Today, less than 40 percent of black children live in two-parent families, compared to 70 percent and 80 percent in earlier periods. Illegitimacy, at 70 percent, is unprecedented in black history. Between 1976 and 2000, over 50 percent of all homicides in the United States were committed by blacks, and 94 percent of the time, the victim was black. These are devastating problems, but are they caused by racism, and will spending resources fighting racial discrimination solve them?
Don't give me any of that legacy-of-slavery nonsense unless you can explain why all of these problems were not worse during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, at a time when blacks were much closer to slavery, were much poorer, faced more discrimination and had fewer opportunities.
With all the opportunities available today, unavailable when Cosby and I were youngsters, black youngsters who dedicate themselves to academic excellence are attacked both verbally and sometimes physically for "acting white" and for being "Oreos" and "brainiacs." California Berkeley professor John McWhorter says, "Insidious anti-intellectualism is the prime culprit in the school-performance gap between whites and blacks, which cuts across class and income lines." He adds that the rap music culture "retards black success by the reinforcement of hindering stereotypes and by teaching young blacks that a thuggish adversarial stance is the properly authentic response to a presumptively racist society."
In at least two important ways, black America is a study of contrasts. By any measure, as a group, black Americans have made greater gains over some of the highest hurdles in the shortest span of time than any other racial group in human history. At the same time, for a large segment of the black community, these gains are elusive and will remain so under the current civil rights vision.
Bill Cosby's bold comments might be what's necessary to get an honest and fruitful discussion going within the black community, and for that, we all owe him thanks.
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