You know what?
Y’all still need to pull your pants up.
Bill Cosby, the highly regarded – until now, at least – comedian and actor, is famous for breaking barriers and stereotypes in TV and society.
In recent weeks, though, his notoriety arises from accusations that he is a serial sexual abuser and rapist. Some of the accusations date back decades, but were revived when a fellow comedian criticized Cosby for criticizing a segment of the black population. His comments went viral.
Hannibal Buress, an at-times insightful, funny fellow, accused Cosby of being “smug” and of feeling “‘I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom in the ’80s. Pull your pants up, black people. I don’t cuss.’ Yeah, but you’re a rapist.”
No, he’s accused of being a rapist: big difference.
Cosby apparently took his unofficial title of “America’s dad” seriously, as he began to scold segments of the black population for what he deemed self-defeating, counterproductive behavior. At a 2004 dinner commemorating the 50th anniversary of the law desegregating American schools, Cosby delivered what some have called “The Ghettoesburg Address.”
After acknowledging the sacrifices made by people of all colors to ensure equal access to education for blacks, he condemned those who didn’t take advantage of them. He cited the 50 percent school dropout rate, the rise of fatherless children, the misplaced priorities and violence.
He lambasted parents who spend $500 for a pair of basketball sneakers, yet won’t spend $250 on Hooked on Phonics or teach their children to speak properly.
Who could take exception to that, right?
Lots of people. Former UNC Professor Michael Eric Dyson was among those criticizing The Cos for criticizing bad-behaving or under-achieving blacks. Dyson wrote a book with the non sequitur title “Is Bill Cosby Right (Or Has The Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?)”
Cosby has not eased up on attacking “No-Grows” – presumably, Negroes who have no desire to grow – and has engendered a lot of hostility and opposition from some segments of the black community. They accuse him of blaming the victim or of exposing the race’s dirty laundry to public scrutiny.
Heck, anyone with eyes can see that there’s a dangerous level of dysfunction among some in our community. Had Cosby not mentioned it, do they reckon that no one would have noticed?
Sure, some of Cosby’s contentions were superficial, simplistic and refused to take into account the effects of systemic racism, of people who’ve never felt they had a chance. Was he, therefore, blaming the victim?
A little bit, yes. In a commencement speech at St. Augustine’s College – now University – in 1976, Jesse Jackson said it best: The victim is not responsible for being down, but he is responsible for getting up.
Basketball analyst Charles Barkley recently provoked discussion when he said blacks are being held back by other “brainwashed, unintelligent” blacks.
Name one, Charles.
Lesson from Gatsby
Before uttering such a blanket condemnation of an entire group, I suggest Barkley and Cosby read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s opening lines – from a father to a son – in “The Great Gatsby”: “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one , just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
If Cosby is guilty of the offenses against women of which he is being accused, he should be vilified and, if the statute of limitations hasn’t expired, prosecuted. His unofficial reputation as “America’s dad” should be revoked, too.
Dyson in his book was right that the black middle class – but on what planet is Bill Cosby “middle class”? – needs to do more than cluck its tongue in disapproval at those who’ve not yet overcome.
That being said, though, young men still need to pull their damned pants up.