Monday, August 21, 2006

Juan Williams joins The Cosby Show ...

It's hard not to poke a little fun at NPR Correspondent and Fox News Analyst Juan Williams latest piece in the Washington Post titled "Banish the Bling" - the title draws you in with a chuckle. But, the topic is serious enough to warrant its worth in social commentary, and Williams - as of late - has become the latest cast member of Bill Cosby's diatribe.

The argument, banishing the "bling" generation, can seem more generational than polemic at times. It makes a strong point here:

Where is the civil rights groundswell on behalf of stronger marriages that will allow more children to grow up in two-parent families and have a better chance of staying out of poverty? Where are the marches demanding good schools for those children -- and the strong cultural reinforcement for high academic achievement (instead of the charge that minority students who get good grades are "acting white")? Where are the exhortations for children to reject the self-defeating stereotypes that reduce black people to violent, oversexed "gangstas," minstrel show comedians and mindless athletes?

First: we're not certain these are civil rights issues. And, two: it's hard to look at one's self in the mirror and make a bruising critique of one's progress ... or lack thereof.

Williams' rant is so heated, we can see the spit. He goes on:

In order to face this century's class battles, young minds need the self-confidence that comes from examples of inspiring historical personalities, such as a black woman born into slavery who made herself a national leader, Sojourner Truth, or a black man living under rank segregation, A. Philip Randolph, who defied corporate power to break segregation in organized labor. Frederick Douglass had to teach himself how to read before standing up to defeat slavery. These examples should empower young people to believe in themselves and to organize across racial lines and build institutions with a solid footing in the nation's political and economic power. This is real black culture, and it is based on strong families creating determined, self-reliant young people.

This seems slightly short - not saying we completely disagree. But, it's got to be more than this. Yes, we do need to revisit, remember and cherish our past - but, sometimes we can overdo that at the expense of alienating our youth or losing the right connection with them. Williams places too much faith in a past that youth of today are far removed from. Empowerment will need to come from practical tools - an all-out community assault on dysfunctional school systems, mandatory financial literacy, and a needed lesson in civics is one other start. He's right, however: we must continue to have these very brutal conversations about ourselves.