Sharing Some of the BlameThis letter is a response to the critique offered by Dr. Gerald E. Matthews to Dr. Bill Cosby’s comments and remarks about low-income African Americans (see Black Issues, Dec. 30, 2004). I am not an African American of wealth, but I did emerge from a childhood of poverty to my present position, so I think there is some legitimacy in my comments.
First of all, I do not think that Bill Cosby meant to disparage our race because of the actions of some. However, even if he had carefully worded his comments to say “some” or a “few,” there still are those who would have used the brush to paint a broad picture of all African-Americans.
Secondly, Cosby is correct about the continued actions of SOME African-American families engulfed in poverty and the choices they make. Two generations ago it would have been plausible, without a wide network of communication, to believe that there was no alternative to a poverty-ridden life. However, today as a community we should know better. We should know that although there are no guarantees, there are alternatives. Yet too many of our people still engage in acts that are not only dangerous to them but to others and are almost guaranteed to keep them in poverty. So even though education does not guarantee anything, it does increase our chances of emerging from poverty. Yet too many of our people, especially our young men, drop out of school and end up in the criminal justice system … In sum, too many of us (and even if it is only one that is too many) do engage in deleterious behavior and whether Bill Cosby says it or I say it, we must share some of the blame for these continuing behaviors. And if we continue to not air our dirty laundry, we will not begin to address the problems.
Bill Cosby maybe could have presented his remarks in a more “scholarly correct manner” but I think it was wrong of Dr. Matthews for criticizing him for saying what so many of us are thinking, more and more.
Dr. O. Cleveland Hill, Dean
College of Education
Nicholls State University
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