Action item #10: Require or induce all teachers and city policy makers to read the book, Come on People, on the Path from Victims to Victors, by Bill Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D.
Comedian and role model Bill Cosby has taken dead aim at the scourge of victimhood.
Cosby has written, with Harvard psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint, a blueprint for black and white, alike, to cure the metastasizing pathologies that are destroying many of our Madison neighborhoods.
Their book, Come On People, is an antidote to the politically correct, soft racism of low expectations. I recommend it as a restorative for the non-judgmentalism that paralyzes some city leaders and enfeebles many of our troubled neighbors.
Cosby and Poussaint make plenty of judgments - about what builds and what destroys. They mount a strong "Come to Jesus" challenge to their racial brethren and anyone else who cares. It is unsparing of its criticisms but concrete in the advice it offers, proud and hopeful in its outlook.
Subchapter headings like "Chill the Sex," "Talk to the Police," "Back off the Rap," and "Reinforce Standard English" are tip-offs that Come on People is not your standard racial pandering from, say, an Al Sharpton or Brenda Konkel.
New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, no one's idea of a conservative, had this to say:
It's a tough book. Victimhood is cast as the enemy. Defeat, failure and hopelessness are not to be tolerated. Hard times and rough circumstances are not excuses for degrading others or allowing oneself to be degraded. In fact, they're not excuses for anything, except to try harder.
You've heard the "no excuses" mantra on this blog before and you'll hear it again. Last October, The Atlantic magazine featured Bill Cosby's crusade, which features community "call outs" challenging communities to get their act together.
As Cosby sees it, the antidote to racism is not rallies, protests, or pleas, but strong families and communities. Instead of focusing on some abstract notion of equality, he argues, blacks need to cleanse their culture, embrace personal responsibility, and reclaim the traditions that fortified them in the past.
... The crisis of absentee fathers, the rise of black-on-black crime, and the spread of hip-hop all led Cosby to believe that, after the achievements of the 1960s, the black community was committing cultural suicide.
The triumph of Come On People is that its message is on point, regardless of race. Fathers are just as important to white families. "Keep TV out of the Bedroom" and "Accept Responsibility," two other subheadings, are only two examples of the universality of Cosby and Poussaint's good advice, regardless of income or social strata. "Stay Out of Debt" and "Slow Down on the Fast Food," for instance, could be Parade magazine topics.
Didn't Madison once have a citywide reading program? Here's one book worthy of the effort. What follows are representative excerpts from "Come on People." (The headings are mine.)
Come On People, on the Path from Victims to Victors, by Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint, M.D. 265 pp. 2007.
On playing the race card:
"How many speakers speak out every day about racism, whether it's systemic or whatever? Even if there is truth to what they say, they sedate themselves with it. Even Farrakhan has said quit being concerned about white people; build your own strength first. ... In the last year or so, just look at the numbers of shootings, the stabbings, the overdoses, the school dropouts, and the meaningless acts of violence toward each other inn our community. Can I talk about those or should I just shake them off like a bad cold. ... Many of us come from a time when you really didn't see much of these kinds of things.
"... There is certainly institutional racism - particularly against black men - but racism doesn't explain everything. ... Of the roughly 16,000 homicides in this country each year, more than half are committed by black men.
"... This is madness! Back in 1950, there were twice as many white people in prison as black. Today, there are more black people than white in prison. We're not saying there is no discrimination or racial profiling today, but there is less than there was in 1950. These are not political criminals. These are people selling drugs, stealing, or shooting their buddies over trivia.
"Blaming white people can be a way for some black people to feel better about themselves, but it doesn't pay the electric bills. There are more doors of opportunity open for black people today than ever before in the history of America."
The importance of male authority figures
"A house without a father is a challenge. A neighborhood without fathers is a catastrophe, and that's just about what we have today.
"There is one statistic that captures the bleakness. In 1950, five out of every six black children were born into a two-parent home. Today, the number is less than two out of six. There are ... whole blocks without responsible males to watch out for wayward boys.
"In 1950, we still feared our parents and respected them. ... We and the others in our generation weren't saints. ... We were filled with piss and vinegar like many teenaged boys - white, black and otherwise. ... We knew that if one of us got a girl pregnant, not only would she have to go visit that famous 'aunt in South Carolina' but young Romeo would have to go, too. ... And there was something else we understood: that girl likely had a daddy in the home. And he'd be prepared to wipe that grin off Romeo's face permanently. This was what parenting was about. It wasn't always pretty, but it could be pretty effective."
Beating the culture of victimhood
"Certain people tell us that we are picking on the poor. Many of those who accuse us are scholars and intellectuals, upset that we are not blaming everything on white people as they do. Well, blaming only the system keeps certain black people in the limelight, but it also keeps the black poor wallowing in victimhood.
"When the boys get suspended or expelled - admit it, parents - there is usually a good reason. The problem is that not all of us will admit it. Our boy gets sent home and what do we do? We get angry at the teacher or the principal or the school board. We all a parasite lawyer like those we see on T.V. 'No, Mrs. Jones, it's not their fault! How dare they punish little Jovon! Let's sue!'"
"Those who defend gangsta rap claim there is no harm in profanity, no harm in vulgarizing women, no harm in dropping out of school, no harm in blaming the system for the disaster they have made of their own lives. They don't fight the mess that they have inherited. They glory in it. ... This so-called culture promotes the moral breakdown of the family. It deliberately influences women to become pregnant before they have finished their education and influences men to shuck their responsibility when this happens.
"Gangsta rap makes our young people tough, but no so tough that they can walk through prison walls. It can jazz them about sex, but it can't make them good fathers. No matter how often or how publicly they grab their crotches, crotch grabbing isn't even going to get them a bus ride downtown."
"... Martin and Malcolm and Medgar Evers must be turning over in their graves. They put their lives on the line. Why? So our young people can pick up where white people left off and debase themselves instead of being debased. Talk about lowering self-esteem."
Government can only do so much
"... We have to take our neighborhoods back. We have to go in there and do it ourselves. We saw what happened in New Orleans when people waited for the government to help. "Governments" are things. Governments don't care. People care."