Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The Cosby Show

Whoa. Click this link, and scroll down past the titillating story of the Capitol Hill sex diarist. You’ll find a column reporting recent comments by Bill Cosby (yes, that Bill Cosby) about the failure of black people to raise their children properly. Among other things, he says:
I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was 2? Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18 and how come you didn't know that he had a pistol? And where is the father? …

The church is only open on Sunday and you can't keep asking Jesus to do things for you. You can't keep saying that God will find a way. God is tired of you.

I wasn't there when God was saying it, I am making this up, but it sounds like what God would say. In all of this work we can not [sic] blame white people. White people don't live over there; they close up the shop early. The Korean ones don't know us well enough, so they stay open 24 hours.

People putting their clothes on backwards: Isn't that a sign of something gone wrong? …People with their hats on backwards, pants down around the crack, isn't that a sign of something, or are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up? Isn't it a sign of something when she has her dress all the way up to the crack and got all type of needles [piercings] going through her body? What part of Africa did this come from? Those people are not Africans; they don't know a damn thing about Africa.

With names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap, and all of them are in jail. Brown versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person's problem. We have got to take the neighborhood back. We have to go in there -- forget about telling your child to go into the Peace Corps -- it is right around the corner. They are standing on the corner and they can't speak English.

Basketball players -- multimillionaires -- can't write a paragraph. Football players -- multimillionaires -- can't read. Yes, multimillionaires. Well, Brown versus Board of Education: Where are we today? They paved the way, but what did we do with it? That white man, he's laughing. He's got to be laughing: 50 percent drop out, the rest of them are in prison.

Five, six children -- same woman -- eight, 10 different husbands or whatever. Pretty soon you are going to have DNA cards to tell who you are making love to. You don't know who this is. It might be your grandmother. I am telling you, they're young enough! Hey, you have a baby when you are 12; your baby turns 13 and has a baby. How old are you? Huh? Grandmother! By the time you are 12 you can have sex with your grandmother, you keep those numbers coming. I'm just predicting…

What is it -- young girls getting after a girl who wants to remain a virgin? Who are these sick black people and where do they come from and why haven't they been parented to shut up? This is a sickness, ladies and gentlemen.
Wow. Cosby makes challenging points here, but if he were white and made the same comments, I suspect he’d be called a racist. Yet the NAACP’s Kweisi Mfume stated that Cosby had “said what needed to be said.” A similar thing happened a few years ago when Jesse Jackson admitted to being a little scared when two young black men were walking behind him in a deserted neighborhood. Apparently it’s easier to take criticism from a member of one’s own group.

There’s much truth in what Cosby said, but he’s also missing something. The importance of taking responsibility for oneself and one’s children can hardly be overemphasized, but here’s the puzzler: why has responsibility taken such a beating in the black community? It wasn’t always that way, so something must have changed. I would argue that the twin tornadoes of the welfare state and the war on drugs have created an environment in which honest work is discouraged and dependency and criminality rewarded, and the outcome has been the erosion of long-held values of personal responsibility and parental guidance. And that problem is hardly unique to the black community, although it’s especially visible there.

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