Bill Cosby rips into his critics over comments he made about the problems with black culture.

My mother asked me if I had read about Bill Cosby’s latest rant about his fellow African-Americans while we were at my brother’s house on Saturday. I hadn’t read any news sites in a couple of days at the time nor had I seen news reports about it on TV, but being a long-time admirer of Cosby I made it a point to look it up when I got the chance. Back in May Cosby had made headlines when he chastised some poor blacks for being piss-poor parents in general.

He said, “These people are not parenting. They are buying things for their kids – $500 sneakers for what? And won’t spend $200 for ‘Hooked on Phonics.’…They’re standing on the corner and they can’t speak English. I can’t even talk the way these people talk: Why you ain’t,’ Where you is’…And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk…Everybody knows it’s important to speak English except these knuckleheads…You can’t be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth.”

“We can’t excuse these people,” Cosby said. “There are generations who have been born here and their English is worse than Koreans who have just been here a few years.”

“People putting their clothes on backwards: Isn’t that a sign of something gone wrong? . . . People with their hats on backwards, pants down around the crack, isn’t that a sign of something, or are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up? Isn’t it a sign of something when she has her dress all the way up to the crack and got all type of needles [piercings] going through her body? What part of Africa did this come from? Those people are not Africans; they don’t know a damn thing about Africa.

“With names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap, and all of them are in jail. Brown versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person’s problem. We have got to take the neighborhood back. We have to go in there—forget about telling your child to go into the Peace Corps—it is right around the corner. They are standing on the corner and they can’t speak English.”

Needless to say, Cosby’s comments then weren’t universally well received by leaders of the black community. Some folks complained that Cosby was airing black’s dirty laundry and providing ammunition to racist whites who would use it to keep black people down. Many demanded an apology from Cosby, but if Cosby’s comments this past Thursday are any indication then such an apology is very unlikely to come anytime soon:

CNN.com – Bill Cosby has more harsh words for black community – Jul 2, 2004

He shot back Thursday, saying his detractors were trying in vain to hide the black community’s “dirty laundry.”

“Let me tell you something, your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30 every day, it’s cursing and calling each other n———as they’re walking up and down the street,” Cosby said during an appearance at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition & Citizenship Education Fund’s annual conference.

“They think they’re hip,” the entertainer said. “They can’t read; they can’t write. They’re laughing and giggling, and they’re going nowhere.”

Cosby elaborated Thursday on his previous comments in a talk interrupted several times by applause. He castigated some blacks, saying that they cannot simply blame whites for problems such as teen pregnancy and high school dropout rates.

“For me there is a time … when we have to turn the mirror around,” he said. “Because for me it is almost analgesic to talk about what the white man is doing against us. And it keeps a person frozen in their seat, it keeps you frozen in your hole you’re sitting in.”

You can’t get much more white or middle class than I am, the only area in which I could be considered a minority is my religious viewpoint, but despite having an extended family that is far from being free of prejudice against blacks I think I managed to avoid taking on those views myself. I credit this to two things: the death of my biological father while I was still young and the influence of my mother who taught me that I should judge an individual as an individual rather than as a group. It also helped that I grew up in Pontiac, Michigan which is similar to Detroit in some respects, except smaller. The schools I attended had a pretty good mix of races and my exposure to people from different backgrounds helped keep me from adopting some of the more racist viewpoints I was exposed to from fellow whites as I was growing up. That said, I also recognize that we are all prejudiced to some degree as we are at least partially a product of our environments and I also recognize that there is a big difference between being prejudiced and being racist. I mention all of this because I want folks to understand where I’m coming from when I say that I totally agree with what Bill Cosby is saying.

One of my former best friends whom I had known since Kindergarten is black. I used the word “former” because we’ve not been friends since sometime around the age of 23. The official reason I was told why we were no longer friends is because, at the time, I was a woman hater. I had come out of the relationship with Courtney’s mother and I was pretty angry with how it had all turned out and the fact that I had allowed myself to get into a situation that would result in my becoming an unmarried father and I did say some pretty nasty things about women in general and my ex in particular. In reality I was more upset about my own stupidity than with the nature of women, but I could see how I would have sounded like a new convert to the misogynist cause at the time. There wasn’t ever a formal declaration that our friendship was at an end—we just sort of drifted apart—and I wasn’t told this official reason until years later when I contacted my old friend to try and reconnect.

As it turns out, though, it’s possible that the real reason he and I drifted apart was because he felt I was a racist. This I learned through a mutual long-time friend he would occasionally hang out with when he came to town to visit. That mutual friend was Bill Owen, who died last year in a car accident. It’s a long and complicated story, but suffice it to say that my falling out with another mutual friend of ours—who’s name was Herb and also happened to be black—may have been the catalyst for his decision that I was racist.

And why was I racist? Because I didn’t understand Black Culture. I confess that there’s a lot about Black Culture I didn’t understand, still don’t to a large degree, and it did cause more than a few conflicts when relating to Herb. Specifically I’ve never understood the double standard blacks hold on the use of the word “nigger” or the rules regarding how black men and women relate to each other or the apparent resistance to education some blacks seem to hold for fear of selling themselves out to the white folks. In short, I’ve never understood many of the same things Bill Cosby ranted about recently. I’ve been exposed to black culture for most of my life and the one thing I’ve learned about black culture is only that as a white man it’s best if I just avoid the subject with my black friends if I want to remain friends with them. I valued my friendship with that old friend a great deal and as much as it hurt to have him tell me we couldn’t be friends anymore because of my past anger at women, it hurt even more to find out that the real reason might be because he felt I was a racist white guy.

I’ve not had as close a friendship with anyone from that minority group since, though I do know several black people I do consider friends. There’s even a couple of ladies up the street that I’ve been able to talk about this issue with to some degree, though it’s still something I’m wary of bringing up even with them. I think the same is probably true for a lot of white people. The only whites who speak up on these issues are the racist idiots because the rest of us are worried about being lumped in with the people that truly are racist. The fact that there are some folks in the black community who are quick to label any criticism from whites as being racist doesn’t encourage any kind of a useful dialogue. So we sit back and hope that someone in the black community speaks up and points out the problems that no one wants to talk about and that’s just what Bill Cosby did. I’ve always admired the man and the fact that he’s willing to stand up and talk about the problems he sees plaguing his people regardless of the heat he gets over it just makes me admire him that much more.

The funny thing is, the problems he mentions aren’t limited to just the poor black community. There are plenty of low-income whites who seem to adopt similar attitudes and they’re often referred to as White Trash by those who would sweep them under the rug and forget about them. Bill Cosby is trying to make a point about parenting to poor blacks, about how the situation they find themselves in is largely one of their own making, but the words are just as true for people of any race who refuse to take responsibility for themselves and the children they produce.

19 thoughts on “Bill Cosby rips into his critics over comments he made about the problems with black culture.

  1. I think an enlightening way to look at it is to look at people of color in other cultures and how they see the “Black Culture” here in the US.  I agree that some of the more harmful attitudes that people take on here in the US are NOT race-specific, and get confused with “culture” when they shouldn’t be.  I don’t think being anti-education is helpful or belongs as part of a cherished culture no matter what color your skin is or what oppression you’ve experienced. 

    I think people need to separate out the self-inflicted problems from the real racism (which IS still out there, which DOES show up every day), and from the inequities of poverty.  But as you pointed out, Les, you can’t do that from outside the culture.  That’s true of every ethnic and social group.  Criticism won’t be considered valid and untainted unless it comes from within.  I think Cosby comes across as a mite tetchy in these speeches he’s made wink, but I would trust his appraisal of the situation.

  2. I agree completely with his remarks, but I take it a step further.  Not just black, not just poor, but todays parents in general.  Replace the $500 sneakers with $200 playstation, $1000 computer, etc.  Seems like more and more parents are catering to their kids and not making the hard decisions to make their kids better people.  More of a hands-off approach.  Keep the kid happy, what’s wrong with that?  So what if their kids learn “culture” from the TV and radio?  For blacks it is one image, for whites another although more and more those images are becoming the same.  Hip hop, Britney Spears, etc.  The problem is NOT with this music or these celebrities…the problem is that parents let these people play a more important role, be a bigger icon to their children than themselves.

  3. As a fairly young mother, I’m 24 with a 3 year old, I can say that I’ve been worried over these issues years before I ever got pregnant. But watching my child grow and learn I sometimes get panicked that she’ll learn things I wouldn’t be proud of. Ok so that’s pretty common, I don’t want to shelter her but I don’t want her to turn out like these kids. And I know there is reason to fear because even though I reek respectability, I did morph into a cursing machine when I was a cook and worked with “da gansta generation” boys. I don’t spoil my child, I do watch my language and hers, I have a dress code and even tough I’m a pretty open minded woman there’s behavior I won’t have around my child.

    The moral is, it’s not only the parent’s fault, sometimes the problem is so great it requires a communal effort. I think Bill Cosby is right, but he should watch his language. cheese

  4. I have the utmost respect for Bill Cosby and I think he’s dead on.  You’re right john, this can be taken a step further but Black parents specifically need to get off their asses and start raising their kids.  They may be at a disadvantage but you know what, they haven’t even gotten to the point in the road where they can bring that argument to the table.  When they do, I’ll be more than happy to help out. 

    I don’t think Cosby’s statement’s were harsh in any way shape or form.  The vast majority of Black’s have become complacent and indifferent to their situation.  It’s a situation that is at the same time sad and repulsive. 

    Last summer I went out to stay with my Great Aunt on her farm in Ohio and my cousin came out from Cleveland to visit with her four children.  (She is 35 yrs old with four children from four different fathers and is a single mother.)

    While standing with my back to the window, my cousin shrieks “look at those animals out there!”  Now I turn looking into the fields expecting to see some interesting Ohio wildlife but all I see is my Uncle’s four cows eating at the trough.  I’m getting frustrated and she points and yells “There, there.”  I finally get a bead on the cows she’s pointing at and start laughing.  She goes on to ask me what kind of animals they are and I after I stop laughing I explain to her that those are cows.

    This woman lives on welfare.  Has broadband internet access, satellite TV, four kids, a PS2 and her children think chocolate milk comes from brown cows that they cannot identify on sight.

    The Blacks are in a rut and the sytems may be against them and it may not but it surely isn’t keeping them in that rut.

    Sorry about the rant.

  5. Les, that’s an amazing story – I had to go back and read it twice.  I bet a lot of white people have similar tales to tell, where a friendship with a black person imploded on some perception founded on assumptions.

    I also had a black friend a few years ago, who had a huge chip on his shoulder all the time.  We used to ride around on our bikes and do photography together.  He was a good guy, was a vegetarian, was wonderful to my kids, but he would take offense at almost anything as subtly “racist” and that got real old.  Finally he broke up with his white girlfriend and moved away.  I don’t know where he is now.

    Because of this my feeling about racial issues is one of sadness, because there’s this wall between people who shouldn’t have a wall between them.  The same human heart beats in people but we can’t reach it through all the cultural assumptions and unease.  It’s all about slavery and Jim Crow laws and drinking fountains and busses and the KKK, but not about being friends and coworkers and living in a community where a lot of interests are shared.

    On a university campus, it’s a racial minefield.  You have to tiptoe and use carefully vetted terminology… there are official lists of terms you can use and ones you can’t use.  It’s like defusing a bomb just holding a conversation, especially if you talk about racial experience.

    Ditto in schools – our school district just went through a storm over a book that was used in literature class.  Some of the characters used the “n” word, but they were portrayed as total jerks and the one noble character was the black man.

    If American blacks have an image problem, it isn’t (for the most part) subtle racism in white speech, but deliberate emulation of popular role models.  Visit that link and see if the image doesn’t scare the hell out of you.  Even the “loading flash” progress bar is in the shape of a bullet.

    I have always admired Cosby, and now I admire him even more.

  6. so cosby is not happy ..ay. What a load of self righteous snivelling. He who has wallowed in the “white trash ” society and has held his snout in the swill trough of american capitalism is now going for the “poor fellow me ” option .I am an australian ,now one of the most hunted species on earth thanks to your nutbag president and his cronies,and in my opinion [which means f… all]the seriousness of this diatribe is trivia compared to how all of you people are being treated by your [only just ]elected government.My advice to all of you mob is to clean up the mess this latest regime has imposed on you and the rest of the world and get on with your lives as civilised beings and not to imposed your version of freedom on the rest of what used to be a reasonably sane world.
    With this ranting I hereby open my CIA/NSA file and hope to catch up with you all in some squalid torture centre in some backwater country.

                        madbilby

  7. Amen, Les.  Sing it, brother.

    What makes this particularly pernicious is that I believe there are demogogues in the black community (at least one of which I saw up on stage there with Cosby during his Rainbow/PUSH appearance) who seem more than happy to both ride and encourage the “The [White] Man is Keeping Us Down” meme that lets too many in the black community avoid facing their individual and corporate responsibility for problems within that community.

    And, of course, there are plenty of parallels within other communities—including, ironically, white communities and individuals who blame their own failures on “affirmative action” and “uppity niggers” and anyone else but themselves.

    Does racism against blacks exist?  Absolutely, and it’s reprehensible.  But is it the sole reason for problems amongst blacks?  Absolutely not, and I’d argue it’s probably not even the biggest reason any more.

  8. Excellent read Les – as always. Personally the only assholes I know are white and I know quite a few dark-skinned folks.

    PS. I have pratically never used the word

    nigger  until I got hooked on The Chappelle Show! I just about died laughing when I saw “The Niggar Family”

    ! Had me cracking up for days. “Hello Niggars”!

    I’m Spocko Bitch cool grin

  9. In my years working for the phone company I came in contact with many blacks that I am proud to call friends.  My former Group Chief Operator was one of these people.  She worked to develop all of us black or white.  She encouraged us to strive for more experience to make us more valuable in our positions.  With her training and guidance we in turn worked with all our people the same way.  Mrs. Ford and I still speak on the phone during the year, we exchange e-mail, and it has been 20 some years since we worked together.  My company sent me to training to learn to get along with others and understand different cultures I worked with. I used it more with people of my own race than anyone else.

    It boils down to we all cry, we all bleed when hurt, we all love someone, and we all die when it is time and it doesn’t matter what color we are.   

    my word is forward—may we all go that way soon.

  10. Mr Cosby has a point that is not lost on me, but I must say that it is easy to target “blacks” or “whites”, when the problem is that society allows anyone to treat their children with contempt.

    Look at this way, any child that is not taught the correct use of language is at a disadvantage. A disadvantage at learning, and communicating with anyone who has learned the language. I feel that parents who disadvantage their child in that way need assistance, either by prodding with the government stck or stronger measures.

    I come from New Zealand, most of the indigenous peoples of this land are now some percentage something else, I hestiate to use the term white as that is not the case. So we have a people who either stick together in socioeconomic terms ie: middleclaas together, rich where ever they fucking want, and poor in the slums and cheap shit places. But we also have another group who act just like the people Mr Cosby talks about, those on government ‘assistance’, or dole. The skin colour is not important to them but the attitude of not working and avoiding it, and I believe restricting their childrens education to ensure they cannot be better than their parents.

    Look at that you got a rant from me, I was expecting some bloody redneck on this site, and I found a lucid humanbeing.

  11. I’m a little late but I want to put in my 2 cents.I like cosby and generally agree with what he said when it comes to poor areas.A few things though.As Les and other posters have said these types of behaviors are not just done blacks, other races do the same.Thing is, to me it seems like blacks in general(and I speak from experience) get this negavite view slammed on us as if the vast majority of blacks(whether it’s american or immigrant blacks)are on welfare, exteremely uneducated,worse race in america etc, etc, etc.I’ve had white people even asians tell me to my face that blacks actually deserve this  
    image since this is the way “most” of us act.To this day I havent seen any other race, especially white, get this same amount of negativity for issues that effect us all no matter what race.And I don’t plan on holding my breath waiting for it to happen either.

    From my experience, most black people are everyday normal hardworking people just like everyone else in america.I’m all for working out problems, especailly in ALL(not just black) communities.And I’m glad cosby steped up for our community.If dirty laundry is aired out, so what?We shouldn’t be worried about what white people may think about us.
    When you were talking about these race issues being very difficult it’s true as well Les.I think that just shows how f*cked up racial relations can be in america.
    Another thing is so called black culture is a lot more complicacted then many white(or nonblack people) people give it credit for.It’s not just rap and “bling bling” but I’m sure most people here already knew that.Anyway there’s my rant.Some people may say I’m just be sensitive or “politically correct”, but whatever, I have been called worse smile

  12. Being of a particular minority myself albeit not black, I can only say one thing about people who use labels as an excuse. You are all people! Stop trying to be so desperately different and special and get a life!

    It really irritates the crap out of me when people insist on playing the victim and using labels to justify their own shabby behaviour. I have a ton of labels I could use to justify the sad state of my own affairs, but at the end of the day I really blame nobody but myself, and why?

    Because I am the only person who has any inclination to fix my problems that’s why. Blaming others for your situation wether justifiable or not doesn’t bring solutions only excuses.

    Nice topic Les and very nicely presented by yourself.

  13. Serai, I agree. I could complain all day long that I’m female (for example), and thus not receiving all the benefits my male counterpart is… but what would be the use? If I’m working hard, and studying hard, I’m going to make the money I deserve and the marks I earn.

    Education is important. Raising your kids right is important. John, I agree with you – parents in general today don’t bother raising their children. Society may contribute to your kids’ poor behaviour, but if you don’t like the way society’s going, fight against it! You don’t have to buy that 50 Cent album, you don’t have to eat at McDonald’s every day. You can insist on education for your children.

    (captcha = clearly!)

  14. But how many people are blaming their problems on everyone Serai?Just beacause to talk about an issue that may effect you doesn’t mean you’re sitting back doing nothing for yourself.

  15. [Quote]If I’m working hard, and studying hard, I’m going to make the money I deserve and the marks I earn.[/Quote]

    You make a good point Alex.  Women do have to deal with a ‘glass ceiling’ of sorts and the only way they know if the ceiling exists is to rise up and hit it.

    The feeling I took away from Bill Cosby’s remarks were that Blacks weren’t ever getting to the ceiling.  They are merely siting on the floor complaining about a ceiling which may or may not exist.  First get your house in order, work hard, educate yourself, reach the ceiling and then seek to break through the ceiling.  Complaining about barriers that one has not even encoutered yet is pointless at best and self-defeating at the very least.

  16. Pingback: Why Blacks and Other Minorities Should Be Republicans

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