This commentary originally
appeared in The
Comedian Bill Cosby can't help himself.
In his latest shoot from the lip outburst against blacks he still
claims they can't read, write or speak coherent English, and
that they beat their wives. Cosby didn't cite one fact, statistic,
survey or study to back up his repeat of the same silly and wrong-headed
outburst he let loose in May. It was a near textbook example
of not letting facts get in the way of a good, headline-grabbing
But that didn't stop the legion of black
leaders that have weighed in on Cosby's remarks, and that includes
Jesse Jackson, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, some members of
the Congressional Black Caucus, and a horde of black commentators,
from stumbling over themselves to hail Cosby as the ultimate
truth-giver. Cosby is entitled to publicly air black America's
alleged dirty laundry but when there's more myth than dirt in
that laundry, than he must be called out on it.
Cosby myth: "You've
got to stop beating up your women because you can't find a job,
and you want
to get an education and now you're minimum wage."
Truth: It's not clear what bed and living
rooms in poor black households Cosby peeped in to make that charge,
but a Justice Department study in 2000 found that since 1993
domestic violence plunged among all groups. It further found
that the murder rate of black females killed by their partners
sharply dropped, while the murder rate jumped among white females
killed by their partners.
The Justice Department study and a UCLA
School of Public Health study in 1996, however, found that blacks
are more likely to report domestic violence than whites,
Hispanics and Native Americans. In the UCLA study, the blacks
that physically abused their partners were young (under 30),
lived in urban areas, had lower income and were less educated.
The study noted that only about five percent of the men resorted
to physical violence during their marital arguments and that
the "vast majority" reported discussing their disagreements
with their partners calmly and without resort to physical violence.
Cosby Myth: "They
think they're hip, they can't read; they can't write, they're
giggling, and they're going nowhere."
Truth: But many do think it's hip to
read and write. The U.S. Dept. of Education found that in the
decades since 1975, more blacks were enrolled in school, had
improved their SAT scores by nearly 200 points, and had markedly
lowered their dropout rate. It also found that one in three were
in college, and that the number of blacks receiving bachelors
and masters degrees had nearly doubled.
A 2002 survey of student attitudes by
the Minority Student Achievement Network, an Illinois-based educational
advocacy group, found that black students were as motivated,
studied as hard, and were as serious about graduating as whites.
Many of the blacks that now attend historically black colleges
and probably other colleges are from lower income, disadvantaged
homes. In a majority of cases they are the first members of their
family to attend college.
Cosby Myth: "Well,
Brown versus Board of Education: Where are we today. They paved
the way, but
what did we do with it. They don't hold up their part of the
Truth: The ones who aren't holding up
their part of the deal are Cosby's lower income whites, and middle-
income blacks not the black poor. According to the latest census
figures, a higher percentage of lower income blacks were registered
to vote, and actually voted, than lower income whites. The same
can't be said for their more well to do black brethren. The census
found that a lower percentage of higher income blacks were registered,
and voted, than their higher income white counterparts. The quantum
leap in the number of black elected officials in the past two
decades could not have happened without the votes of thousands
of poor blacks.
Some poor young blacks can't read or
write, join gangs, deal drugs, terrorize their communities, and
beat up their wives or partners. Many whites, Hispanics, and
Asians also engage in the same type of dysfunctional and destructive
behavior. Cosby did not qualify or provide any factual context
for his blanket indictment of poor blacks. He made the negative
behavior of some blacks a racial rather than endemic social problem.
In doing so, he did more than break the alleged taboo against
publicly airing racial dirty laundry; he fanned dangerous and
That's hardly the call to action that will inspire and motivate
underachieving blacks to improve their lives. Quite the contrary,
it will further demoralize those poor blacks who are doing the
best they can to better their lives. It will do nothing to encourage
government officials and business leaders to provide greater resources,
and opportunities to aid those blacks that need help. In doing
that, Cosby, not poor blacks, failed miserably to hold up his part
of the deal.