black, not Anglo but Semitic Jews. Yes,
Jews are not black but I would hardly attack God as a shrewd
propagandist. That is just the way it is. Should we portray Jesus, his
family and apostles as Chinese, Polynesian, African? I am not Jewish but
I have no problem with my Savior as being of another “race” than my own.
I suppose I could argue with God for having chosen the Hebrews but I get
scared when I do stuff like that. Besides, he loves me just as I am.
You state that “America’s educational institutions” dictionaries
define ”black” as ”harmful; hostile; disgrace; unpleasant aspects of
life.” ”White” is described as ”decent; honorable; auspicious;
You as well as I know that the descriptive “black” replaced negro
(the parallel to caucasian) because “blacks” demanded that label. Are
most blacks black? No. Are whites white? No. Why is black defined in
such gloomy terms? Because the night is black, shadows are black and the
night and shadowy areas are scarier than the day and light. Another duh.
If we want to take this conversation literally why is it more respectful
or elegant to wear black and why for heaven’s sake is it better for a
business to “be in the black”? Racist, I cry! What about the Indians?
Should they be saddled with the distinction of being in the “red”?
You tell us about a “medical school at the University of Texas in
Galveston [that] conducted a controversial study primarily on black
babies from 1956 to 1962. The researchers withheld an essential fatty
acid from the babies’ formulas that humans need for the growth of the
whole body and nervous system. Those black babies were used as
laboratory animals, and several of the infants died during the course of
the study. Previously, this research had been done on dogs. This is just
one of several unethical medical studies on African-Americans that has
This surprises you? Government is the vehicle by which most of the
human atrocities throughout all of mankind’s history have been
committed. Government is the concentration of power in the hands of the
few. What shocks me most is that the populations which have been most
brutalized by government are the most vociferous supporters of its
encroachment into our lives. Do we forget Tuskegee? Japanese internment?
Roosevelt’s confiscation of gold? The IRS? The confiscation of property?
Waco? Ruby Ridge? The list of atrocities is endless!
Mrs. Cosby, you then state that “violence is prevalent in America.”
You point out that, “According to Gavin de Becker’s research in his book
“The Gift of Fear,” … “Our country’s murderers rob us of almost a
million years of human life every year. In the past two years alone,
more Americans died from gunshot wounds than were killed during the
entire Vietnam War.”
You go on, “Ennis William Cosby was shot and killed in a middle- to
upper-middle-income, predominately white community. The misperception
immortalized daily by the media and other entities is that crimes are
committed in poor neighborhoods inhabited by dark people.
“All African-Americans, regardless of their educational and economic
accomplishments, have been and are at risk in America simply because of
their skin colors. Sadly, my family and I experienced that to be one of
America’s racial truths.”
I can best answer your charge above by quoting from Larry Elder’s
column on the events in Jasper, Texas:
When whites commit violence, they do it to blacks 2.4 percent of the
time. Blacks, on the other hand, choose white victims more than half the
In 1995, the FBI documented 8,000 hate crimes, over half of which
involved black victims. In 1992, however, of the nearly 6 million
violent crimes — murder, rape, manslaughter, armed robbery, and
felonious assault — nearly 20 percent involved a different-race victim
with a different-race perpetrator. Of the nearly 1 million interracial
violent crimes, 90 percent involve a black offender and a white victim.
Now, if you assume a race-based motive in less than 1 percent of the
black perpetrator/white victim violent crimes, you still reach a number
equivalent to all of the yearly hate crimes in the entire country.
And of 1992′s nearly 30 million non-violent criminal acts — things
like burglary and auto theft — nearly 30 percent involve a black
offender and a white victim. The reverse? Approximately 2 percent.
Thus, blacks, while one-seventh of the population of whites, commit
many more acts of violence against them than the other way around.
Mr. Elder goes on to give the details of two horrible crimes. What is
the most significant fact which can be taken from the retelling of these
two horrible crimes? The realization that most people would not even
remember their having occurred.
Chicago columnist Mike Royko once wrote about two black police
officers who stopped two whites in a predominately black area. The cops
arrested the white driver and towed his car, leaving the white passenger
in this black neighborhood. The white guy allegedly begged the cops not
to leave him, but they did. Soon, police found the man smoldering,
having been doused with a flammable liquid and set on fire. He died.
And, last year in Michigan, three train-hopping white teen-agers –
two boys and a girl — found themselves in a predominately black area of
Flint, Mich. The police later arrested six black youths for shooting the
two boys, execution style, in the head and forcing the girl to perform
oral sex while they sodomized her. She, too, was shot in the head. While
the story made national news, few speculated — at least out loud –
whether race played a role.
Mrs. Cosby, you close your article stating, “Most people know that
facing the truth brings about healing and growth.” You then ask, “When
is America going to face its historical and current racial realities so
it can be what it says it is?”
Yes, seek the truth! Face reality! Race relations are suffering in
America, but not for the reasons you state! Racial politics is a
profitable business. There are those who earn their living and accrue
their power by exploiting and manipulating the facts and the people. If
every time a black man raped, assaulted or murdered a white person a
self appointed protector of white rights stirred up
anti-African-American hatred, you would be outraged, and deservedly so.
We as Americans — no hyphen necessary — should collectively turn
our outrage toward those who are responsible for the unrestrained crime
in our country: our legislators and judicial system. Those who hold the
power to drastically curtail crime do not need to be given another
excuse which absolves them of their responsibility.
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