Cosby speaks pure sanity to black Americans, but the circumstances are enough to make a man crazy – Wright, for example. Sanity is conveyed through humiliation. If young black men are killed in the commission of petty crimes, Cosby told a civil rights conference in 2004, it is their own fault:
Looking at the incarcerated, these are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake! And then we all run out and are outraged, “The cops shouldn’t have shot him.” What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?
It is horrific to die young, and humiliating to die for the wrong reason. Living with the humiliation is the beginning of recovery. But Wright and his congregation cannot bear the horror and humiliation any more than the average white Southerner, who after a few Bourbons will tell you, “The South shall rise again!”
Americans need a higher threshold for horror. Tragedies sometimes must play themselves out, and the losers must be allowed to lose. Whole peoples can go bad, and sometimes it is necessary to prevent them from doing evil by winnowing their ranks. It is just as perverse to excuse Wright’s paranoid outbursts as it is to perpetuate the self-consoling myth of the gallant slave-holding South. America will be on the right track when it celebrates Sherman instead of 50 Cent.
1. Nearly four-fifths of Southern white men served in the Confederate Army, and of these, half were wounded and a quarter were killed
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