Thursday morning, Cosby showed no signs of repenting as he strode
across the stage at the Sheraton Hotel ballroom before a
standing-room-only crowd. Sporting a natty gold sports coat and dark glasses, he proceeded to unload a laundry list of blackAmerica's self-imposed ills. The iconic actor and comedian kidded that he couldn't compete with the oratory of the Reverend but he preached circles around Jackson in their nearly hour-long conversation, delivering brutally frank one-liners and the toughest of love. The enemy, he argues, is us:
"There is a time, ladies and gentlemen, when we have to turn the mirror around." Cosby acknowledged he wasn't critiquing all blacks-just "the 50 percent of African Americans in the lower economic neighborhood who drop out of school," and the alarming proportions of black men in prison and black teenage mothers. The mostly black crowd seconded him with choruses of "Amens."
To critics who pose, it's unproductive to air our dirty laundry in
public, he responds, "Your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30
every day. It's cursing on the way home, on the bus, train, in the
They are cursing and grabbing each other and going nowhere. And, the
book bag is very, very thin because there's nothing in it."
"Don't worry about the white man," he adds. "I could care less about
what white people think about me . . . let 'em talk. What are they
saying that is different from what their grandfathers said and did to
us? What is different is what we are doing to ourselves."
For those who say Cosby is just an elitist who's "got his" but doesn't understand the plight of the black poor, he reminds us that, "We're going to turn that mirror around. It's not just the poor-everybody's guilty."
Cosby and Jackson lamented that in the 50th year of Brown vs. Board of Education, our failings betray our legacy. Jackson dabbed away tears as he recalled the financial struggles at Fisk University, a historically black college and Jackson's Alma mater.
When Cosby was done, the 1,000 people in the room all jumped to their
feet in ovation. Long after Cosby had departed, I could not find a
dissenter in the crowd. But in the hotel corridor I encountered a
vintage poster for sale that said volumes. The poster, which advertised the Million Man March, was "discounted" to $5 Remember the Million Man March?
In 1995 Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan exhorted "a million
sober, disciplined, committed, dedicated, inspired black men to meet in Washington on a day of atonement." In 2004, perhaps all that's left of that call is a $5 poster. We have shed tears too many times, at too many watershed moments before. While the hopes they inspired have fallen by the wayside. Not this time. Cosby's plea to parents: "Before you get to the point where you say 'I can't do nothing with them'-do something with them."
Teach our children to speak English.
When the teacher calls, show up atthe school.
When the idiot box starts spewing profane rap videos, turn it off.
Refrain from cursing around the kids.
Teach our boys that women should be cherished, not raped and
Tell them that education is a prize we won with blood and tears,
not a dishonor.
Stop making excuses for the agents and abettors of black-on-black
It costs us nothing to do these things. But if we don't, it will
cost us infinitely more tears.
We all send thousands of jokes through e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages regarding life choices, people think twice about sharing. The crude, vulgar, and sometimes the obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of decency is too often suppressed in school and the workplace.