George E. Curry, Atlanta Daily World, May 27
At ceremonies here last week commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision outlawing “separate but equal” schools, Cosby’s remarks caught many in the audience by surprise.
With NAACP President Kwesi Mfume, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund President Ted Shaw and many other Black dignitaries looking on, Cosby complained that “the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal.”
He said, “These people are not parenting. They are buying things for their 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.”
In Atlanta on Sunday, author and cultural critic Michael Eric Dyson called Cosby wrong for using the fund raiser to criticize poor people. While acknowledging Cosby’s generous philanthropy to historically black institutions, Dyson said a better use of the platform would have been to criticize national public policy for failing to give poor people enough support.
Cosby cited a 50 percent dropout rate for Blacks. However, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the dropout rate for African-Americans was 13.1 percent in 2000, the last year for which statistics are available.
Cosby’s comments about education were made in the larger context of African-Americans having to struggle to desegregate schools 50 years ago and seeing many youth today who will not take advantage of those sacrifices. He pleaded with those present to take back the Black community.
The comedian declined to acknowledge the existence of political prisoners.
“These are not political criminals,” he said. “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?”
Cosby claims that some of his comments were taken out of context. Excerpts of the remarks can be heard on the Washington Post’s Web site, www.washingtonpost.com, and it appears that Cosby was quoted accurately.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane wrote a column noting that like Cosby, he was born in North Philadelphia and attended Temple University.
“Given his record as a philanthropist who had donated millions to black colleges and black causes in general, Cosby has certainly earned the right to speak his mind.” He continued, “Still, there’s a sense of uneasiness whenever somebody like Cosby uses the same language some whites use to justify their racism…Particularly, the idea that poor blacks and their children weigh down the rest of society, or that every black person behind bars deserves to be incarcerated. Sure, some blacks may fit that description, not all. Some white people, too.”
Kane wrote, “He’s not a poor Black mother raising children in the inner city, so he has no idea how difficult that is in 2004 America. And if the TV star really wants to pass moral judgments on poor black women, ahem, Mr. Cosby, there is a little matter of you having an out-of-wedlock child yourself.”
After reading the column, Cosby telephoned Kane. The columnist said that in an hour-long discussion, Cosby explained that he did not intend to smear all poor Blacks.
“I didn’t say all black people from the lower classes were to blame,” Kane said Cosby told him. “But I said that when you have a 50 percent graduation rate, and some people can’t put two sentences together, and can’t write or spell…you’ve got people who have put themselves on a track to failure.”
As for Autumn Jackson, who claims to be Cosby’s out-of-wedlock daughter, the comedian told Kane that she has repeatedly refused his offer to take a paternity test.
In the interview with Kane, Cosby deplored the glorification of a pimp mentality, placing more emphasis on athletics than academics and celebrating rap videos on BET.
“I am talking about parenting. It is time for us to turn the mirror around. We have to take back the neighborhood.”
And he reiterated his comment about the misuse of the English language.
“We can’t excuse these people,” Cosby said. “There are generations who have been born here and their English is worse than Koreans who have just been here a few years.”
The following are additional excerpts from Cosby’s speech:
“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? . . .
“The church is only open on Sunday and you can’t keep asking Jesus to do things for you. You can’t keep saying that God will find a way. God is tired of you,” Cosby declared to loud applause.
“I wasn’t there when God was saying it, I am making this up, but it sounds like what God would say. In all of this work we can not blame white people. White people don’t live over there; they close up the shop early. The Korean ones don’t know us well enough, so they stay open 24 hours.”
On fashion: “People putting their clothes on backwards: Isn’t that a sign of something gone wrong? . . . People with their hats on backwards, 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 to the crack and got all type of needles [piercings] going through her body? What part of Africa did this come from? Those people are not Africans; they don’t know a damn thing about Africa.
“With names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap, and all of them are in jail. Brown versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person’s problem. We have got to take the neighborhood back. We have to go in there — forget about telling your child to go into the Peace Corps — it is right around the corner. They are standing on the corner and they can’t speak English.”
On sports heroes: “Basketball players — multimillionaires — can’t write a paragraph. Football players — multimillionaires — can’t read. Yes, multimillionaires. Well, Brown versus Board of Education: Where are we today? They paved the way, but what did we do with it? That white man, he’s laughing. He’s got to be laughing: 50 percent drop out, the rest of them are in prison.”
On teenage sex: “Five, six children — same woman — eight, 10 different husbands or whatever. Pretty soon you are going to have DNA cards to tell who you are making love to. You don’t know who this is. It might be your grandmother. I am telling you, they’re young enough! Hey, you have a baby when you are 12; your baby turns 13 and has a baby. How old are you? Huh? Grandmother! By the time you are 12 you can have sex with your grandmother, you keep those numbers coming. I’m just predicting. . . .
“What is it — young girls getting after a girl who wants to remain a virgin? Who are these sick black people and where do they come from and why haven’t they been parented to shut up? This is a sickness, ladies and gentlemen.”