We have already seen a “knee jerk” reaction that went viral over the US Department of Education’s lesson for our children to “help the president” and Demi Moore’s video telling them to “pledge allegiance to Obama.” No one expected such a fire storm. Now, a beloved celebrity and admired educator has weighed in on "racist" Americans. I surely hope and pray that the comments from Bill Cosby will not stir up a similar overboard reaction on the other side. He is well-respected, loved and admired, but I respectfully disagree with him on several fronts.
These are his words as printed in his Facebook notes, followed by my reply to Professor Cosby:
I agree with President Carter that racism is playing a role in recent outbursts against President Obama. During President Obama’s speech on the status of health care reform, some members of congress engaged in a public display of disrespect. While one Representative hurled the now infamous “you lie” insult at the President, others made their lack of interest known by exhibiting rude behavior such as deliberately yawning and sending text messages.
Health care reform is the most important domestic issue facing America today. Disease does not discriminate. African American, White, Asian, Latino, Republican, Democrat, no one in America is immune. So it seems obvious that a debate on health care reform should not include views born solely of partisanship or bigotry.
Various polls prior to the election indicated that between five and ten percent of Americans would never vote for an African American president. That number, of course, only includes those who actually admitted to their prejudice. How many others harbored such feelings but did not respond honestly when asked the question? And how many people oppose Obama’s plan because the President is African American?
In "Birth of a Nation," D.W. Griffith used white actors in black face to portray black legislators as having low intelligence and acting like fools. Today, we have a band of real life congressional fools seemingly bent on blocking any meaningful reform of the health care system. But if we allow even one American to die simply because he or she cannot afford treatment, we are creating a shameful scenario that could aptly be called “Death of a Nation.”
I’ve watched legislative bodies in person and on TV for years. There are always people reading, sleeping, and, as we saw recently, playing solitaire on laptops while someone was speaking. They said it was because what they were hearing was the “same old same old,” and Obama has certainly done that! Those yawns may not have been deliberate at all! Bottom line: it’s not racial. It’s poor judgment, poor decorum and what we would call a lack of “home-training.” Some that you saw “sending text messages” may have just been taking notes, or may have been keeping their office or constituents informed. I rely on unbiased tweets to my phone from Mark Knoller, Jake Tapper and Chuck Todd to keep me informed of Presidential statements when I cannot watch or listen to broadcasts. I’m sure there are some Congressmen who provide similar information. It’s not necessarily rude. It’s just indicative of a new day.
If you think that the opposition to health care reform is born solely of partisanship and/or bigotry, try working this word into your thoughts: DEBT! Right now, my part of the national debt is $38,444. (It will probably be higher before I finish my rebuttal to your remarks.) The only way I could pay that would be to sell my house and move into a bus. Yes, we could us health care reform. But the health care system is no so terribly broken that it can’t wait for the most important job that faces Congress, and that is balancing the budget and giving us some kind of fiscal security. Even Obama said that it was not critical in his address to Congress. By far, the majority of Americans consider the economy to be their most important concern. IF someone comes up with a bill that will not add “one dime” to the national debt, we’re all for it! If Obama breaks yet another promise and signs a bill that deepens the debt for our children and grandchildren, you will hear the outcry! THAT would be immoral.
You said that 5% to 10% of Americans would never vote for a black president. In polls, those numbers are considered insignificant. We could all find survey numbers that would prove different sides. We could find much higher numbers somewhere for how many blacks are prejudiced against whites, Jews and Hispanics. You are an intelligent man who knows that data can prove anything. I think before you pontificate, you should find the answers to your own questions about numbers!
And, do you think you could go any further back in history to make your point than you did? There are at least 3 generations of Americans who have never seen or heard of “Birth of a Nation!” (There are 2 who don't know or care about Martin Luther King.) You know as well as I do that the majority of people will always fall into social norms and mores. When it was acceptable to have slaves, it was acceptable to have slaves. Only a very small minority had them, but it was “the way it was.” When Al Jolson sang in black face, it was acceptable, as minstrel shows traveled all over the USA to entertain with the wonderful music of Stephen Foster and patriotic music (the kind that Nancy Pelosi tried to ban from the Congressional “land of hold”). Each generation of free Americans have pushed us closer and closer to the founding fathers’ ideal of “equality.” How? By speaking their minds. By going against norms. By standing firm for their beliefs. By disagreeing with the “powers that be.” THAT, Professor Cosby, is the way our Republic works.
And last, for all the criticism of Sarah Palin’s characterization of end of life counseling as “death panels,” you have the audacity to say that we “allow” Americans to die? There is no hospital in this great country that will not treat ANYONE that comes in for treatment (unless it is the University of Chicago Hospital following the “health initiative” of Michelle Obama). We don’t “allow” people to die! We freely contribute to charities and hospitals that provide short term and long term treatment, or local banks that establish accounts to help a specific victim. We can’t stop cars from hitting people, or pebbles in a mountain path from rolling under a foot, or mechanical problems in trains and planes. We can and do try to prevent drunk driving, build guard rails and require documented maintenance for public transportation. But we are dealing with people who have free choice. We can’t force a person not to drive drunk any more than we can force a pregnant woman to seek prenatal care or a twenty-two year old to accept his mortality and buy health care insurance. And, I, for one, am not willing to spend trillions of dollars to try.