May 2, 2008

The Truth About Black Culture

“In disquisitions of every kind there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasoning must depend.” –Alexander Hamilton

Once again this week, there was a black man in the national spotlight using his celebrity status to lecture America about the black experience, black culture and black “victimhood.”

Now, you probably think I’m referring to that most notable of radical Afrocentric holy men, Jeremiah Wright, or his slick protégé, Barack Hussein Obama.

Fair enough.

After all, Wright did add to his rhetorical account a few choice comments this past week: “What we are doing is the same thing al-Qa'ida is doing under a different color flag, calling on the name of a different god, to sanction and approve our murder and our mayhem! … You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. … Remember, it was soldiers of the 3rd Marine Regiment of Rome who had fun with Jesus, who was mistreated as a prisoner of war, an enemy of the occupying army stationed in Jerusalem, to ensure the mopping up action of Operation Israeli Freedom. … The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color. … Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains, he did not put me in slavery, and he didn’t make me this color.”

All of those perky sentiments finally prompted Obama to feign disapproval of his long-time friend and spiritual mentor, claiming that Wright had hurt his campaign. (Oh, it’s not that Wright is wrong, just that he hurt the campaign?) Having previously said Wright was “like family to me,” Obama now laments, “I may not know him as well as I thought.”

That admission led Wall Street Journal commentator John Fund to ask, “If Mr. Obama can make such a fundamental mistake about someone he’s spent so much time with, one shudders to think just how much he could misjudge the foreign leaders of rogue nations such as Iran, North Korea and Venezuela whom he seems so eager to begin negotiations with.”

For his part, Wright says, “He didn’t distance himself. Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls.” Finally, Wright gets it right.

Anyway, this column is not about Wright or Obama…

The man who really had something important to say about black folks this week was Bill Cosby, the most erudite of celebrity entertainers who speak their mind.

William Henry Cosby, Ph.D., and Jeremiah Wright have two things in common: They are black, and both attended Central High in Philadelphia. But that is where the similarities end.

Unlike Obama and Wright, Cosby wants black Americans to stop blaming the “white man” for “what we are doing to ourselves.”

For the last few years, Cosby has been giving lectures around the nation, encouraging black audiences to take responsibility for themselves and their children – and he has been roundly criticized by black politicos for suggesting that the social problems besieging the black community are of their own making.

In Cleveland, Cosby recently told the crowd, “What do you care what white people think? If you did care, there would be no housing projects. We’d have houses. We’d have stores. We’d have banks.”

To parents, he added, “I’m saying now: Enough. Enough. Protect these children. It’s on you. It’s on you.”

“Watch out,” a member of the audience warned.

Cosby replied, “No, I’m not watching out. I’m going to tell it.”

Of his critics, Cosby says, “We have so many people saying these people can’t do this … look at the story of Phillis Wheatley. Look up the story of Frederick Douglass.”

However, a growing chorus of black leaders support Cosby, including Cleveland Pastor Marvin McMickle, chairman of United Pastors in Mission: “We are not here just to see a celebrity. We are here because the celebrity is challenging us to look at ourselves.”

In Atlanta, Cosby told his audience that violence, drug abuse and teen pregnancy are as common as asking someone to “pass the salt.”

“Well, the mother’s on crack cocaine. Pass the salt. … That girl’s baby has no father. Pass the salt. … Oh, he shot him in the head? Pass the salt. … We look at failure and we’re like, pass the salt.”

Cosby’s crusade got underway at, of all places, the NAACP’s 2004 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision that led to the integration of public schools. In front of that audience, and next to NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Howard University President Patrick Swygert and other notables, Cosby proceeded to eviscerate the black “victim” mentality.

Of that decision, Cosby began, “Ladies and gentlemen, these people set, they opened the doors, they gave us the right, and today, ladies and gentlemen, in our cities and public schools we have 50 percent drop out. In our own neighborhood, we have men in prison. No longer is a person embarrassed because they’re pregnant without a husband. No longer is a boy considered an embarrassment if he tries to run away from being the father of the … child [born out of wedlock]. Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. I am talking about parenting. It is time for us to turn the mirror around. We have to take back the neighborhood.”

Of black culture, Cosby said, “These people are not parenting. They are buying things for 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! There are generations who have been born here and their English is worse than Koreans who have just been here a few years.”

Who’s to blame? Cosby said, “We cannot blame white people. … Brown Versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person’s problem. … Where are we today? It’s there. They paved the way. What did we do with it? Fifty percent drop out, rest of them in prison.”

You get the point.

As for Obama, perhaps he should have chosen a mentor like Cosby.

As for Wright, Jackson, Sharpton and all the other race-baiters, I think this passage from Booker T. Washington’s 1911 book, My Larger Education, says it all: “There is [a] class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs – partly because they want sympathy, and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs. … There is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don’t want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public.”

Quote of the week

“The truth about black poverty today, as Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute has aptly put it, is that it is ‘intricately intertwined with the collapse of the nuclear family in the inner city.’ Consider that black households that are headed by married couples have median incomes almost 90 percent that of white households headed by married couples. The problem in the black community is that far too few black households are headed by married couples…. It is not simply a moral claim, but a well-documented empirical one, that family and education are the keys to success in our free country. Black children don’t need politicians of any color who claim to hold the keys to their future. They need parents who know their names. Two of them.” –Star Parker

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