My Dad—who neither had a Ph.D. nor played basketball at Auburn—told me this: “Son, it’s better to keep your mouth shut and be considered a fool than to open it and let everyone know you’re one.”
Bill Cosby and Charles Barkely—is this the new face of leadership in black America? If it is, God help us. Booker T. Washington must be turning over in his grave.
I’ve got so little respect for any of the work that Bill Cosby has ever done that I find it difficult to muster enough passion to write about his cruel comments. (I’m not going to repeat what Bill said, at least not in this post.) Maybe I’ll feel differently in a week or so.
But you Charles, on the other hand, are someone I’ve respected. That is, until the Monday episode of PTI (Pardon the Interruption—a thirty minute sports show on ESPN hosted by Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon). You played the game with passion and skill. I followed you closely in Philadelphia and Phoenix. You were starting to grow on me as an analyst—that is, until I saw the segment on PTI.
Here, Charles, is a recap of what you said: (If you don’t believe me, I’ll quote Shaq...’watch the tape.’
“I love and Bill [Cosby] and respect him...it is time to stop blaming white people and its time for all these black guys to stop having all these kids out of wedlock and being bad fathers...’
He went on to say:
“ I hope more black leaders come out and say, Bill was one hundred percent right....our parents have done a terrible job-- especially black fathers.”
I can understand why you support an elitist like Cosby. He probably mentored you during your early career in Philly. Hey, the guy did play a doctor on television. (For the record, I never liked and rarely watched “The Cosby Show” —maybe because it was such a departure from my South Central L.A. upbringing, or maybe it was too Ozzie and Harriet for me…I knew no blacks who lived like the Huxtables, acted like Huxtables, or wanted to be like the Huxtables. I’m sure there were some,it’s just that they didn’t choose to associate with people like me.)
Charles, what’s up with the attack on black fathers? Analysts are given to broad generalizations, but to impugn all black fathers is more than glib, stream-of-consciousness commentary, it’s intellectually negligent.
Let’s consider this: Kids being raised apart from the everyday contact with their Dad is more than a racial problem, it’s a societal issue. I’ve coached high school boys and girls—of many different races and ethnicities—and you can trust me on this, to define it singularly along racial lines shows that you are; a.) woefully uninformed or; b.) seeking to promote some other agenda.
Why impugn black fathers? Is it because you know you can escape unscathed while spouting this nonsense? Is it because you are ‘riding Cosby’s jock,’ trying to gain tacit support for his narrow-minded elitist view of the world? C’mon Charles, you tell me-- I’m a black father who reared his son as a single Dad…I deserve, at the very least, a response.)
But let us, for one moment, go one-on-one with your thinking. Let’s say that what your comments-- black fathers are a lazy shiftless lot who are ‘just making kids out of wedlock' is a true statement.
The qualitative response, to me, is not to stand on your lofty “TNT Basketball Analyst-ex NBA Star- Rich-Black-Man” perch and thrown stones, but instead to actively make a difference in the lives of the kids who are without Dads.
Since the issue is large enough for you to throw verbal stones, how about taking the higher road and doing something about it?
But that raises another issue, doesn’t it? Tee Time. How is there enough time to do anything other than vomit your basketball opinions on TNT audiences and get in eighteen holes with Eldrich?
Is that all you can do, Charles? Complain and throw verbal stones at those who don’t deserve it. That is the way of the Black Elitist: “Look at me, I did it. I’m rich. Why can’t you do it? I know it’s because you’re lazy and shiftless and you want to blame the white man and the system.”
The arguments of ‘rising tide lifts all boats” and “bootstrap capitalism” are fairy tales, Charles. I know you missed a lot of events in the real world during the 1980’s playing in the NBA and all, but income and salaries for working class, blue collar folks (both black and white) dropped at a startling rate. It’s is only for the wealthy and ‘super wealthy’ that things got better. (But, as you like to remind us, you’re rich…and, by definition, unlike the ‘those people’ that your boy Cos’ was talking about.)
Surely, you’re savvy enough to realize that your comments (and Cosby’s) are sound bite fodder for the bigots among us. Cosby—and now you—have set the cause of race relations back a full decade. And, moreover, you dishonor the hard working black men who are rearing their kids. It’s like labeling every guy with a beard, a terrorist…or, every guy in a pick-up truck, a budding klansman.
It’s dangerous, Charles, to take ones personal experiences and project them as absolutes on a larger mosaic known as the human experience. This is where circumspection is required. You, clearly, are affected by the loss of relationship with your father. Your hurt and pain came was unmistakable during the interview. Although I’ve got empathy for you (My Dad died on October 18, 1966…I was in third grade), that is not the reality of every black father/son relationship. It may be your reality, but, clearly, it is not a statement to be declared as truth from a lofty perch like yours.
It is, quite simply, an irresponsible choice of words, clearly lacking in both judgement and insight.
You made such a big deal about parents being a role model. I encourage you to be reminded of the words from Hillary Rodham Clinton, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
How many coaches, teachers, uncles, cousins, old men on the corner, pastors, youth ministers, some guy’s Dad who lives up the street had a positive influence on you?
I’ve been around this game a lot of years and no one becomes a professional basketball player on his or her own. I often tell the kids I coach that you only have one “Father,” but you can never had enough “Dads” in your life.
And Charles, without those who supported you, do you know where you’d be? Allow me to present a scenario: You’d be another 285-pound guy playing three-on-three at the rec. center who can’t shoot the ball. (Your shooting on Kenny’s Court is an embarrassment to the game. I’ll make more shots that you-- any day...anytime-- yes, I am challenging you to a shoot-out!)
It’s easy to throw rocks and condemn others. The real challenge is to build them up, isn’t it? Tearing down the less fortunate is always the tactic of the black elitist. The black elitists are “oh-so-willing” to cast disenfranchised blacks onto the trash heap—why, you ask? Because helping them requires sacrifice and it’s easier to simply condemn.
I want to leave you with the words of an honrable man, a Texan, and the thirty-fifth President of these United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson.
For Negro poverty is not white poverty. Many of its causes and many of its cures are the same. But there are differences-deep, corrosive, obstinate differences--radiating painful roots into the community, and into the family, and the nature of the individual.
These differences are not racial differences. They are solely and simply the consequence of ancient brutality, past injustice, and present prejudice. They are anguishing to observe. For the Negro they are a constant reminder of oppression. For the white they are a constant reminder of guilt. But they must be faced and they must be dealt with and they must be overcome, if we are ever to reach the time when the only difference between Negroes and whites is the color of their skin.
Nor can we find a complete answer in the experience of other American minorities. They made a valiant and a largely successful effort to emerge from poverty and prejudice.
The Negro, like these others, will have to rely mostly upon his own efforts. But he just can not do it alone. For they did not have the heritage of centuries to overcome, and they did not have a cultural tradition which had been twisted and battered by endless years of hatred and hopelessness, nor were they excluded--these others--because of race or color--a feeling whose dark intensity is matched by no other prejudice in our society.
Nor can these differences be understood as isolated infirmities. They are a seamless web. They cause each other. They result from each other. They reinforce each other.