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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bill Cosby

This article is an essay I wrote back during the Bill Cosby uproar, prior to this blog's creation. I post it for you today for your enjoyment.

I turned my television to C-Span today and finally got to witness an event that made the news. Bill Cosby and Jesse Jackson were addressing the audience at a Rainbow/Push conference about education and parenting. It is important to note that this was a repeat of a conference that had been held before all the news and controversy surrounded it.

I listened intently to what was, knowing that there was outrage in some circles at the remarks that were made, and I noticed something remarkable. Bill Cosby was saying the exact same things I have been saying for years, only he was speaking specifically to and about the black community, while I have been spouting off about America in general. He did not sugarcoat the facts, and they were disturbing. Illiteracy and dropout rates among the black community going as high as 67% in some cities. 60% of all black men in prison being illiterate. 70% of all black teenage pregnancies being from illiterate young women. These numbers are alarming, and they are disgusting.

How can we as a people let any group of Americans suffer such neglect? It’s an outrage!

There is a problem, and Bill Cosby hit it dead on when he said that the problem begins at home. Education begins at home. Values begin at home. Behavior begins at home. Parenting is a massive responsibility, and it must be undertaken with the understanding that you, as a parent have the ability to enhance or destroy the life of that young person in your house by what you say, do, and allow in the home. Bill Cosby was talking about the black community, and God bless him for it, but this principle is true for every family in the world!

Given the truth of his statements I have a hard time understanding why so many of the very people he is trying to educate and assist are up in arms about it. What’s more I don’t understand why he is the only one under such an attack when the Reverend Jesse Jackson was sitting right next to him agreeing with every single statement he made. Maybe it’s because Bill Cosby’s plain spoken manner is easier to understand than Jesse Jackson’s more serpentine and poetic manner of speech.

Outrage doesn’t change the truth, even if it’s a hard truth to bear. The truth is that parents need to be aware of how what they say and do affects their children, and how what they don’t say and do affects their children. Color makes no difference here, this truth is universal. I blame the lessons of the “Me generation” for this deficit in our society. The selfishness and self absorption that a whole generation embraced and taught to their children is now coming to light in the neglect of our children’s social and moral upbringing.

I also had the opportunity to see one of the debates sparked by the statements or Mr. Cosby. It was the debate on parenting in Philadelphia. There were seven panelists, all black, all very distinguished, some of whom were very impressive, and others who were pathetic.

The ones who impressed me were Jordan Harris, student and president of Youth Action. Carlton Payne, the first black prison psychologist in Pennsylvania. Christopher Sample, lawyer. And, Cheryl Ann Wadrington, I forget her occupation. The thing that impressed me about all of these people was that while some had their differences with the Statements of Bill Cosby, they all acknowledged the validity of hiss assertion that the black community needs to focus on education and good parenting. They talked about the need to understand what is driving these children to not succeed. They spoke of how children were not being given any sense of true identity, either individual or social. They talked about parental and community influence. They spoke in no uncertain terms, and they accepted responsibility for these problems.

The ones who I thought were pathetic on this matter were Toni Blackman, hip-hop ambassador, and sadly out of touch with reality. Unfortunately this is what I have come to expect of actors and musicians, wrapped up in their microcosm of art and unable to see the truth around them. Bilal Aayyum, founder of Men for a Better Philadelphia, who has been a part of doing good, and is a very capable and competent man, but also cam across as nothing than the stereotypical “angry black man” who has great passion, but is misdirected. Finally there was Lucile Ijoy, a family and marriage therapist whose clients I pity. Every comment she made was old ideas from the soft love period, all of which have been proven ineffective and false without the use of tough love to back them up, which she vehemently opposed. This woman and the ideas she teaches are part of the root of the problem the black community, and America as a whole are facing today.

Let me contrast the viewpoint represented by Mrs. Ijoy and those represented by Mr. Cosby. Mr. Cosby states that eight and nine year old children have no business having sex. That they are not mentally or emotionally ready for that intimate act. Mrs. Ijoy states that we just have to accept that children want sex earlier now than they once did and parents just need to understand that and support it. Bill Cosby states that a firm hand is needed to correct a child who is doing wrong. Mrs. Ijoy says that anything other than positive reinforcement hurts a child’s self esteem and will cause that child to be failure. I’m not going to bother contrasting Bill Cosby and Lucille Ijoy any further. I’ll just say that it’s no surprise people like her are outraged at Mr. Cosby’s statements . . . especially since those statements are true to the core and decimate Mrs. Ijoys small minded, failed way of thinking.

In short, having heard both sides of the issue and evaluating the arguments proposed each way, I am with Bill Cosby. I’m not one for letting Hollywood speak for me or influence me in any way, but it just so happens that Bill Cosby is right, and the sooner we all, not just the black community take what he has said to heart, the sooner America will become a better, more prosperous, more educated, more well-bahaved nation.

4 Comments:

  • Absolutely, Daniel. I couldn't agree more! Mrs. ljoy (weird name. Shouldn't that be a capital "L") sounds really strange to me. I cannot understand people who think this way. I suppose you are right: they are products of the "me" generation. Sad.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 7:48 AM  

  • So, in Mrs Ijoy's view, for a parent to correct a child is going to damage her self-esteem more than being *uck'd and dumped?? Hmmm...something to ponder...

    By Blogger Libby, at 7:52 AM  

  • Late sixties or early seventies I was watching the Merv Griffin show one night. They'd had Henry Morgan on first then followed with Dr. Spock, and Henry was seated over to the side. They were discussing all the rioting on campus, the drop outs, flower children thing and Dr. Spock said he just didn't understand what was wrong with young people today. Henry Morgan immediately chimed in with "They were raised according to your book".

    Children feel loved when you create a boundry for them. Inside that boundry they feel safe, and the borders of that boundry are determined by what they are and are not allowed to do. When you don't set boundries they do not have their safe area.

    By Blogger Fish, at 11:46 AM  

  • I admire Bill Cosby because he says things that need to be said, PC or not. Of course, he's not always right, but he says some really good things. (And he's not dirty when he does comedy, either!)

    By Blogger Rebekah, at 2:25 PM  

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