01 Sep 2004 Thank You, Bill Cosby, For Saying the Right Thing at the Right Time, by Lisa Fritsch
There are many reasons to thank Bill Cosby.
First, there is his success as the first black comedian to tap into the creative and educational aspect of animation. His Fat Albert television show (soon to be a live-action movie), where he belted out “hey, hey, hey,” conjures up fond memories of a larger-than-life cartoon about life lessons, educational esteem and camaraderie among friends.
He also deserves thanks for pioneering America’s first intellectual look into the lives of an upwardly mobile and traditional black family. Arguably the most popular sit-com ever, The Cosby Show was a breakthrough in American television. It proved audiences of all races would watch African-Americans as Americans. The Huxtables weren’t the black American dream, but instead represented everyone’s American dream. Every Thursday night, Bill Cosby confirmed that successful black families were not myths, but reality.
Now he’s done something even more relevant and profound. I thank Bill Cosby for his sage and eloquent – albeit blunt -statements over this past summer publicly chastising ill-fated parenting choices in the black community. Like his dissenters from the Cosby Show era, Cosby is criticized for speaking the truth and presenting an alternate – and realistic – point of view. I thank him for having the courage to say what is needed at precisely the right time and being the right person to do it.
Beginning at the NAACP’s commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education in May, Cosby began speaking out about the true perils of the black community – the lack of responsibility and misuse of educational opportunities. Publicly criticizing how our children speak and act, how parents spend more money on fad clothing than education and how they “manage… by cell phone,” Cosby hit the nail on the head.
He has continued speaking out, most recently at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual conference. At that first event, however, he received a direct rebuttal from the head of the NAACP. Others criticized him for airing the “dirty laundry” of the black community. Cosby said it best, responding: “Your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30 every day. It’s cursing and calling each other ‘n——‘ as they’re walking up and down the street. They think their hip… they can’t read, they can’t write, they’re laughing and giggling, and they’re going nowhere.”
Cosby should be commended for airing his dead-on sentiments. For too long, the black community has hidden behind the cloak of sister and brotherhood, protecting bad judgment and outright stupidity that we can no longer afford to ignore. It is imperative those who can speak out against the self-inflicted malaise that’s destroying our community do so. Our so-called leaders still defer our problems to external factors rather than the natural consequences of our behavior, allowing us to slowly deteriorate as a culture.
To those who believe our wrongs should remain hidden, know that we have been exposed long ago – the world has just been too “politically correct” to hold us accountable. For those who think white people shouldn’t be allowed to agree with Cosby and judge us by his words, know that they suffer some of the same problems as we do. Cosby recently pointed out, “whites say to me that ‘the same thing is happening in our house.'”
Bill Cosby deserves a special place in all of our hearts. He is from the generation that fought for every ounce of acceptance and educational opportunity that we so abundantly have today. He, more than any other person, has the right and the obligation to speak frankly to us in the ways we are headed toward demise. For his courage in doing so, I thank him.