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June 3, 2004

Agreeing To Disagree

Derek Shackelford

Recently during the anniversary celebration of Brown v. Board of Education of Wichita held at Constitution Hall in Washington, philanthropist and comedian Bill Cosby made some remarks which overshadowed the historic celebration.

Mr. Cosby cited school drop out rates of African Americans and criticized low-income blacks. "These people marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around," Mr. Cosby said at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund observance.

"I can't even talk the way these people talk: Why you ain't: Where you is. And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk," he said. "And then I heard the father talk.Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth."

Mr. Cosby then turned his attention to the prison population saying: "These people are not political prisoners.people getting shot in the head over a piece of pound cake.We're outraged 'The cops shouldn't have shot him.' What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?"

These remarks have already had quite an impact on race relations and the concept of personal responsibility. I do not want to focus on the liberal or conservative argument or even the right versus left wing discussion.

But the fact remains that Black people are not monolithic people, which means we disagree with stances and position as much as Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken.

There is no denying that Mr. Cosby has done much for education. He has donated countless millions of dollars to historically Black colleges and universities and contributed innumerable hours of volunteer time to causes that help Black people. But we must keep in mind that at the beginning of his acting career Mr. Cosby created a cartoon character called Fat Albert in which the dialogue was not the standard King's English.

I most certainly agree that personal responsibility needs to be upheld and that education should be taken seriously.

I would also agree that there are more opportunities available today than 20 years ago.

I would also agree that spending habits could be enhanced and changed.

I would also agree that there are some in prison who committed crimes and are receiving punishment.

I wholeheartedly agree that taking care of one's children should not be limited to excuses.

I agree that parents are the number one educators of their children.

So, in many instances, I agree with Mr. Cosby in not shunning personal responsibility.

At the same time, I also notice the ramifications of social ills. Just because one gets the best education does not mean one is still accepted in this society.

Just because you live in the best house does not mean you are immune from crime and depression.

Just because you have a nice car, nice corporate job, and a full bank account does not mean this society will place limitations on your potential.

Everyone that is in prison is not a criminal.

We can still give our children the best of everything, but if they don't have love, they have missed everything.

In the villages of West Africa there was a proverb that simply states: "It takes a whole village to raise a child."

I would change that in our most modernistic, sadistic society of today and say: "As the village has gone crazy, it has raised some crazy children."

Yes, the blame needs to be placed at the feet of Black people and, yes, the blame needs to be placed on some of the racism that permeates our society.

There is enough blame to go around, but the question that knocks at my doorstep and yours is: What are we going to do about it?

I also remember those whose blood was shed for opportunities to exist today. They could not speak the best English; did not go to the best schools; did not have the best clothes money could buy; and did not live in the best neighborhoods. But they had something on the inside.

Today we need individuals who simply look at the odds and simply say, like the biblical character Esther, "If I perish, I perish. But I will do what is best for the next generation."

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