This is the wrong response. Refusing to deliberate over issues that are ripping apart our community will only ensure that these important issues remain unresolved. We cannot be so concerned about looking bad to white people that we ignore very serious problems. We cannot pretend, merely for the sake of cultural PR, that these problems do not exist. Good PR is not social change.
Instead of silence, we need to do the hard work of examining these issues. But that's nearly impossible to do when our leaders refuse to speak about them above a whisper. Have we all been so spooked by what white people think of us that we remain silent about our own destruction? If so, I would suggest to our leaders that silence would serve black America poorly.
Our silence is hurtful not only because it prevents us from converging around important topics, but also because it passively suggests that violence and the education gap are uniquely black problems that we have a vested interest in concealing from public view. They are not. Violence is not hard-wired into our DNA. The 50 percent high school dropout rate is not a function of our biology. These are not manifestly black issues. They are issues of personal responsibility, accountability and social conditioning. But by hiding these problems we isolate ourselves from other members of mainstream America whom share this plight. In effect, we turn violence and education into a "black thing." At least one obvious result is that government officials are less responsive to these issues because they're perceived as only affecting a minority of voters.
Sadly, the debate about the racial, economic and educational gap is almost never framed that way. We don't talk about how these are behavioral issues because than we would be forced to discuss our shortcomings. So, instead we tend to rationalize the behavior of street thugs and excuse our failures as the result of racism.
There is an obvious ripple effect. If black youths are told from a young age that they are victims - that victimhood is an inextricable part of being black - that idea will become ingrained in them. They will fail in school, because testing well is something white people do. But if we converge around the ideas of individual striving and personal responsibility, then maybe we can supplant the pressure black children feel to underachieve academically.
This is the challenge Cosby set before us. I pray the rest of the community can follow suit by converging around an open and honest discussion about the deep reasons for our own self-inflected wounds.
It will be a difficult conversation, but one that is sorely needed.
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