Bill Cosby Reads the Riot Act
Patrick J. Buchanan
July 14 2004
Twice recently, Bill Cosby has read the riot act
– to his fellow African-Americans.
In May at a gala at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., celebrating the 50th
anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that
outlawed school segregation, the comedian and actor charged that some "lower
economic people" were disgracing Black America and dishonoring those who had
fought for civil rights.
Roared Cosby, "They're not holding up their end on this deal."
DeWayne Wickham, a writer for USA Today and Gannett News, got a tape of the
"I'm talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an
orange [prison jumpsuit]," Cosby told his largely black audience. "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 don't know he had a pistol?
"We've got to take the neighborhood back," Cosby said. "They're standing on the
corner and can't speak English. I can't even talk the way these people talk:
'Why you ain't. Where you is.' You used to talk a certain way on the corner, and
when you got in the house, you switched to English. Everybody knows that at some
point you switch to English, except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor
with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth."
Accused of airing his community's "dirty laundry," Cosby, at a Chicago
conference of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow-PUSH Coalition, fired back: "Your dirty
laundry gets out of school at 2:30 every day. It's cursing and calling each
other [the N-word] as they're walking up and down the street. They think they're
hip. They can't read. They can't write. They're laughing and giggling, and
they're going nowhere."
With seven in 10 black children born out of wedlock in urban America and crime
so pervasive in some cities 40 percent of young black males are in jail or
prison, or on probation or parole, Cosby is speaking truth. Where dissent begins
is on the question: Who is responsible?
Cosby calls it a copout to blame White America. "For me, there is a time when
you have to turn the mirror around," he said. What the African-American
superstar is saying to black folks is: You have made this mess yourselves. Your
problems are your own fault. Your failures are your own responsibility.
This message holds true not only for most black folks who make a mess of their
lives, but for almost all of us who do. And it is the beginning of redemption to
recognize this truth. From Alcoholics Anonymous to Chuck Colson's Prison
Fellowship, reformers know the beginning of reform is to stop blaming someone
But the leadership of Black America cannot embrace the Cosby message. Why?
Because if White America is not responsible for the social crisis in Black
America, upon what moral ground do these leaders stand to demand retribution or
If White America is not guilty, why should White America pay, other than out of
the goodness of its heart? And some black leaders are fully aware of the
alarming implications of Cosby's message, the Rev. Al Sharpton being one of
Confessing to having had a "mixed reaction" to what Cosby had to say, Rev. Al
told the Washington Post: "I agree that we have to do something about the
internal contradictions of our community. But we also must be careful not to
relieve the general community of what they've done to our community."
Translation: If the white folks are not guilty, why are they morally obligated
to do penance for social sins they did not commit by keeping the wealth and
power transfers flowing?
DeWayne Wickham comes down in the moderate middle: "Too many liberals believe
racism is the only culprit here – and too many conservatives think the blame
rests entirely on the people who are the faces behind these awful statistics.
The truth, I'm convinced, is somewhere in between."
Wickham is onto something. How, after all, do we explain the fact that, in the
1940s, segregated and poor Black America had lower divorce, illegitimacy and
promiscuity rates than does affluent White America in 2004? How do we explain a
crime rate in segregated and poor Black America, 50 years ago, that was but a
fraction of today's crime and incarceration rate in a freer and richer Black
America today? Segregation can't explain it. Economics can't. Racism can't.
Our grandparents, black and white, had different beliefs about right and wrong,
and how men and women should behave and live than this generation – and they
lived those beliefs. The moral, social and cultural hurricane has swept over
America since those times, affecting us all. But the eye of the storm passed
over Black America.
© 2004 Creators
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