In May of 2004 after receiving an award during a celebration commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board, Bill Cosby made several controversial remarks criticizing Black youth. During his (in)famous “Poundcake” speech, Cosby called out African Americans who put higher priorities on sports, fashion, and “acting hard” than on education, self-respect, and self-improvement. Let me refresh your memory:
…the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids – $500 sneakers for what? And won’t spend $200 for Hooked on Phonics… They’re standing on the corner and they can’t speak English. I can’t even talk the way these people talk: ‘Why you ain’t,’ ‘Where you is’… Everybody knows it’s important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can’t be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!
These are not political criminals, these are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake and then we run out and we are outraged, (saying) ‘The cops shouldn’t have shot him.’ What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?
Cosby went on to plea for African American families to educate their children on the many different aspects of American culture. As I’m sure you can imagine, the backlash was harsh. Cosby drew criticism from several of the national scholars, artists and Blackademics, including Michael Eric Dyson who, in the aftermath of the outrageous speech, released his bestselling book; Is Bill Cosby Right, or has the Black Middle Class Lost it’s Mind? Well, the Cos is at it again. In a clear response to Dyson’s book, Cosby released a new book, outlining his critiques of the Black community, as well as strategies for overcoming adversity. The book is called Come on People: On the Path From Victims to Victors. So are we playing victim here? Is there some credence to Cosby’s claim that we need to pick up and do better? Or has Dyson’s prediction that the black middle class has “lost it’s mind” come to fruition.