This piece was sent to me by a friend and I thought it was important to share. Bill Cosby has spent the last few years creating quite a stir in the black community. Many have called America's favorite dad a bit reckless with his statements about black males in particular. Some claim that Bill Cosby hates black people. Does he really? What's wrong with saying that they control their own destiny? What's wrong with saying that they shouldn't blame others for their misfortune when there are opportunities available? What's wrong with saying that minorities have very little role models to look up to except for rappers and athletes? The article, but more importantly the book he has co-written, may make you think.
Tough, Sad and Smart
They are a longtime odd couple, Bill Cosby and Harvard’s Dr. Alvin Poussaint, and their latest campaign is nothing less than an effort to save the soul of black America.
Mr. Cosby, of course, is the boisterous veteran comedian who has spent the last few years hammering home some brutal truths about self-destructive behavior within the African-American community.
“A word to the wise ain’t necessary,” Mr. Cosby likes to say. “It’s the stupid ones who need the advice.”
Dr. Poussaint is a quiet, elegant professor of psychiatry who, in public at least, is in no way funny. He teaches at the Harvard Medical School and is a staff member at the Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston, where he sees kids struggling in some of the toughest circumstances imaginable.
I always wonder, whenever I talk to Dr. Poussaint, why he isn’t better known. He’s one of the smartest individuals in the country on issues of race, class and justice.
For three years, Mr. Cosby and Dr. Poussaint have been traveling the country, meeting with as many people as possible to explore the problems facing the black community.
There is a sense of deep sadness and loss — grief — evident in both men over the tragedy that has befallen so many blacks in America. They were on “Meet the Press” for the entire hour Sunday, talking about their new book, a cri de coeur against the forces of self-sabotage titled, “Come On, People: On the Path From Victims to Victors.”
There weren’t many laughs over the course of the hour. Speaking about the epidemic of fatherlessness in black families, Mr. Cosby imagined a young fatherless child thinking: “Somewhere in my life a person called my father has not shown up, and I feel very sad about this because I don’t know if I’m ugly — I don’t know what the reason is.”
Dr. Poussaint, referring to boys who get into trouble, added: “I think a lot of these males kind of have a father hunger and actually grieve that they don’t have a father. And I think later a lot of that turns into anger. ‘Why aren’t you with me? Why don’t you care about me?’ ”
The absence of fathers, and the resultant feelings of abandonment felt by boys and girls, inevitably affect the children’s sense of self-worth, he said.
The book lays out the difficult route black people will have to take to free the many who are still trapped in prisons of extreme violence, poverty, degradation and depression.
It’s a work with a palpable undercurrent of love throughout. And yet it pulls no punches. In a chapter titled “What’s Going on With Black Men?,” the authors (in a voice that sounds remarkably like Mr. Cosby’s) note:
“You can’t land a plane in Rome saying, ‘Whassup?’ to the control tower. You can’t be a doctor telling your nurse, ‘Dat tumor be nasty.’ ”
Racism is still a plague and neither Mr. Cosby nor Dr. Poussaint give it short shrift. But they also note that in past years blacks were able to progress despite the most malignant forms of racism and that many are succeeding today.
“Blaming white people,” they write, “can be a way for some black people to feel better about themselves, but it doesn’t pay the electric bills. There are more doors of opportunity open for black people today than ever before in the history of America.”
I couldn’t agree more. Racism disgusts me, and I think it should be fought with much greater ferocity than we see today. But that’s no reason to drop out of school, or take drugs, or refuse to care for one’s children, or shoot somebody.
The most important step toward ending the tragic cycles of violence and poverty among African-Americans also happens to be the heaviest lift — reconnecting black fathers to their children.
In an interview yesterday, Dr. Poussaint said: “You go into whole neighborhoods and there are no fathers there. What you find is apathy in a lot of the males who don’t even know that they are supposed to be a father.”
The book covers a great deal that has been talked about incessantly — the importance of family and education and hard work and mentoring and civic participation. But hand in hand with its practical advice and the undercurrent of deep love for one’s community is a stress on the absolute importance of maintaining one’s personal dignity and self-respect.
It’s a tough book. Victimhood is cast as the enemy. Defeat, failure and hopelessness are not to be tolerated.
Hard times and rough circumstances are not excuses for degrading others or allowing oneself to be degraded. In fact, they’re not excuses for anything, except to try harder.