Recently Bill Cosby has once again run up against these critics. In 2004, on the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Cosby took on that culture of failure in a speech that was a true successor to W.E.B. DuBois's 1903 declaration that breaking the color line of segregation would be the main historical challenge for 20th-century America. In a nation where it is getting tougher and tougher to afford a house, health insurance and a college education -- in other words, to attain solid middle-class status -- Cosby decried the excuses for opting out of the competition altogether.
Cosby said that the quarter of black Americans still living in poverty are failing to hold up their end of a deal with history when they don't take advantage of the opportunities created by the Supreme Court's Brown decision and the sacrifices of civil rights leaders from Martin Luther King Jr. to Thurgood Marshall and Malcolm X. Those leaders in the 1950s and '60s opened doors by winning passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and fair housing laws. Their triumphs led to the nationwide rise in black political power on school boards and in city halls and Congress.
Taken as a whole, that era of stunning breakthroughs set the stage for black people, disproportionately poor and ill-educated because of a history of slavery and segregation, to reach new heights -- freed from the weight of government-sanctioned segregation. It also created a national model of social activism to advance the rights of women, Hispanics, gays and others.
Cosby asked the chilling question: "What good is Brown " and all the victories of the civil rights era if nobody wants them? A generation after those major civil rights victories, black America is experiencing alarming dropout rates, shocking numbers of children born to single mothers and a frightening acceptance of criminal behavior that has too many black people filling up the jails. Where is the focus on taking advantage of new opportunities to advance and to close the racial gap in educational and economic achievement?
Incredibly, Cosby's critics don't see the desperate need to pull a generational fire alarm to warn people about a culture of failure that is sabotaging any chance for black people in poverty to move up and help their children reach the security of economic and educational achievement. Not one mainstream civil rights group picked up on his call for marches and protests against bad parenting, drug dealers, hate-filled rap music and failing schools.
Monday, August 21, 2006
From the Washington Post:
Posted by LaurenceJarvik at 9:42 AM