Poor blacks betray rights pioneers, says Cosby

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The Independent US

Scholars of race issues in the United States have a new text to ponder, from Bill Cosby, arguably the country's most beloved black entertainer and an icon of the African-American community. Its message was harsh: Poor black people - or some of them - are "knuckleheads" who mangle the English language.

Scholars of race issues in the United States have a new text to ponder, from Bill Cosby, arguably the country's most beloved black entertainer and an icon of the African-American community. Its message was harsh: Poor black people - or some of them - are "knuckleheads" who mangle the English language.

Two weeks ago, Mr Cosby criticised the black community in a speech in Washington DC to mark the 50th anniversary of Brown v The Board of Education, the court ruling that led to the desegregation of schools.

He said that after all the sacrifices earlier generations made to win racial equality in America, there were blacks today, in the poorer class, who let those pioneers down. "The lower economic people are not holding up their end of the deal," he said. "These people marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around.

"I can't even talk the way these people talk, 'Why you ain't', 'Where you is'," Mr Cosby said. "Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth."

Critics accused Mr Cosby of being elitist or, worse, handing more ammunition to right-wing conservative whites to batter the black community. Mr Cosby was not repentant. "I feel I can no longer remain silent," he said. "If I have to make a choice between keeping quiet so conservative media does not speak negatively, or ringing the bell to galvanise those who want change in the lower economic community, I choose to be a bell-ringer."

Clarence Page, a black columnist for the Chicago Tribute, wrote: "Had Bill Cosby chosen milder, more genteel language for his recent controversial critique of bad habits that keep poor black folks poor, we wouldn't still be talking about it."

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