Cosby was harsh, but he's right



Bill Cosby, one of America's great comedians and philanthropists, is scheduled to appear at the 158th Canfield Fair, which starts Sept. 1.
His brand of humor has made him an American icon, beloved by millions. But Cosby's comments this spring and summer concerning a segment of black America has miffed some in the black community.
In May, Cosby spoke at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., and he chastised poor blacks who don't take responsibility for their economic status, blame police for their imprisonment, and who don't teach their children to speak proper English.
Cosby was quoted as saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids -- $500 sneakers for what? And won't spend $200 for 'Hooked on Phonics.'"
In July, in Chicago, "The Cos" told a room full of black community activists, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, that black children are running around not knowing how to read or write and "going nowhere," in a report from CNN.com.
Some in the black community said Cosby should not have aired "the dirty laundry" in public, saying such comments would be used by some whites to perpetuate the false belief that black folks are inferior.
My conclusion
I looked at the comments Cosby made and came to this conclusion: If he meant that black people must take responsibility for their actions and for educating their young, I agree with his statements 100 percent.
In fact, the call for black people doing everything they can to improve themselves and strive for excellence instead of mediocrity is not a new one.
Prominent blacks -- from Frederick Douglass, to Mary McCleod Bethune, to Shirley Chisholm, to Malcolm X to Kwiesi Mfume, head of the NAACP -- have all stated that black people can and must do better.
I don't think Cosby, a strong advocate of education and positive family values, overlooked the fact that racism and capitalism have been the one-two punch that has kept black people from reaping all the benefits the United States has to offer.
But black people do need to be accountable and to make the right choices, and racism isn't necessarily the culprit for some of the choices that are made.
Bad choices
If the "n" word is so hated and despised by blacks, why are young blacks in the 21st century getting rich using that same word, or a variation of that word, in rap and hip-hop lyrics? That is a choice.
Slang has been around for generations, but there comes a time when proper English must be spoken -- and written -- in this country to effectively get your message across to everyone. That's a choice.
Selling drugs and stealing can bring you money, but so can working at an honest job.
This is what Cosby said in Chicago, as quoted from CNN.com, "For me, there is a time ... when we have to turn the mirror around. Because, for me, it is almost analgesic to talk about what the white man is doing against us. And it keeps a person frozen in their seat, it keeps you frozen in your hole you're sitting in."
Youngstown native Ron Daniels, who served on the board of the African American Institute for Research and Empowerment, and who is executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, weighed in on Cosby's comments in his column in June 16 issue of The Buckeye Review.
Daniels wrote, "And, while we lament the condition and attitudes of the 'lower class' and exhort them to do better, let us never forget that they, and all black people to some degree, are victims of a benign and blatant neglect of a racist and callous society.
"Given that reality, self-improvement as a strategy is certainly necessary, but it will never be sufficient to change the life chances of vast numbers of black people who are locked in the 'lower class.'"
Taking responsibility
People born in poverty and with few skills certainly have the deck stacked against them. But that doesn't absolve them from their responsibility to attempt to teach their progeny manners, right from wrong and to educate them.
The Bible says in Proverbs that where there is no vision, the people will perish. The vision for black America must be that we remember the sacrifices of those who went before us, and never forget that we must do all we can to help one another every day.
ebrown@vindy.com

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