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BILL COSBY’S LEGACY INCLUDES DENIGRADING BLACK YOUTH
By Larry Aubry
Published July 16, 2015

Larry%20Aubry   Recently released documentation of Bill Cosby admitting having drugged women in order to have sex with them, and the ever-growing list of women he allegedly sexually assaulted, are only part of his mixed legacy. Unfortunately, that legacy will also include his relentless denigration of Black youth, especially those in the inner city, that began years before the rash of allegations of sexual abuse against him.

Cosby’s constant defaming of Black youth is hypocritical and troubling because while doing so, he made millions from his young Black inner-city characters, including the popular Fat Albert. They embodied the traits, including “bad English” that Bill Cosby so vehemently denounces. My column, “Cosby’s Current Specialty: Defaming Black Youth” (LA Sentinel April 24, 2008), follows. It sheds some light on the bitter mindset of Dr. Cliff Huxtable, aka Dr. Bill Cosby, “America’s favorite father.”

Dr. Bill Cosby has long castigated 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.” Does this suggest that education and wealth absolves one from callous insensitivity? Ongoing frustrating among Blacks is still prevalent because, for many, oppression still governs their lives, higher income and education, notwithstanding, and Cosby knows this.

Also, the problem is what is what he does not say.   For example, he is certainly well aware of the factors underlying current conditions that continue to confront low-income Blacks but lashes out at such things as their “improper speaking” and “violence-prone” behavior, as though they exist in a vacuum and racism and discrimination does not impact their lives. The truth is, they are not only vulnerable and ripe for exploitation by the power structure, but oftentimes put down by middle-class Blacks as well. Who is accountable in Cosby’s “bootstraps” scenario? It’s the poorest and most downtrodden among us. Yes, poor people must be responsible and accountable, like all others, for their actions. But, so must the middle and upper classes, which Cosby chooses to absolve. His tirades fail to cite obvious underlying factors such as racism and related barriers that provide the context for poor education, excessive poverty, violence and hopelessness. He knows, or should know, minimizing the continuing impact of race perpetuates the very conditions that still oppress Black people.

The right questions must be asked about factors that influence the quality of life for poor and working-class Blacks. Do they own and control the drugs, guns, etc. that come into the community? Are they elected to positions that enact laws and policies that perpetuate the status quo? And do they control the job market that sends even educated and experienced African Americans to the unemployment line? When Bill Cosby criticizes young Black men for choosing $500 Nike athletic shoes over educational programs, he would be more convincing if, with the same intensity, he also called out Michael Jordan, the role model who, in a significant way, helped carve Nike in Black minds and pocketbooks.

Cosby is often cold and very clear: “The lower economic people are not holding up their end of the 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 $200 for an education package like “Hooked on Phonics.” Cosby wonders out loud why more people from 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 ty those who view poor Blacks with disdain. Shaw cautions that white conservatives are applauding Cosby for claiming that Blacks’ problems stem primarily from personal failures and moral shortcomings and warns that progressive Blacks must not accept the demonization of its poorer brethren and cannot surrender 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.”

Shaw contends 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 byproducts of concentrated poverty and a legacy of centuries of governmental and private sector neglect and discrimination.

Shaw does concur with Cosby’s observation that the senseless violence perpetrated within Black communities is reprehensible, as would any sensible person. But he counters, “Amidou Diallo, shot to death in a hail of bullets by New York Police did not even steal a pound cake.” Diallo 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, in particular, are all the more egregious because they are relentless and patently unfair. Most people know that Cosby contributes to Black institutions and causes, fine. However, he does Blacks a serious disservice by stressing “blaming the victim” accusations that help perpetuate the very conditions and behavior he rails against.

l.aubry@att.net

Categories: Opinion

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