Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Race Resurfaces ; NAACP, Cosby Controversies Play Useful Role

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Race Resurfaces ; NAACP, Cosby Controversies Play Useful Role

Article excerpt

One of the side effects of a nation concerned with just a few big issues, is that other important matters get scant attention.

It's taken historic milestones like the 50th anniversary of Brown v. the Board of Education in May to help bring one of America's most fundamental challenges - race - back into public debate.

This week, as Iraq and the intelligence failures that led to that war continued to dominate the news, issues of vital significance to African-Americans - and thus to all Americans - again gained a foothold. The path to prominence was via the controversy surrounding the annual meeting of the NAACP, the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization.

There's nothing like controversy to generate headlines, and the one percolating at this meeting was who "dissed" whom.

The NAACP fumed that President Bush refused to address their gathering. The White House cited a scheduling conflict, but the president also admitted he didn't like the names that group had called him. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry took advantage of the dispute by telling the conference Thursday that if he is president, he will represent "all of the people" - a clear jab at his opponent.

Bill Cosby holds up a mirror

But the most anticipated speaker this week was comedian Bill Cosby. While he tickled the audience's funny bone on Tuesday, for two months he's set off a serious discussion among America's African- Americans with his no-holds-barred criticisms of poor blacks.

In May, he lit into lower-income black parents, blaming them for their kids' dropout rate, teen pregnancy, incomprehensible and foul English, and general lack of respect.

"I'm talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange [prison] suit," he said. "Where were you when he was 18 and how come you didn't know he had a pistol?" The man from the projects with a PhD in education went on to rant about the way some poor blacks talk. "I can't even talk the way these people talk - 'why you ain't,' 'where you is?' .... I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk, and then I heard the father talk."

Mr. …

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