Reactions to Bill Cosby's recent criticisms of some counterproductive ghetto behavior patterns have ranged from applause from some in the black audience that heard him to a cheap attack from white liberal Barbara Ehrenreich in the New York Times. "Billionaire bashes poor blacks" is the way Ms. Ehrenreich puts it.
Over the years, Bill Cosby has poured enough of his efforts and money into advancing blacks that he does not need any lessons from Barbara Ehrenreich on how to help his own people. But her attempts to pose as a friend and defender of blacks has implications that reach far beyond this one silly woman.
According to Ms. Ehrenreich, "it's so 1985 to beat up on the black poor." Among her other radical chic comments is, "it must be fun to beat up on people too young and too poor to fight back or the elderly rich wouldn't do it."
This is just one of innumerable ways that the political left evades criticisms -- whether of young thugs or schoolteachers or anyone else -- by simply calling the criticism "bashing" and shifting the focus to the supposedly bad motives of those who criticize.
"Friends don't let friends drive drunk," a slogan says. You don't let anybody you care about destroy himself without warning him. Those who want to exempt blacks from criticism are not friends.
Criticism is part of the price of progress. Economics professor Walter Williams has said that a turning point in his education -- and his life -- came when a schoolteacher in the Philadelphia ghetto chewed him out for wasting his abilities on adolescent nonsense.
The criticism hurt -- and there was no Barbara Ehrenreich there to defend him. So he turned his life around.
My own moment of truth came when a roommate at Harvard said to me one day: "Tom, when are you going to stop goofing off and get some work done?"
Goofing off! I didn't know what he was talking about. I thought I was working hard. But, when the midterm grades came out -- two D's and two F's in my four courses -- it became painfully clear that I was not working hard enough. I was going to have to shape up or ship out -- and I didn't have anywhere to ship out to.
I had been on my own for years and had gone into debt in order to go to Harvard. Moreover, there was no Barbara Ehrenreich to defend me. So I got my act together and graduated with honors.
Today, how many white schoolteachers are going to chew out some ghetto youth? How many white college students are going to tell a black roommate to stop goofing off?