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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Enough

Juan Williams came to speak to my history teacher group yesterday about his biography of Thurgood Marshall. His anecdotes contrasting the middle class frat boy that Marshall was in college and the determined fighter for civil rights that Marshall became were fascinating. However, Williams is concerned that civil rights leaders like Marshall who battled death threats and a bigoted foe determined to keep blacks in a subordinate position that denied them political, economic and social rights would be appalled at what has happened to so many in the many in the black community today.

Williams has taken on a different type of battle with his new book that will come out on Tuesday. The title tells you of Williams' new struggle for black America: Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It. From what Williams told us about his goals in writing this book, he's taken on a huge task. He was inspired by the speech that Bill Cosby gave on the anniversary of the Brown v. Board decision. You can listen to excerpts from that speech here and read the transcript. The introduction gives you an idea of what is so horrifying Cosby and Williams.
Ladies and gentlemen, I really have to ask you to seriously consider what you’ve heard, and now this is the end of the evening so to speak. I heard a prize fight manager say to his fellow who was losing badly, “David, listen to me. It’s not what’s he’s doing to you. It’s what you’re not doing."

Ladies and gentlemen, these people set -- they opened the doors, they gave us the right, and today, ladies and gentlemen, in our cities and public schools we have 50% drop out. In our own neighborhood, we have men in prison. No longer is a person embarrassed because they’re pregnant without a husband. No longer is a boy considered an embarrassment if he tries to run away from being the father of the unmarried child.

Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic and lower middle economic people are not holding their end in this deal. In the neighborhood that most of us grew up in, parenting is not going on. In the old days, you couldn’t hooky school because every drawn shade was an eye. And before your mother got off the bus and to the house, she knew exactly where you had gone, who had gone into the house, and where you got on whatever you had one and where you got it from. Parents don’t know that today.

I’m talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was two? Where were you when he was twelve? Where were you when he was eighteen, and how come you don’t know he had a pistol? And where is his father, and why don’t you know where he is? And why doesn’t the father show up to talk to this boy?
Williams has picked up the baton in his new book and, boy, has he decided to open the floodgates by blaming black leaders today and black families themselves for the terrible statistics on the black drop out rate, the gaps between black and white students on tests, as well as the incarceration rate for young black men. He contrasts the brave fighters for black civil rights from Frederick Douglass to Booker T. Washington to Marcus Garvey to Martin Luther King who had a message of self-reliance and were fighting to give blacks an equal place at the starting gates. But now, Williams argues that a culture that derides hard work in school as "acting white" typifies the skewed mindset that is creating those depressing statistics. Here is the review from Amazon of his book,
Williams starts with the question, "Why are so many black Americans, people born inside the gates of American opportunity, still living as if they were locked out from all America has to offer?" His answers include the debacle of big-city politics under self-serving black politicians; reparations as "a divisive dead-end idea"; the parlous state of city schools "under the alliance between the civil rights leaders and the teachers' unions"; and the transformation of rap from "its willingness to confront establishment and stereotypes" to "America's late-night masturbatory fantasy." A sense of the erosion of "the high moral standing of civil rights" underlies Cosby's anguish and Williams's anger.
Whew! Williams isn't pulling punches. And I expect he'll take a lot of hits from the black leaders who are exposed in his book. In fact, I hope that there is a lot of heat about this book so that more and more people hear about his message. For Williams is not only sounding the alarm, he is also prescribing what has to happen to change. And it's a simple message to young people. The path to a more successful life is clear: stay in school. Even if it's a crummy school, stay in and graduate. Get a job and keep it, no matter how low it seems to you. And wait until you're married to have children. In fact, wait until your twenties to have children. Work first and make sure you can afford a child. Stop blaming whites for your problems and practice some of that self-reliance that previous fighters for rights believed in.

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