Bill Cosby at Baylor University in 2003. (photo by
Bill Cosby can't help himself. In his latest shoot from the lip outburst
against blacks, he still claims they can't read, write or speak coherent
English, and that they beat their wives. Cosby didn't cite one fact, statistic,
survey or study to back up his repeat of the same silly and wrong-headed
outburst he let loose in May. It was a near textbook example of not letting
facts get in the way of a good, headline-grabbing yarn.
That hasn't stopped the legion of black leaders that have weighed in on
Cosby's remarks, and that includes Jesse Jackson, NAACP President Kweisi
Mfume, some members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and a horde of
black commentators, from stumbling over themselves to hail Cosby as the
Cosby is entitled to publicly air black America's alleged dirty laundry
but when there's more myth than dirt in that laundry, then he must be
called out on it.
Cosby myth: "You've got to stop
beating up your women because you can't find a job, and you want to get
an education and now you're minimum wage."
Truth: It's not clear
what bed and living rooms in poor black households Cosby peeped in to
make that charge, but a Justice Department study in 2000 found that since
1993, domestic violence plunged among all groups. It further found that
the murder rate of black females killed by their partners sharply dropped,
while the murder rate jumped among white females killed by their partners.
The Justice Department study and a UCLA School of Public Health study
in 1996, however, found that blacks are more likely to report domestic
violence than whites, Hispanics and Native Americans.
In the UCLA study, the blacks who physically abused their partners were
young (under 30), lived in urban areas, had lower income and were less
The study noted that only about five percent of the men resorted to physical
violence during their marital arguments and that the "vast majority"
reported discussing their disagreements with their partners calmly and
without resort to physical violence.
Cosby Myth: "They think they're
hip, they can't read; they can't write, they're laughing and giggling,
and they're going nowhere."
Truth: But many do think it is hip
to read and write. The U.S. Dept. of Education found that in the decades
since 1975, more blacks had enrolled in school, had improved their SAT
scores by nearly 200 points and had lowered their dropout rate significantly.
It also found that one in three was in college, and that the number of
blacks receiving bachelors and masters degrees had nearly doubled. A survey
of student attitudes by the Minority Student Achievement Network, an Illinois-based
educational advocacy group in 2002, found that black students were as
motivated, studied as hard, and were as serious about graduating as whites.
Many of the blacks that now attend historically black colleges -- and
probably other colleges -- are from lower income, disadvantaged homes.
In a majority of cases, they are the first members of their family to
Cosby Myth: "Well, Brown versus
Board of Education: Where are we today. They paved the way, but what did
we do with it. They ...don't hold up their part of the deal."
Truth: The ones who aren't holding
up their part of the deal are Cosby's lower income whites and middle-income
blacks, not the black poor. According to the latest census figures, a
higher percentage of lower income blacks were registered to vote, and
actually voted, than lower income whites. The same can't be said for their
more well to do black brethren. The census found that a lower percentage
of higher income blacks were registered, and voted, than their higher
income white counterparts. The quantum leap in the number of black elected
officials in the past two decades could not have happened without the
votes of thousands of poor blacks.
Some poor young blacks can't read or write, join gangs, deal drugs, terrorize
their communities and beat up their wives or partners. Many whites, Hispanics
and Asians also engage in the same type of dysfunctional and destructive
behavior. Cosby did not qualify or provide any factual context for his
blanket indictment of poor blacks. He made the negative behavior of some
blacks a racial rather than endemic social problem. In doing so, he did
more than break the alleged taboo against publicly airing racial dirty
laundry; he fanned dangerous and destructive stereotypes.
That's hardly the call to action that will inspire and motivate underachieving
blacks to improve their lives. Quite the contrary, it will further demoralize
those poor blacks who are doing the best they can to better their lives.
It will do nothing to encourage government officials and business leaders
to provide greater resources and opportunities to aid those blacks that
In doing that, Cosby, not poor blacks, failed miserably to hold up his
part of the deal.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the
author of The Crisis in Black and Black (Middle Passage Press).