Some Blacks Find Nuggets Of Truth in Cosby's Speech
"There's this sort of subculture battle that needs to take place, and I think that's what Bill Cosby was getting at."
Others assailed Cosby as out of touch with the realities of African American life, especially some of the negative consequences of the Brown decision.
"That decision resulted in total cultural and historical surrender," the Rev. Willie Wilson, pastor of Southeast Washington's Union Temple Baptist Church, said as he finished a meeting yesterday with clergy and city officials on a plan to curb youth violence.
"We gave up many of the things that kept us together as a people. We walked away from our own hospitals, we walked away from our own banks, we walked away from thousands of businesses because embedded in our minds was that all that was black was inherently inferior."
Younger blacks also have issues with Cosby, who derided "people with their hats on backwards, pants down around the crack."
Ciara Banks, 16, a junior at Ballou Senior High School in Southeast Washington, said she conforms to some of that description but still maintains a 3.25 grade point average while playing basketball, softball and track.
"You can't always judge someone because of how they dress," Banks said. "I wear my hat backwards but I maintain my grade point average all year."
Cosby said in an interview after his speech that he was motivated to say something after listening to D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, who called for better parenting. Ramsey, who attended a community vigil Monday night for the 12-year-old girl who was wounded by a stray bullet while sitting on her front porch in the Petworth neighborhood of Northwest Washington, said yesterday that he had no qualms about the debate he has ignited.
"People yell about us enforcing the curfew, but the real issue is, why don't you know where your child is," Ramsey said. "You can't rid all of the social ills with parenting. Government services have to be coordinated with families who are in need."
Ramsey said that he applauded the effort to provide more jobs to youths this summer but that some teenagers need more than a paycheck. "Unfortunately, some are almost unemployable because they don't have interpersonal and social skills to interact with others," he said.
Ramsey did point to one recent bright spot: a graduation exercise he attended for 14 youths who had been arrested for stealing cars. He said that 11 of the 14 youth offenders completed the program and that their lives have totally changed because they learned about taking responsibility for their actions.
"I was so happy," he said. "This was a small victory that shows that it is not too late for someone to turn their life around."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company