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Enough: the phony leaders, Dead-End Movements, and culture of failure that are undermining black America--and what we can do about it.

ENOUGH: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It


On May 17, 2004, 3,000 of black America's elite gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka--the crowning moment of the mid-century African-American struggle for racial equality. The entertainment for the anniversary gala was comedian Bill Cosby. However, instead of making his audience laugh, Cosby delivered a stinging criticism of black leaders who refuse to acknowledge the cause of problems within their communities. Poor parenting and the present black culture have prevented too many black children from "throwing off the veil of ignorance" rooted in problems of poverty, disproportionate fatherlessness, bad schools, high rates of unemployment, and lives wasted in jail. Cosby accused black leaders of forgetting the history of black activists who understood hope for progress depended on self-help, education, and decisive action. Cosby's speech set the 21st-century civil rights agenda: the black elite must deal with the crises of children without two parents, kids failing in school, and absurdly high rates of crime in black communities.

Although Cosby's speech drew an immediate standing ovation, it did not take long for black critics to call Cosby an amateur social critic who maligned poor black people without understanding their problems. One of the very few influential blacks publicly to defend Cosby, Juan Williams--senior correspondent for National Public Radio, political analyst for Fox News Channel, panelist on "Fox News Sunday," White House correspondent for The Washington Post, and author of several books--believes Cosby's speech correctly challenges black leaders.

Cosby and Williams believe poor black people have suffered most from a lack of solid leaders to articulate what it takes to get ahead: strong families, education, and hard work. Not only have black leaders forgotten the common goal of black self-reliance and power, but they have substituted a "tired rant" about what white people have not done, and this rant puts black people in the role of hapless victims. Many black leaders have "created an industry" by charging racism. The culture of accepting corruption and excusing wrongdoing as "the way we survive" has undermined the message of black ability and self-reliance. Too many black leaders have little to do with "blood of martyrs" and more to do with "blood money."

The "Dead-End Movement," the black mainstream leaders' number-one agenda item, emphasizes reparations, "a divisive, dead-end idea" Because no former slaves exist, advocates of reparations have to make today's blacks into "victims of slavery" Black leadership should put aside reparations to begin a movement to bring big-city schools out of their present crisis. Cosby and Williams consider education to be the most important goal for young black people. In today's society, too many young blacks do not attend school regularly, drop out, and openly demean black students who achieve academic excellence. Too many parents accept excuses instead of demanding top grades. Low graduation rates, worthless high school diplomas, and low scores on basic skills create a "moral threat to the race" Cosby and Williams direct their "fire" against negligent black parents.

Williams points out that very few leading black voices from the pulpit or on the political stage encourage black people to take personal responsibility for the "exorbitant" amount of crime committed by black people against black people. Williams says, "to be blunt," black criminals represent a regressive force that gives credence to the racist stereotype of young black men as "marauding, jobless thugs." In many black neighborhoods, drug abuse, gang wars, and the solicitation of young people to carry and sell drugs have become everyday business--a "cancer" killing "the moral center of black America."

In "Beatdown," one of the most interesting chapters, Williams explains that the "genius" of blacks in the U.S. includes the ability to make something out of nothing; for example, black musicians with little musical education and few instruments created new sounds in gospel, blues, and jazz using their voices, hands, and feet. Although rap and its hip-hop beat follow in this tradition, they emphasize violence and degrade women in the worst ways. The defense of gangsta rap was about "keepin' it real, with violence, murder, and self-hatred marketed as true blackness"

Rap, which has become the most popular genre of music in this country, exists as an industry based on silence from black leaders in the face of self-hate, racism, violence, and abuse of women. Without that silence, white corporate captains, and their "hired black faces," could not survive. Rappers accuse critics of "acting white" and dismiss them as prudes or censors. Cosby and Williams condemn rap; Williams calls it a "vile cesspool," and the magazine Essence has conceded that much of rap has become pornographic. Rap's "poisonous images" are "mainlined" directly into the minds of black children, and have replaced values and models of success once supplied by parents and civil rights leaders. Williams believes young blacks have ignored an unprecedented opportunity to rise up and establish themselves through education and discipline; instead, they follow rap's "wisdom"--a "paen to the virtue of being a mindless, vacant soul intent on short-term gratification."

Courageously identifying what is wrong with black America, Williams pays tribute to Cosby throughout his book. Cosby already has paid a price for giving his speech, and undoubtedly Williams will pay as well. Cosby has been accused of doing nothing for young black people except to tell others what they should do. However, Williams points out that Cosby has raised millions of dollars with benefit performances from which all money goes to nonprofits and civil rights groups. Cosby also has given millions to black colleges such as Fisk University, Shaw, Florida A&M, Howard, and Central State universities in Arkansas, Ohio, and Oklahoma; in 1988, Cosby and his wife gave $20,000,000 to Spelman College. Ebony magazine calls Cosby and his wife the "first Family of Philanthropy."

Cosby and Williams have "told it like it is"--criticism of black parents for not parenting and black leaders for not leading. Williams has written a strong, revealing, and well-documented book. However, the solution seems too simplistic--just telling black children, parents, and leaders what they should do seems inadequate. However, it may be the only solution. More blacks should listen to Cosby and Williams, and black leaders must respond to the challenge to reinvigorate the once-productive civil rights movement.

Williams calls Cosby's speech "a love song to black America, a gift of truth" With Enough, Williams has created another such gift. The book concludes with the idea that it now is up to poor people, black people, and Americans who care about race and poverty to begin an antipoverty program by "accepting the riches of Cosby's gift."


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Title Annotation:What's New?
Author:Fischer, Raymond L.
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2007
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