Kevin Cokley

Kevin Cokley, Ph.D., author of The Myth of Black Anti-Intellectualism, is director of The Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin, and a Public Voices Fellow. 

Recent Articles

Beyoncé Misses the Point of What Gospel Music Means to Black Americans

The selection of Queen Bey to deliver a song identified with Mahalia Jackson ignored the importance of spiritual conveyance in the music that moved a people to action. 

(Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)
This essay is published by The American Prospect in partnership with The OpEd Project's University of Texas at Austin Public Voices Fellowship. Any recognition of black history and culture in this month or the next must acknowledge the central role spirituality and religiosity have played in the lives of African Americans. In the face of the killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other black men and women who have needlessly lost their lives, if we ever needed faith before, we sure do need it now. So it was with great interest I watched the Grammys and reveled in the power and resonance of John Legend and Common performing “Glory” the song they wrote for the movie Selma . Then my heart sank instantly when a rendition of the gospel song “Take My Hand Precious Lord” was performed by Beyoncé. Historically, spirituals and gospel music played an important role in the struggle for civil rights. These songs, also called freedom...

Chaos or Community? Ferguson's Aftermath Calls the Question

This special brand of rage is omnipresent and, at times, all-consuming.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
As I watched the images of burning stores and looting in Ferguson, Missouri, Monday night, I was reminded of the 1965 Watts riots and the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. These uprisings, or rebellions, as they are referred to in certain activist circles, reflected simmering and justified rage beneath the surface of so many blacks. This special brand of rage is omnipresent and, at times, all-consuming. It rarely goes completely away. It becomes muted over time, but is always a Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown incident away from becoming fully combustible. The match in this case was the grand jury of six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man, who unanimously agreed there was no physical or scientific evidence to support the indictment of Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death August 9 of the 18-year-old Michael Brown. Just like Trayvon, another young black male’s life has been forever extinguished in a blink. Yet all I could find myself thinking was how...

We Let Bill Cosby Into Our Homes, So He Owes Us an Explanation

America's once-favorite TV dad needs to take his own advice.

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
While the natural inclination is to separate Bill Cosby’s television character from his real life persona, the show we remember so fondly was not called The Huxtable Show . It was The Cosby Show . We did not really welcome Heathcliff into our homes. We welcomed Bill. It is Cosby, the accused serial rapist of 15 women from whom we await an explanation. He has the time: His planned NBC project was just pulled in the face of these resurfaced allegations. He won’t be cashing any residual checks from shows streamed on Netflix because like any contagion, everything Cosby is associated with is now contaminated. This reckoning particularly stings because of Cosby’s decades-long campaign of respectability politics within the black community. For years he has offered a socially conservative critique of certain elements of black culture, where he has emphasized individual responsibility and a pull-yourself-up-by-your- bootstraps mentality. It is truly baffling that an...

Seahawks' Russell Wilson Controversy Shows Dangers of Racial Authenticity Tests

(AP Photo/Tom DiPace)
Whether Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is “ black enough ” is beside the point. The real issue is why we are still talking about racial authenticity at all. “My feeling on this—and it’s backed up by several interviews with Seahawks players—is that some of the black players think Wilson isn't black enough,” Mike Freeman writes at Bleacher Report, reporting on tensions between just-traded teammate Percy Harvin and Wilson, including a locker room reportedly divided into pro/con camps. “This is an issue that extends outside of football, into African-American society—though it's gotten better recently,” Freeman writes. “Well-spoken blacks are seen by some other blacks as not completely black. Some of this is at play.” The “Am I Black Enough?” racial authenticity card is a recurring theme in the lives of black athletes in particular, and black people in general. Concerns about racial...