If we gave ratings to books like we give to films, I would urge that Michael Eric Dyson's new book, Is Bill Cosby Right?Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind? be given triple X. Parents, particularly black parents, should read this material with the greatest caution.
Dyson wrote this book to take on Bill Cosby and his campaign to talk about personal responsibility in the black community. The book is wrong about everything. But in addition to being uniformly wrong, it is uniformly dangerous. Any degree to which blacks buy into Dyson's message will translate directly into exacerbating and perpetuating the well known social and economic problems in our community that prompted Cosby's campaign.
Several hundred pages of whining, excuses, and personal attacks on Bill Cosby really just boil down to the following: "Cosby's overemphasis on personal responsibility, not structural features, wrongly locates the source of poor black suffering .... Cosby's insistence on self-help lets society off the hook."
For the last 40 years blacks have heard nothing from their leaders except blaming an unjust and racist America for our problems and prescribing political action and government spending programs as the only way to solve them. The result has been the creation of what is fast becoming a permanent black underclass, devoid of the very attitudes and values that are critical for anyone of any background or color to make it in this world.
Cosby emerges and suggests that if there is going to be hope and a future for this black community, it can only come by forgetting the blame game and accepting that, regardless of what was, every black tomorrow will directly reflect the personal responsibility that every African American takes for his or her life today. For Dyson, this is an "overemphasis on personal responsibility."
Dyson's pretense at insight is to point out that the world is complicated. Is it reasonable, as Cosby is doing, to tell a single black mother, who herself may well be the product of a broken home, and arguably lives in a society that still reeks of racism, that she should assume personal responsibility for her life? Dyson says no. I say yes.
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