Jonah Goldberg

By now you've probably heard about what Bill Cosby's up to. On May 17, at a Washington, D.C. event celebrating the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, Cosby delivered a jaw-dropping tirade on the failure of many lower-class blacks to get their acts together.

"I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange [prison] suit," Cosby said. "Where were you when he was two? 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? . In all of this work, we cannot blame white people." He was particularly tough on poor black youth. Or, as he put it, "people with their hats on backwards, pants down around the crack."

Cosby says he was motivated to speak out after talking to Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey here in Washington. Ramsey had just attended a vigil for a 12-year-old girl who was killed when a stray bullet struck her in the head. "People yell about us enforcing the curfew, but the real issue is, why don't you know where your child is," Ramsey told the Washington Post.

Since then Cosby hasn't backed down. He's been defending his remarks on black radio shows and at conferences, pointing to the horrifying trends in black crime and black education, and saying again and again that the government can't do the job of parents.

Now obviously conservatives, white and black, are eating this stuff up. However, it should be noted that Cosby is no political conservative. He is in fact a very liberal Democrat who just happens to recognize the limits of social policy.

And while it's easy to find comfort in what Cosby is saying, conservatives should find even more solace in what he's doing.

Leftists, both white and black, have always warned that poor blacks would starve if government stopped "helping" them - or they'd turn to crime, riot, spontaneously combust, whatever. Personally, I've always found the notion condescending and racist that blacks would turn animal without the domesticating influence of government spoon-feeding.

Racist or not, the reverse has largely proved true. After Bill Clinton signed welfare reform, for example, poor black women didn't starve, they didn't go wilding - they got jobs. By contrast, government "help" coincided with almost unrelenting growth in family break-up and violence among low-income blacks. We can argue about how much government aid helped the black middle class, but that is irrelevant to Cosby's point. For some irreducible number of blacks, government help simply cannot solve the problem.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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