Sunday, May 30, 2004

Cosby the Curmudgeon



The Jackson Sun News - Cosby's words spark debate among blacks

Bill Cosby was being honored in Washington's Constitution Hall commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision that cleared the way for desegregation.... The following are Cosby's comments, according to The Washington Post and The Associated Press, at Howard University. The university will not release a video tape of Cosby's speech.

'People marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education, and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around. 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.'

'I can't even talk the way these people talk: 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' ... you can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth.'

Cosby then talked about incarcerated criminals.

'These are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake'


It's been a long hard struggle and the end is not in sight but at least we've reached the stage where black people can be curmudgeons. And even though, predictably conservatives have tried to turn his comments to their ends their success has been at best mixed.

Adversity ruins people's character. Poverty is the root of most evil and, in general, it is powerlessness rather than power that corrupts. "Lower economic people"--some, as Cosby later noted, not all--are lousy people because their lives are lousy. If they are lousy people, it doesn't follow that it's their fault rather than the fault of economic arrangements and discriminatory practices that perpetuate poverty and powerlessness--it only shows all the more strongly how these arrangements and practices damage people.

When, I wonder, did liberals get the idea that in order to make the case that members of minority groups were disadvantaged they had to pretend that the attitudes and behavior of the most damaged was ok--and even beyond that to castigate those who survived to become decent, educated people as inauthentic? Discrimination is a fact, not a speculative hypothesis that has to be proven. When black people go to buy cars or apply for mortgages, they get lousy deals--and it doesn't matter whether they're well-dressed and well-credentialed, or whether they have excellent credit histories. When the black female president of an Ivy League college shops in an upscale store, security guards tail her. You don't need to make the case there there is discrimination any more than you need to make the case that there are tables and chairs and calling substand English "Ebonics" or making out petty criminals to be political prisoners isn't helping anyone.

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