Thursday, October 26, 2006

Juan and The Coz

Abigail Thernstrom, Harvard professor, author, and member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, finds much to admire in the message of Bill Cosby and Juan Williams:

Williams is a senior correspondent for NPR and a strong liberal voice on Fox News. And yet he’s poured his heart and soul into delivering a heroic message that is deeply at odds with dug-in liberal orthodoxy. (Or rather, with the orthodoxy of the chattering classes; ordinary black folks are another story.) As Williams himself has said, “You become some sort of leper if you don’t lock-step your opinions in line with white liberals. They run the programming of CBS, NBC, and ABC, and they don’t want you to rock the boat of received opinion.”

Enough is a brave and wonderful book. It is also rather unusual; in effect, Bill Cosby is the co-author. I cannot think of another work quite like it. Williams is Cosby’s translator. As he acknowledges, his aim is to explain and defend The Cos, who gives speeches but does not write. Cosby is a beloved actor and comedian. But on May 17, 2004, in a speech to a glittering black-tie crowd celebrating the Golden Anniversary of Brown v. Board, he wasn’t funny and endearing. He delivered remarks from which his old friends in the civil-rights community (who have been substantial beneficiaries of his philanthropic largesse) have yet to recover.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “the lower-economic and lower-middle-economic people are not holding their end in this deal” — the deal being rights, accompanied by responsibility. Too many young men are dropping out of school, fathering children from whom they “run away,” and populating prisons. “We cannot blame white people,” he went on; the problem is the underclass culture. “Everybody knows it’s important to speak English except these knuckleheads. . . . These people are fighting hard to be ignorant.”

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