To the two people named in the title, I seek your forgiveness in advance for making your public orations the catalyst for this entry. But on second thought, I’m 100% certain that this is what you wanted to do anyway. To the rest of society, forgive me for insinuating that the two figures above are the faces of this debate and for drawing you in on an article under false pretenses. This article is not about Bill Cosby or a highly decorated author and scholar of the Black community. But the truth of the matter is, it takes people with high platforms discussing important issues for people to pay attention.
So what are the causes for the ills of Black America, black parents and culture or societal policies and failings? (In case you are unfamiliar with what has transpired in the last few years, I’ll clue you in. Dr. Bill Cosby has been going on a crusade over the past four years, blasting black parents for their lack of accountability and oversight over their children’s behavior, among other things. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson responded with a detailed tome, Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has The Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind, in which he takes umbrage at Cosby’s views, calling them the elitist views of the “Afristocracy,” among other things. Since then (2005), there has been much back-and-forth pontification and disputations about the validity of each viewpoint.
The reason that this is brought back to you now is because of an entry I read in the newest Ebony magazine. It was the Two Sides feature, which contains two opposite viewpoints on prominent issues. The issue: “Is Bill Cosby’s Personal Responsibility Message Unfair To Poor Blacks?” Dyson made a byline reappearance as the dissenting voice to the views that Bill Cosby brought to the forefront. John McWhorter, columnist for New York Sun, was the voice of “Bill Cosby’s reason”. After spending about four minutes putting aside my personal views on the matter (impossible task I know), I read both views.
So hear me out.
When I think about the African entrepreneurs and educators and engineers who come to this country and make a supreme living for themselves, it becomes obvious to me that personal accountability and responsibility trumps any barrier that society can impose on a human being. For me that’s the proverbial tiebreaker. Industry is the common denominator of all prosperous people. Work ethic doesn’t guarantee success, but without it you don’t stand a chance. Many people of darker hues come into this country and make something better for their families by instilling in their children qualities that money isn’t necessary for. The Hebrews, Italians, Nigerians and Russians that come to America share the qualities that many indigenous black people miss: stable family structure and an overemphasis on education, which are all traits that Cosby espouse in his rhetoric.
The answer to the “what’s the cause for the ills of Black America?” is tangential to the big picture. The real question is, “What will cause the ills of Black America to be remedied”? This is a very broad question, so let’s get more specific: What are the reasons that Black America remain on the bottom of the totem pole in economics and perception? The answer to that question provides the start towards a rehabilitation of a fractured race base, a group of young people that sees hope in only sports, drug commerce and music. If there wasn’t any other group of people looking like us succeeding, then a lamentation of society’s failings may be validated. The Nigerian philosophy of life: As long as God has given you strength and power to live, you have to contribute to society as much as you can. It’s no secret why Nigerians are among the highest educated ethnic groups in the nation.
The Nigerian method provides hope; the victimization method causes despair.
The Nigerian method eliminates nihilism; the finger pointing eliminates progress.
The Nigerian method sets the course for descendants’ greatness; the dependency attitude sets descendants in a rut (see the generations of black people still dependent on welfare).
Nigerians aren’t perfect, but they provide a perfect example. Their value system is based on education and the accumulation of wealth. Our value system is based more on gaudy displays and the accumulation of riches. The difference is clear.