- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 4, 2004

Black leaders and members of Congress are embracing comments by Bill Cosby illustrating the lack of social responsibility from some in the black community, but said the entertainer’s charges are nothing new.

While celebrating the achievements of black Americans on the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act yesterday, several black leaders took time to reflect on the need for more personal responsibility. And several praised Mr. Cosby for voicing what needs to be done.

“I am going to write [Mr. Cosby] this week, because he is filling a void,” said Donna Brazile, who managed the 2000 presidential campaign for Al Gore.

Thursday at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition’s Citizenship and Education Fund annual conference, Mr. Cosby enumerated problems within the community and said those who are speaking against him are trying to hide “black people’s dirty laundry.”

“Let me tell you something, your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30 every day, it’s cursing and calling each other ‘nigger’ as they’re walking up and down the street,” the comedian said. “They think they’re hip … they can’t read, they can’t write, they’re laughing and giggling, and they’re going nowhere.”

Mr. Cosby made headlines in May for speaking out about how some blacks are “not holding up their end of the civil rights deal.” He criticized young people dropping out of school and black men and women who are having children but not raising them. He made the comments during a commemoration event sponsored by the NAACP for the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against school segregation.

“The first time, people were shocked,” Miss Brazile said. “And forget the fact that he is a comedian/actor — he has been a scholar on black issues for decades and he has written a book on fatherhood — and the people who should be ashamed of themselves are the leaders who are being silent.”

She said one of the reasons Mr. Cosby’s comments have drawn so much attention is because blacks generally engage in this type of critical discourse behind closed doors. “We ask white people to leave the room because we’re going to have a family discussion,” she said.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting congressional representative, agreed.

“He has been one of the great fighters for civil rights, and he is simply saying what African Americans — leaders, congressmen, parents and grandparents at home — say to each other all the time,” Mrs. Norton said.

Mr. Cosby, who has a doctorate in education, was praised for identifying the self-inflicted problems currently facing the black community, but he has been criticized by some for oversimplifying the issues of black America and not discussing solutions.

A former head of the Black Panther Party said Mr. Cosby’s comments were out of line.

“Bill Cosby will go down in the annals of history along with the bloody activity of Colin Powell and the bootlicking of Condi Rice,” Elaine Brown told the Cox News Service. “He has nothing good to say about the black community that he has done nothing but profit from as a minstrel.”

Mary Francis Berry, chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said Mr. Cosby is right to speak out, but added that the government has to play a role in helping blacks recover from centuries of institutional racism and slavery.

“There are a lot of things that need to be done so that we can reach the goal of equal opportunity and liberty and justice for all,” Miss Berry said. “Some things government needs to do [such as] more civil rights enforcement, better judges, and some of them the community needs to do, so that when the doors of opportunity open wide, people should enable themselves to walk through.”

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, also said government and the private sector have a role to play.

“I believe it starts with self, government has a role and the private sector has a role to play as well,” Mr. Cummings said.

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