Black people cannot solve the burning problems of Black Americans…. No group of people, with the possible exceptions of the Rebels Against England and the Spartans at Thermopylae has ever spontaneously solved their problem issues.
With a compassionate eloquence reminiscent of James Baldwin’s Letter to My Nephew, author, black man Ellis Cose presents a realistic examination of the challenges facing black men in modern America.
Black men have never had more opportunity for success than today — yet, as bestselling author Cose puts it, “We are watching the largest group of black males in history stumbling through life with a ball and chain.” Add to that the ravages of AIDS, murder, poverty, illiteracy, and the widening gap separating the black “elite” from the “underclass,” and the result is a paralyzing pessimism. But even as Cose acknowledges the obstacles that confront black men, he refuses to accept them as reasons for giving up; instead he rails against the destructive attitude that has made academic achievement a source of shame instead of pride in many black communities — and outlines steps black males can take to enhance their odds for success.
With insightful anecdotes about a broad range of black men from all walks of life, Cose delivers a warning of the vast tragedy that is wasted black potential, and a call to arms that can enable black men to reclaim their destiny in America. Cose, a contributing editor and columnist at Newsweek and author of the critically acclaimed The Rage of the Privileged Class, was ordered out of a San Francisco restaurant because the ma?tre d’ claimed he was a “troublemaker.” Drawing from his own experience (much of it, thankfully, much less hateful), as well as that of men he interviewed, Cose in nice prose details the myriad experiences of black men, among them Henry Louis Gates at Harvard University; Antwan Allen, a Harlem teenager who rejects what “being black” means on the street; Useni Eugene Perkins, poet and author of Home is a Dirty Secret; and Loquillo, who died of a heroin overdose at the age of 45. Spinning these stories, Cose begins to map the complex social, emotional and political fabric in which African-American men such as Tiger Woods and Colin Powell are lionized or like Willie Horton, scorned and feared. He presents an impressive array of statistics “twenty-eight percent of all black males… eventually will end up in jail”; a Harvard study that showed “black students were nearly three times as likely as whites to be labeled ‘retarded’ ” which are used not simply to prove racism but to explore the underlying cultural and racial contradictions that produce it. Examining a wide range of cultural artifacts, from William Foote Whyte’s classic 1943 Street Corner Society to the 2001 movie Whiteboys, and never avoiding hard questions such as black-on-black crime or interracial sex, Cose charts both an urgently argued history of black masculinity and a moving and nuanced snapshot of where it is now.
Ellis Cose has been a longtime columnist and contributing editor for Newsweek magazine, and is the former chairman of the editorial board of the New York Daily News. He began his journalism career as a weekly columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and has been a contributor and press critic for Time magazine, president and chief executive officer of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, and chief writer on management and workplace issues for USA Today. Cose has appeared on the Today show, Nightline, Dateline, ABC World News, Good Morning America, the PBS “Time to Choose” election special, Charlie Rose, CNN’s Talk Back Live, and a variety of other nationally televised and local programs. He has received fellowships or individual grants from the Ford Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, among others, and has won numerous journalism awards including four National Association of Black Journalists first-place awards. Cose is the author of Bone to Pick, The Envy of the World, the bestselling The Rage of a Privileged Class, and several other books.
“Don’t expect competence and hard work alone to get you the recognition or rewards you deserve.. for any organization, government, private business, educational or other, is essentially a social body that rewards those fully engaged in the game. To the extent we try to hold ourselves above that process, we end up losing.”- and “Recognize that being true to yourself is not the same as being true to a stupid sterotype.” Candid, insightful, loaded with wisdom gleaned from interviews with men in prison trying to save other human beings from repeating the same mistakes. “The Envy of The World” is worth reading, sharing and discussing with friends. I did. Author Cose offers one more hard truth- ” Don’t be too proud to ask for help, particularly from those who are wiser and older.”Five stars is not enough! Is anyone out there listening? In “Envy”, Cose asks why black men have so much cultural currency in this country, yet have almost no financial, academic, or institutional power whatsoever. (Cornel West already asked this question in “Race Matters” years ago, but I digress.) He deals with this question as it relates to school, the prison complex, and fatherhood. At the end, he offers solutions for Black men. This book is both politics and self-help, in the same fashion as bell hooks or David Abalos. Cose really argues persuasively that brothers can think differently and choose new directions. To a small extent, Cose portrays black males as a monolithic group, with the exception of class backgrounds. (For example, he says nothing about Muslim brothers or gay brothers.) However, this book was very Latino-inclusive.