Walter E. Williams

 May 17 saw several gatherings commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court school desegregation decision in Brown vs. Board of Education. But the event held in Washington, D.C.'s Constitution Hall will be the one to be remembered because of Bill Cosby's remarks, which won him scathing criticism from some in the black community.

 For years, I've argued that most of the problems many black Americans face today have little or nothing to do with racial discrimination. For the most part, the most devastating problems encountered by a large segment of the black community are self-inflicted. Bill Cosby mentioned several of them, such as black parents who'll buy their children expensive clothing rather than something educational, poor language spoken by many children and adults, and criminals who prey on the overwhelmingly law-abiding residents of black neighborhoods.

 After Cosby's remarks, some in the audience laughed and applauded, but, according to The Washington Post, the black "leadership" in attendance, the head of the NAACP, the head of the NAACP legal defense fund and the president of Howard University were "stone-faced."

 In a recent column, my colleague Thomas Sowell explained, "Bill Cosby and the black 'leadership' represent two long-standing differences about how to deal with the problems of the black community. The 'leaders' are concerned with protecting the image of blacks, while Cosby is trying to protect the future of blacks, especially those of the younger generation."

 Bill Cosby and I differ in age by one year -- I'm older. We both spent part of our youth, in the 1940s and 1950s, growing up in North Philadelphia's Richard Allen housing project. Being poor then was different from being poor now. My sister and I were rare among Richard Allen's residents. Our parents were separated, but nearly every other kid lived in a two-parent household. Black teen pregnancy was relatively rare and just a tiny fraction of today's. During those days, many residents rarely locked their doors until the last person came home. Hot summer nights saw many people fearlessly sleeping in their yards or on their balconies.

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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