Dr. Bill Cosby castigates poor and working-class Black inner-city youth. He says, “Black children are running around not knowing how to read or write and going nowhere.” To unemployed Black men “..Stop beating your women because you can’t find a job,” proving that education and wealth do not mitigate callous insensitivity.
On-going frustration among Blacks still prevails in significant measure because for many, oppression still governs their lives, more middle class education and income notwithstanding. Obviously, Cosby knows this.
The problem with Bill Cosby’s comments is what he does not say. He is certainly well aware of the factors underlying current conditions for African Americans, but lashes out at such things as “improper speaking, violence-prone” Blacks as though their lives and behavior exist in systemic vacuum. The truth is, they are not only vulnerable and ripe for exploitation by a White power structure, buy even by their own people.
Just who is accountable in Cosby’s “bootstraps” scenario? Apparently, the answer is, the poorest and most downtrodden among us. Yes, poor folks must be held responsible and accountable for their actions. But so must the middle- and upper-classes, which Cosby chooses to absolve. His tirades fail to cite racism and related systemic factors that provide the context for poor education, excessive poverty violence and hopelessness. Bill Cosby should realize that minimizing the continuing impact of race is much too dangerous a game for Blacks to engage in.
The right questions must be asked about the factors that influence the quality of life for poor and working-class Blacks. Do they own and control the drugs, guns and other vices that come into the community? Are they elected to positions that make laws and policies that perpetuate the status quo? And do they control the job market also sends their educated, experienced African Americans to the employment line? When Bill Cosby criticizes young Black men for choosing $500 Nike shoes over educational programs, he would be more convincing if with the same verve, he also called out Michael Jordan, the role model who in a significant way, helped scorch Nike in Black’s minds and pocketbooks.
Cosby is often cold, and very clear, “The lower economic people are not holding up their end of this deal.” He excoriates poor Blacks for failing to effectively raise their children, teach the “knuckleheads” proper English, and for spending hundreds of dollars for sneakers while refusing to spend two hundred dollars for an educational package like “Hooked on Phonics.” Cosby wonders out loud, why more people from these (poor) communities were not incarcerated. “God is tired of you.........and so am I.”
Theodore M. Shaw, national president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) said he knew that Cosby’s ranting would be embraced by those who view poor Blacks with disdain. Shaw cautions that conservatives are applauding Cosby for claiming that Blacks’ problems stem primarily from personal failures and moral shortcomings and warns that progressive Blacks must not countenance the demonization of its poorer brethren cannot cede the issue of personal responsibility to ideological conservatives. “Most poor Black people struggle admirably to raise their children well. Parents, including single mothers, work for low wages, sometimes in multiple jobs to support their families.”
Mr. Shaw contends that unlike much of the world, America ignores human rights protections against discrimination on the basis of economic status, and wages war on poor people, not poverty. Cosby singles out violence and dysfunctional behavior in poor Black communities, but the problems he addresses are largely a by-product of concentrated poverty and a legacy of centuries of governmental and private neglect and discrimination, i.e., racism
Shaw concurs that Cosby’s observations about the senseless violence perpetrated within Black communities are undeniable and reprehensible; any sensible, concerned person condemns it. However, he counters that Amidou Diallo, shot to death in a hail of bullets by New York police did not even steal a pound cake. He and countless other Black people have been killed while unarmed in communities in which policing is driven by political, economic and criminal forces over which they have no control but are the presumptive targets.
Bill Cosby’s denigrating comments about Black youth are all the more egregious because they are deliberate and patently unfair. Whatever his motivation, (Most people know Cosby contributes generously to Black institutions and causes), he does Blacks a serious disservice by employing the conservative’s “blaming the victim tactics” that perpetuate the very conditions and behavior he rails against.
Dr. Cosby, wise up, the streets of hell are paved with good intentions.
Larry Aubry n can be contacted at e-mail