Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Cosby’s Challenge vs. the NAACP’s Pessimism

Few celebrities besides Bill Cosby could get away with the straight talk he gave recently about certain ills plaguing 21-century black Americans. At a Constitution Hall gala commemorating the 50-year-old desegregation decision, Brown v. Board of Education, Cosby had harsh words for blacks who have squandered the opportunities opened for them due to the dismantling of Jim Crow and segregation since the 1954 Court ruling:

Cosby, contrasting the achievements of civil rights giants of the past with today’s generation, observed that a lot of "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.’"

This is not to say Cosby didn’t go over the top in an example or two; but clearly his pointed, if at times caustic, remarks reflected his concern that too much blame for black underachievement has been lifted from the shoulders of alleged victims and foisted upon presumed but non-existent culprits. It’s therefore no suprise that these problems have not gone away.

When the novelist Ralph Ellison heard the high court’s decision in Brown, he wrote, "So now the Court has found in our favor and recognized our human psychological complexity and citizenship and another battle of the Civil War has been won. The rest is up to us and I’m very glad . . . What a wonderful world of possibilities are unfolded for the children!" A decade later Ellison would write, "For Negroes the Supreme Court Decision of 1954 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 induced no sudden transformation of character; it provided the stage upon which they could reveal themselves for what their experiences have made them, and for what they have made of their experiences."

The challenge of building character is an abiding one for all members of the human family. Unfortunately, Cosby’s challenge for blacks to do better for themselves by seizing the opportunities established in the wake Brown was met by a rebuttal from NAACP legal defense fund head Theodore Shaw, who asserted that many problems facing poor blacks were not self-inflicted. The NAACP’s obsolescence has never been more in evidence.

Discussions - 1 Comment

Bill Cosby was absolutely, 100% correct. We have to stop blaming Whites for the deeply dysfunctional behavior of the Black underclass. We have huge problems facing that part of the Black community - drugs, crime, Black-on-Black violence, the huge numbers of Black men in the criminal justice system, AIDS and "down low" bisexuality, gangs, Black disdain for education as "acting White", fatherless families, rampant teen pregnancy and a 73% illegitimacy rate, lack of respect for the larger society, and a subculture that glorifies "thug life". But the biggest problem is that we still are unwilling to face these problems head-on and at least admit that virtually all of them are self-inflicted. "We" have to fix "us". Thanks, Bill Cosby, and Amen! I appreciate you speaking truth to ignorance.

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