I finally got around to reading the transcript of Dr. Bill Cosby’s remarks in commemoration of Brown vs. the Board of Topeka Education to see what the brouhaha was all about. I understand that a lot of my white acquaintances want me to co-sign what he said, having heard snippets of his comments, but with all due respect, what these were were the equivalent of a barbershop conversation. A family conversation where some dirty laundry gets aired in order to possibly work toward a solution. So that’s the context in which I make my comments.

Few people call out the problems. Teenage pregnancy, families without fathers, drugs, and the chasing of materialism without any thought to life in the long term. These are all symptoms of the true state of despair in which too many people live.

I feel like an old man complaining about today’s youth. Maybe I’m mis-remembering the past, but it seems to me that there was a time when black folks lived together in community. That we have someone lost part of our cultural ethic, having gone from marching in order to secure equal education to dropping out of school in record rates and playing “gangsta”.

Too many of us have bought into the lie that we have no choice, that there’s no point to dream, that no one cares. We’ve bought the lie of low expectations. It is intellectually easy to blame racism and the actions of “some” people within the community. Folks may have their own ideas about what “some” may be code for, particularly as an attack on the poor. However, I believe that leaving the conversation behind, not having it at all, or forgetting about the poor is truly attacking them. It may be easier to kill the messenger because that’s sure beats wrestling with the actual problems.

The conversations may be hard; even still, the solutions are easier said than done. But the conversations need to be had. Often and loudly because how we treat the poor defines who we are as a culture and as a country.

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