Cosby Revisited

Clarence Page has some very interesting thoughts on the Bill Cosby’s controversial remarks earlier in the week. The whole piece is worth a read but the close particularly struck me:

Cosby’s view, by contrast, offers a side of black life that seldom is seen on the news, a self-reliance liberalism. Right-wing ideologues pretend that self-reliance liberalism does not exist. But most successful African-Americans are intimately familiar with it. The message, as Cosby might say, is simple: Those of us who have made it need to help those who have not, but poor black folks need to “hold up their end in this deal,” too.

Cosby was saying the same thing backstage when I interviewed him during my college days. It was 1968, but he didn’t want to talk about black power, Black Panthers or cultural revolutions. He wanted to complain about why so many young blacks of my generation were wasting the great opportunities that hard-won civil rights victories had brought.

In those politically polarized times, I was disappointed by his traditionalist attitude. But I appreciate its wisdom today with new eyes, the eyes of a parent.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. “Self-reliance liberalism” sounds a lot like conservatism to me.

  2. Bob M says:

    Yes, MBB–and so who does he mean by “Right-wing ideologues”? And what is “Right-wing ideologues pretend that self-reliance liberalism does not exist” supposed to mean? That such an attitude cannot exist? Is it not the case that it can exist, that some people have it but many do not?

  3. DONTRE' KING says:

    I agree with Bill Cosby.It’s not about black or white,It’s about responsibility and being accountable for your action.I come from poverty,my Mother didn’t not anything but she instill in use morals,self respect,respect,vaules.Those words are something money can’t buy.The bottom line is we as a race (black race) or as human being we need to be more responsible and don’t expected for the school system or any other system to help raise your kids.You will be waiting a life time and your kid will be losing.Take matter in to your own hand.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Bill’s remarks. It is time we took care of ourselves. We cannot rely or expect to be taken care of by others and he is a perfect example…yes, good luck has plays into a lot, but the rest is up to yourself…you want in or want out? I’d rather be in and Mr. Cosby is just letting us know that we can be, if we do desired to be.

  5. Doralee says:

    Mr. Cosby is correct. If you want to have children in this world, then it’s up to you and you alone to take care of them and prepare them for a decent future. We can all have that. It takes going to school and getting a good education and that’s about it..the rest usually falls into place. We have to stop blaming others for the lack of this and the lack of that…it’s all possible. Yes, he may have come on too strong for some of us, but it’s harder hearing the truth because it makes us have to act upon it. My kudos to Mr. Cosby for being so candid and forthright. He’s a prime example (and no one knows better than he) of what picking yourself up and “doing” is all about.