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Bill Cosby Can't Say That, Can He?


Bill Cosby Can't Say That, Can He?

John H. McWhorter, John H. McWhorter June 3, 2004
Urban PolicyOther

Partial transcript of Bill Cosby’s remarks:

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.

I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. 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 didn't know that he had a pistol? And where is the father?

People putting their clothes on backward: Isn't that a sign of something gone wrong? ... People with their hats on backward, 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 ... and got all type of needles (piercing) going through her body? What part of Africa did this come from? We are not Africans. Those people are not Africans; they don't know a ... thing about Africa.

We have millionaire football players who can't read. We have million-dollar basketball players who can't write two paragraphs.

With names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap, and all of them are in jail. Brown vs. the Board of Education is no longer the white person's problem. We have got to take the neighborhood back. ... They are standing on the corner and they can't speak English.

People used to be ashamed. ... [Today] a woman has eight children with eight different "husbands," or men or whatever you call them now.

The idea is to one day get out of the projects. You don't just stay there.

We as black folks have to do a better job. ... Someone working at Wal-Mart with seven kids, you are hurting us. We have to start holding each other to a higher standard.

The incarcerated? 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 and then we run out and we are outraged, saying, "The cops shouldn't have shot him." What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?

We cannot blame white people.

John McWhorter

Almost nobody in the black community is happy about our high dropout rates or the number of black men in prison. But for assorted black columnists and radio hosts, Bill Cosby is a traitor for implying that black people have power to help themselves.

These people are under the illusion that black problems cannot change until white America gets down on its knees and blesses us with a Marshall Plan. But this self-medicating notion neglects our history.

Before the 1970s, black ghettos were no picnic but were still true communities. There was much less violence and unemployment, and big cities had thriving black business districts.

Two things changed. Whites, convinced that we were powerless, loosened welfare requirements and wooed millions of blacks onto the dole, while among us, integrationism gave way to separatism.

Too many blacks stopped keeping their eyes on the prize, but it certainly wasn't because whites became more racist. The idea that we can only achieve under perfect conditions is a disabling fiction.

As for those worried that Mr. Cosby's remarks may encourage white racists, it's time we stopped lobbing this charge. For decades many black writers have strayed from the blame game, and last time I checked, the number of poor black families has kept going down while the number of blacks in high positions has gone up. The inner cities are slowly improving.

Yes, we still have some work to do. But when a longtime advocate of black improvement reminds us that we are self-directed human beings, we should listen.