Thursday, July 08, 2004


It was such a dog-bites-man story that I almost skipped right by: Billionaire Bashes Poor Blacks. The only thing that gave this particular story a little piquancy is that the billionaire doing the bashing is black himself. Bill Cosby has been attacking the poor of his race, and especially the youthful poor, for a range of sins, including using bad words, 'stealing poundcake,' 'giggling' and failing to give their children normal names like 'Bill.' 'The lower-economic people,' Cosby announced, 'are not holding up their end in this deal.'

Excuse me, Barbara, but Cosby never suggested dismantling social programs or going back on our side of the deal--he said that lower class blacks weren't holding up their side.

Somewhere around 1967 white liberals got the idea that there was no virtue in accepting blacks who were solid citizens and spoke good English--to expiate the sin of racism we had to applaud "authentic" blacks who faithfully conformed to our stereotypes. I thought we were done with this and had moved on to the current version of the program--no virtue in equal rights and opportunities for women who were "honorary men"--we had to promote the interests of women who couldn't, or wouldn't, cut it by "male" standards.

You can recognize that the failure of lower class blacks, women, or whatever disadvantaged group you please to meet accepted standards is a consequence of discrimination, and that that is something that needs to be fixed. But it's quite another thing to question the standards or to excuse behavior that isn't so much a direct consequence of discrimination or disadvantage as a repudiation of accepted standards.

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