Narcissus' Echo

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."



The quote above is by the comedian, actor, educator and philanthropist, Dr. Bill Cosby. Dr. Cosby has a longstanding interest in education. The actor earned a doctorate in the subject from the University of Massachusetts in 1977, and has made shows, such as the Saturday morning cartoon "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids," with an emphasis on teaching. (Indeed, "Fat Albert" was the subject of his dissertation.)

On May 17, 2004, in an address during the 50th Anniversary commemoration of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Cosby made acerbic remarks towards low-income Blacks whom he believed to be deprioritizing education in favor of sports and fashion. These sentiments were repeated, even expanded upon, during a later speech on July 1 at a Rainbow Coalition meeting commemorating the anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education. In it, "he admonished struggling young men to 'stop beating up your wife because you can't find a job' and stated that Blacks had forgotten the sacrifices of those in the Civil Rights Movement. The talk was interrupted several times by applause and received praise from leaders such as Jesse Jackson" (from Wikipedia).


Caution: The following excerpts may come across as offensive. If in doubt, please stop reading now, and go snort some coke, turn a trick, rob a liquor store instead, or something.


A MP3 excerpt of Bill Cosby's controversial May 2004 speech.

Text excerpts:

Ladies and gentlemen, I really have to ask you to seriously consider what you’ve heard, and now this is the end of the evening so to speak. I heard a prize fight manager say to his fellow who was losing badly, “David, listen to me. It’s not what’s he’s doing to you. It’s what you’re not doing."

Ladies and gentlemen, these people set -- they opened the doors, they gave us the right, and today, ladies and gentlemen, in our cities and public schools we have 50% drop out. In our own neighborhood, we have men in prison. No longer is a person embarrassed because they’re pregnant without a husband. No longer is a boy considered an embarrassment if he tries to run away from being the father of the unmarried child.

Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic and lower middle economic people are not holding their end in this deal. In the neighborhood that most of us grew up in, parenting is not going on. In the old days, you couldn’t hooky school because every drawn shade was an eye. And before your mother got off the bus and to the house, she knew exactly where you had gone, who had gone into the house, and where you got on whatever you had one and where you got it from. Parents don’t know that today.

I’m talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was two? Where were you when he was twelve? Where were you when he was eighteen, and how come you don’t know he had a pistol? And where is his father, and why don’t you know where he is? And why doesn’t the father show up to talk to this boy?

The church is only open on Sunday. And you can’t keep asking Jesus to ask doing things for you. You can’t keep asking that God will find a way. God is tired of you . . . .

50 percent drop out rate, I’m telling you, and people in jail, and women having children by five, six different men. Under what excuse? I want somebody to love me. And as soon as you have it, you forget to parent. Grandmother, mother, and great grandmother in the same room, raising children, and the child knows nothing about love or respect of any one of the three of them. All this child knows is “gimme, gimme, gimme.” These people want to buy the friendship of a child, and the child couldn’t care less. Those of us sitting out here who have gone on to some college or whatever we’ve done, we still fear our parents. And these people are not parenting. They’re buying things for the kid -- $500 sneakers -- for what? They won’t buy or spend $250 on Hooked on Phonics. . . .

Looking at the incarcerated, these are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake! Then we all run out and are outraged: “The cops shouldn’t have shot him.” What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand? . . . We are not parenting.

Ladies and gentlemen, listen to these people. They are showing you what’s wrong. People putting their clothes on backwards. Isn’t that a sign of something going on wrong? Are you not paying attention? People with their hat 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’s got her dress all the way up to the crack -- and got all kinds of needles and things going through her body. What part of Africa did this come from? We are not Africans. Those people are not Africans; they don’t know a damned thing about Africa. With names like Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed and all that crap and all of them are in jail. (When we give these kinds names to our children, we give them the strength and inspiration in the meaning of those names. What’s the point of giving them strong names if there is not parenting and values backing it up).

Brown versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person’s problem. We’ve got to take the neighborhood back. We’ve got to go in there. Just forget telling your child to go to the Peace Corps. It’s right around the corner. It’s standing on the corner. It can’t speak English. It doesn’t want to speak English. I can’t even talk the way these people talk. “Why you ain’t where you is go, ra.” I don’t know who these people are. And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. Then I heard the father talk. This is all in the house. You used to talk a certain way on the corner and you got into the house and switched to English. Everybody knows it’s important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can’t land a plane with, “Why you ain’t…” You can’t be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth. There is no Bible that has that kind of language. Where did these people get the idea that they’re moving ahead on this. Well, they know they’re not; they’re just hanging out in the same place, five or six generations sitting in the projects when you’re just supposed to stay there long enough to get a job and move out.

Now, look, I’m telling you. It’s not what they’re doing to us. It’s what we’re not doing. 50 percent drop out. Look, we’re raising our own ingrown immigrants. These people are fighting hard to be ignorant. There’s no English being spoken, and they’re walking and they’re angry. Oh God, they’re angry and they have pistols and they shoot and they do stupid things. And after they kill somebody, they don’t have a plan. Just murder somebody. Boom. Over what? A pizza? And then run to the poor cousin’s house.

They sit there and the cousin says, “What are you doing here?”

“I just killed somebody, man.”

“What?”

“I just killed somebody; I’ve got to stay here.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Well, give me some money, I’ll go….”

 “Where are you going?”

“North Carolina.”

Everybody wanted to go to North Carolina. But the police know where you’re going because your cousin has a record.

Five or six different children -- same woman, eight, ten different husbands or whatever. Pretty soon you’re going to have to have DNA cards so you can tell who you’re making love to. You don’t who this is. It might be your grandmother. I’m telling you, they’re young enough. Hey, you have a baby when you’re twelve. Your baby turns thirteen and has a baby, how old are you? Huh? Grandmother. By the time you’re twelve, you could have sex with your grandmother, you keep those numbers coming. I’m just predicting. . . .

So, ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you for the award -- and giving me an opportunity to speak because, I mean, this is the future, and all of these people who lined up and done -- they’ve got to be wondering what the hell happened. Brown V. Board of Education -- these people who marched and were hit in the face with rocks and punched in the face to get an education and we got these knuckleheads walking around who don’t want to learn English. I know that you all know it. I just want to get you as angry that you ought to be. When you walk around the neighborhood and you see this stuff, that stuff’s not funny. These people are not funny anymore. And that‘s not my brother. And that’s not my sister. They’re faking and they’re dragging me way down because the state, the city, and all these people have to pick up the tab on them because they don’t want to accept that they have to study to get an education.

We have to begin to build in the neighborhood, have restaurants, have cleaners, have pharmacies, have real estate, have medical buildings instead of trying to rob them all. And so, ladies and gentlemen, please, Dorothy Height, where ever she’s sitting, she didn’t do all that stuff so that she could hear somebody say “I can’t stand algebra, I can’t stand…" and “what you is.” It’s horrible. . . .

You’re raising pimps. That’s what a pimp is. A pimp will act nasty to you so you have to go out and get them something. And then you bring it back and maybe he or she hugs you. And that’s why pimp is so famous. They’ve got a drink called the “Pimp-something.” You all wonder what that’s about, don’t you? Well, you’re probably going to let Jesus figure it out for you. Well, I’ve got something to tell you about Jesus. When you go to the church, look at the stained glass things of Jesus. Look at them. Is Jesus smiling? Not in one picture. So, tell your friends. Let’s try to do something. Let’s try to make Jesus smile. Let’s start parenting. Thank you, thank you.


(Complete transcript here)


Barack Obama, a US Senator (D), made the same point in his 2004 National Convention Keynote Address:

Go in -- Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach our kids to learn; they know that parents have to teach, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. They know those things.

(Complete transcript here)


On September 17, The Gainsville Sun reported that the Alligator, the student newspaper of the University of Florida is facing heat for publishing a cartoon depicting the rapper Kanye West and Condoleezza Rice:


Andy Marlette's cartoon shows black rapper Kanye West, who two weeks ago said President George W. Bush doesn't care about black people at a fund-raiser for Hurricane Katrina victims, holding a playing card labeled "The Race Card" while standing next to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The bubble over Rice's head contains the words: "Nigga Please!"





Wait a minute, so it is all right for the other side to hurl any sort of drivel they feel like at the moment, but the moment the tables are turned, they get their knickers in a bunch and start throwing hissy fits?


Condoleezza Rice has a wonderful reply to the charge by some Black Americans that she is a shill for the Bush administration: " “The fact of the matter is, Bill, I’ve been black all my life, nobody needs to tell me how to be black.”

(Video transcript here (wmv))



Postscript:
While I do admit that the lengthy (and caustic) quotation from Dr. Bill Cosby's speech is excessive, an apology for my indulgence will not be forthcoming. A scalpel may prove to be a neater job, but sometimes a cudgel is more satisfying.

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