Oliver Willis

Bill Cosby Is Sick, But He Wasn’t Wrong About Black America’s Problems

It is very clear from all the recent reports that there was and still probably is something very wrong with Bill Cosby. Something like 16 women have come forth to say Cosby either sexually assaulted, molested, raped, or took advantage of them. Court finding or not, it defies common sense to believe he didn’t do something very wrong with those victims.

The problem is I’ve seen the occasion of these revelations taken by some as vindication about the crusade Cosby embarked on a few years ago, embodied by what is now known as the “pound cake” speech. Essentially, Cosby argued that one of the major paths to correction for black America is to right its own ship, to focus less on widely acknowledged sins committed against it by racial prejudice and to start, for lack of a better phrase, “acting right.”

Especially with these new revelations, Cosby is a fatally flawed messenger for these sentiments, but he isn’t wrong.

Black America still too often denigrates intellectualism while idolizing the superficial and vapid to its collective detriment, then using past transgressions against us to justify these feelings. It’s bullshit.

Despite all the problems out there, there has never been a better time to be black in America than right now in 2014-15. The problem is, not enough people are taking advantage of it.

Slavery legally ended 149 years ago, while this year marked the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. The legacy of racism and discrimination still lives with us to this day, from issues of police brutality and abuse to political parties and movements who attempt to invalidate the vote. But we no longer live in chains or in the shadow of Jim Crow.

Sen. Tim Scott (R), Sen. Cory Booker (D)

The biggest obstacle still remains internal. While other ethnic groups in America either are in a place of a success or have made great strides towards success, Black America too often seems indifferent. At a time when there are elected officials like President Obama, Senators Cory Booker and Tim Scott that can serve as examples, along with black members of Congress, governors, and beyond, it still feels like there is far too much focus on being the next big rapper, the next Beyonce-style diva, and for God’s sake still, basketball players.

I’ve heard the counterarguments. Yes, white kids want to be rock stars too, and football players and so on and so forth. But we don’t have a lack of success in this country with white people. Institutional racism or not, white people have had success and continue to do so.

But so do other ethnic minorities. People have come to America completely unable to speak English, refugees with only the clothes on their backs (and sometimes barely that) and still they have succeeded in America beyond their wildest dreams because they have the drive and ambition to do so.

To be blunt, I’ve seen this drive even within sections of Black America, people from the Caribbean or Africa who also experience racism and prejudice but don’t allow it to be an excuse for inactivity and striving towards excellence.

We’ve still got the problem of black kids accusing each other of “acting white” when they don’t use ebonics to communicate or have the temerity to read instead of downloading the latest music.

A side note on ebonics. You can use whatever variety of language you’d like at home with friends or families, but whether you can cite 10,000 studies showing its an acceptable mode of communication (something I’d cast a side-eye at if I’m being honest), you aren’t going to find a respectable job in America if you think you’re going to talk like that. It’s the same way a Fortune 500 firm would look at you funny if you came in with a hillbilly accent or thick South Boston twang. You have to speak properly to get ahead.

There are thousands of outside actors, but Black America doesn’t have to help them in keeping us down. We can definitely do better, but we have to change our outlook into how this can be accomplished. Whether Bill Cosby is a scumbag or not has little bearing on this important issue we can’t just decide is all wrapped up because the man who aired our dirty laundry in public turned out to be a cretin.