Pound Cake speech

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The Pound Cake speech was given by Bill Cosby in May 2004 during an NAACP awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.[1] In it, Cosby was highly critical of members of subsets of the black community in the United States. He criticized the use of African American Vernacular English, the prevalence of single-parent families, the emphasis on frivolous and conspicuous consumption at the expense of necessities, lack of responsibility, and other behaviors.

The speech is often referred to as the "Pound Cake" speech because of the following lines, referencing a particular dessert, pound cake, for comedic effect, while contrasting common criminals with political activists who risked incarceration during the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s:

But these people, the ones up here in the balcony fought so hard. Looking at the incarcerated, these are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake! And then we all run out and are outraged, 'The cops shouldn't have shot him.' What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand? I wanted a piece of pound cake just as bad as anybody else, and I looked at it and I had no money. And something called parenting said, 'If you get caught with it you’re going to embarrass your mother.' Not 'You're going to get your butt kicked.' No. 'You're going to embarrass your family.'

In the speech, Cosby says that African Americans should no longer blame discrimination, segregation, governmental institutions, or others for higher unemployment rates among Blacks or the racial achievement gap; rather, they have their own culture of poverty to blame. [2]

In the same speech he had praise for the efforts of the Nation of Islam in dealing with crime in the cities, saying "When you want to clear your neighborhood out, first thing you do is go get the Black Muslims, bean pies and all. And your neighborhood is then clear." After that statement, he pointed out the police's inability to resolve the crime problem, saying, "The police can't do it." He then had critical remarks for Black Christians' seeming inability to create positive social change for the urban population he was referring to, saying, "I'm telling you Christians, what's wrong with you? Why can't you hit the streets? Why can't you clean it out yourselves?"

Criticism[edit]

Sociologist Michael Eric Dyson criticized Cosby in his book Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?, published in 2005. Dyson said that Cosby built up years of mainstream credibility by ignoring race in his comedy routines and in his television programs, but that Cosby has now chosen to address the issues of race by chastising poor Blacks rather than by defending them. Dyson says that, in blaming low income Blacks for not taking personal responsibility, Cosby is ignoring "white society's responsibility in creating the problems he wants the poor to fix on their own."[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Coates, Ta-Nehisi (May 2008). "'This Is How We Lost to the White Man': The audacity of Bill Cosby's black conservatism". The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved February 24, 2011. 
  2. ^ Alonso, Gaston; Anderson, Noel; Su, Celina (2009). Our schools suck: students talk back to a segregated nation on the failures of urban education. NYU Press. p. 33. ISBN 0-8147-8308-2. 
  3. ^ B.P. (Summer 2006). "Book Review: Is Bill Cosby Right?". Harvard Educational Review. 

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