When Gahagan posted the other week about the recent Supreme Court Decision on integration, I caught a link to an article by Juan Williams (can’t remember how) celebrating the idea that the Brown decision had earned its keep, but had become obsolete. It reminded me that I had Juan Williams’ latest book sitting on my shelf, so I picked it up and read it over this past weekend.
It’s definitely worth the read, and it’s obvious from the subtitle what the book is about. What isn’t really obvious from the title is the fact that it’s only really Juan Williams book in name. It’s more accurately Bill Cosby’s book. The entire book stems from his speech at the 30th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education at Constitution Hall in D.C.
Williams obviously has serious feelings of his own on the matters of civil rights, race relations, poverty, etc., but Cosby is referenced so much, it’s hard not to consider it really Bill Cosby’s book. The speech in question was billed as a “wake-up call” by his supporters, and “blaming the victim (poor people)” by his detractors. A big point of the book was how little support Cosby got (at first) from those he had spent 30+ years supporting.
Williams spends a good time blasting the likes of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and various other “civil rights leaders” who spend all of their efforts blaming and trying to get money from the white establishment on the grounds of “systemic racism,” and not enough trying to actually improve the lives of the black poor community. Also, black rap artists are sincerely castigated as continually feeding stereotypes of poor blacks as thugs and sex-crazed convicts. Williams seems very passionate about this issue in particular.
There’s a lot of statistics that we’ve all heard before, but the most important part isn’t the diagnosis as much as it is the prescription which Bill Cosby offers which is pretty simple: Having babies after age 21 and in conjunction with marriage. Parenting based on good manners, education and learning instead of materialism. Taking control of neighborhoods and holding family, friends and neighbors accountable for criminal activity.
Williams goes a little further in talking about the failures of housing projects in concentrating poverty and crime and hopelessness all in one place, and even offers examples of programs that have worked before that “integrated” instead of isolated those the government is giving a helping hand. He also astutely points out the difference between government programs designed to help the middle class black community that does very little for the poor black community (Affirmative Action, minority business grants, etc.) but comes to the defense of this black middle class, which is often chastised as “uncaring,” “abandoning the race”, or the least defensible, “not authentically black.”
Overall, the sort of “tough love” approach of Cosby’s speech and Williams’ book kind of reminds me of the whole feminist concept: “you have to be twice as good as men in order to be thought of as half as good.” In other words, if systemic racism is still a reality, then that means blacks have to work twice as hard. Cosby’s and Williams’ view seems to be that if that’s the case, it’s better for blacks to simply work twice as hard instead of waiting for racists to join the modern enlightened world and all of a sudden become not racist. Williams also points out that the world has gotten MORE globally competitive (and the good jobs that much harder to get) that it’s pretty obvious those who hold the reins have even LESS incentive than before in letting the good jobs go to minorities for the sake of recompense.
Since I’m not black and I’m not poor, it’s real easy for me to agree with these concepts, but it’s more important to see how much of Bill Cosby’s time, money, and effort has been focused on town hall meetings and seminars in poor urban black communities (with, according to Williams, exceedingly positive feedback) since he gave his famous speech. Cosby has been side by side with the Civil Rights Movement from the beginning so his opinion counts and Juan Williams serves as a good conduit.
Just wish the book would have been officially coauthored by Bill Cosby.