Bill Cosby had some harsh words for members of the black community today while speaking to a conference of activists in Chicago. Rather than apologize for previous statements he'd made that had offended many blacks, he accused his detractors of criticizing him to hide the black community's 'dirty laundry.'
He said: "Let me tell you something, your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30 every day, it's cursing and calling each other niggers as they're walking up and down the street. They think they're hip. They can't read; they can't write. They're laughing and giggling, and they're going nowhere."
His words remind me of why I left northeast Pennsylvania. In my case, it had nothing to do with race - but it had everything to do with attitudes regarding right and wrong, change and progress, and the future in general. There was such an acceptance of failure at my high school. It was more important to look good and be from the right families than to do well. I'm sure that most high schools aree the same - the cliques, the popularity contests, the idolization of stupidity. Johnny may be dumb as a brick, but he's cool!
What made my high school different - at least for me - was that the area as a whole was failing. Businesses were closing, neighborhoods were becoming run down, and anybody with a brain was moving away upon graduating high school. They weren't just going to college. They were going for good, which meant that the population was growing older and older with fewer opportunities for the young.
I wanted better for my life, so I left and never looked back. Of course, that worked for me but fit the pattern of continued failure in Northeast PA. Anyone who wants better leaves... as did I. Those who don't simply accept the trappings of failure and despair as being good enough - and the rust belt lingers on.
More from Bill Cosby in Chicago this afternoon: "For me there is a time - when we have to turn the mirror around, because for me it is almost analgesic to talk about what the white man is doing against us. And it keeps a person frozen in their seat, it keeps you frozen in your hole you're sitting in."
Though he was speaking to a specific audience about a specific problem, his words ring true across the board. Excuses and scapegoats only serve to deepen the hole one finds oneself in.
I grew up watching The Cosby Show on TV... seeing his "Jello Pudding Pops" commercials on TV - but what I really enjoyed was listening to his comedy records. I've always respected Cosby for his abilities as a storyteller. But there's so much more to him than that. He is an American treasure - a living legend.
Simply put: Bill Cosby is a great man.