Come On, People

On the Path from Victims to Victors

by Bill Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint

Come On, People

Hardcover, 265 pages, Thomas Nelson Inc, List Price: $25.99 | purchase

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Come On, People
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On the Path from Victims to Victors
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Bill Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint

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Addressing the problems facing many communities in America, one of the most influential performers of the last half century and a veteran of the civil rights movement encourage people who are stuck because of feelings of low self-esteem, fearfulness, and anger to move forward in their lives. 100,000 first printing.

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Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin Poussaint discuss Come On, People during a recent taping of NBC's Meet the Press. Getty Images for Meet the Press hide caption

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Excerpt: Come On, People

Come On, People

Come On, People

On the Path from Victims to Victors


Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2007 William H. Cosby Jr. and Alvin F. Poussaint, MD
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59555-092-7

Contents

Introduction................................................................xv1: What's Going On with Black Men?..........................................1Build on Our Legacy.........................................................2Acknowledge the Problem.....................................................5Face the Facts..............................................................8Keep Your Cool, but Not Too Cool............................................10Turn Off the Heat...........................................................12Get Smart about Sex.........................................................13Tone Down the Culture.......................................................16Walk Back In................................................................16Sisters, Hang in There......................................................18Strive to Succeed...........................................................20Give Fatherhood a Second Chance.............................................21Role Models, Please Apply...................................................24Don't Count Out the Ex-offenders............................................26Claim Your Children.........................................................272: It Takes a Community.....................................................31Go Tell Pharaoh.............................................................32Break the Shackles..........................................................33Think Freedom...............................................................35Remember the Triumphs.......................................................36Reject Victimhood...........................................................39Define the Village and Defend It............................................40Walk the Walk...............................................................42Help Carry the Cross........................................................43Replace Victimhood with Neighborhood........................................46Speak Up, Speak Out.........................................................48Talk to the Police..........................................................49Take Back the Community.....................................................51Make a Difference...........................................................53Stand on Their Shoulders....................................................543: We All Start Out as Children.............................................57It All Starts with Choice...................................................58Some Good Ways to Say Welcome to the World..................................60Let's Not Forget the Mother.................................................61Good Ideas on Making the Baby Feel at Home..................................63Key Concepts in Bringing Up Baby............................................65Several Good Reasons to Spare the Rod.......................................67Some Scars Never Heal.......................................................70When Domestic Violence Gets out of Hand.....................................73Raising Victorious Children.................................................77Some Good Ways to Discipline Children.......................................79Getting the Community Involved..............................................83Ways to Build Strong Bodies and Minds.......................................86Thoughts on Raising Black Children in the United States.....................88Understanding Children in Transition........................................91Some Ideas on Protecting Your Teens.........................................94Raising Victors.............................................................974: Teach Your Children Well.................................................99Pass It On..................................................................100Inspire the Children........................................................101Save Our Schools............................................................103Take Advantage of Every Opportunity.........................................104Turn Off the TV.............................................................105Love Those Little Ones......................................................105You've Got to Believe!......................................................107Keep Those Kids in School...................................................108Keep Those Kids out of Prison...............................................109Keep the Faith..............................................................109Get the Kids a Pro When Needed..............................................110Find Helpful Adult Allies...................................................112Protect Your Child..........................................................115Reinforce Standard English..................................................117Back Off the Rap............................................................119Respect Our Elders..........................................................121Talk to Your Students.......................................................122Don't Overlook Your Community College.......................................1245: The Media You Deserve....................................................133Watch with Your Children....................................................135Keep the TVs out of the Bedrooms............................................136Don't Let the Kids Watch Too Much of Anything...............................136Use the Media to Educate....................................................137Don't Forget TV's Limits....................................................138Keep the Kids Engaged.......................................................138Cool the Violence...........................................................139Accept the Responsibility...................................................140Walk Away...................................................................141Don't Fall for the Stereotype...............................................142Respect Yourselves..........................................................143Don't Imitate the Slave Masters.............................................144Chill the Sex...............................................................148Protect Your Young Ones.....................................................151Watch Your Health...........................................................153Warn Your Kids..............................................................153Shield Your Kids............................................................155Trust, but Verify...........................................................1566: Healthy Hearts and Minds.................................................159Think Holistically..........................................................161Don't Be Passive about Your Health..........................................162Overcome the Past...........................................................164Protect Our Children........................................................167Seize the Day...............................................................168Teach Your Children Well....................................................170Slow Down on the Fast Food..................................................170Work Together...............................................................171Eat Together as a Family....................................................172Watch Everyone's Weight.....................................................172Pass on the Salt............................................................173Keep a Lookout for Diabetes.................................................174Remember Mr. Tooth Decay....................................................176Control Your Cancer Risks...................................................178Speak Out about HIV/AIDS....................................................178Respect Your Lungs..........................................................180Respect Your Mind...........................................................181Lose the Guns and the Rage..................................................184Face Up to Mental Health Issues.............................................185Encourage Culturally Competent Care.........................................1897: The High Price of Violence...............................................191Change the Things You Can...................................................193Avoid Easy Answers..........................................................194Face the Facts Head-on......................................................195Get the Guns out of Your Life...............................................196Stop the Cycle of Violence..................................................197Support the Survivors.......................................................200Don't Abandon the Drug User.................................................202Love the Child Lest He Seek Love in the Streets.............................205Respect Your Children from the Beginning....................................207Remember Our Imprisoned.....................................................211Fight Back in the Community.................................................2168: From Poverty to Prosperity...............................................221Get All the School You Can Get..............................................223Take Any Legitimate Job.....................................................224Maintain Your Independence..................................................226Beware the Trap.............................................................227Stay out of Debt............................................................228Break the Chains............................................................229Get Control of Your Finances................................................230Help the Poor Help Themselves...............................................232Spread the Word about Education.............................................233Commit Your Heart to the Effort.............................................234Support Local Business......................................................236Take Care of Our Own........................................................238Sisters, Seize the Day!.....................................................239Invest in Ourselves.........................................................240Victims to Victors..........................................................242Special Thanks..............................................................245Acknowledgments.............................................................247For More Information........................................................249

Chapter One

What' S Going On with Black Men?

For the last generation or two, as our communities dissolved and our parenting skills broke down, no one has suffered more than our young black men.

Your authors have been around long enough, and traveled widely enough, to think we understand something about the problem. And we're hopeful enough-or desperate enough-to think that with all of us working together we might find our way to a solution.

Let's start with one very basic fact. Back in 1950, before Brown v. Board of Education, before the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, when Rosa Parks was still sitting in the back of her Montgomery bus, when the NBA was just about all white, back in those troubled times, black boys were born into a different world than they are today.

Obviously, many civil rights leaders had hoped that with the demise in the 1960s of officially sanctioned forms of segregation and discrimination, black males would have greater access to the mainstream of American society. They had fully expected that these young men would be in a better position in every way-financially, psychologically, legally-to sustain viable marriages and families. Instead, the overall situation has continued to go downhill among the poor who are mostly shut out from the mainstream of success.

How is that possible?

There is one statistic that captures the bleakness. In 1950, five out of every six black children were born into a two-parent home. Today, that number is less than two out of six. In poor communities, that number is lower still. There are whole blocks with scarcely a married couple, whole blocks without responsible males to watch out for wayward boys, whole neighborhoods in which little girls and boys come of age without seeing up close a committed partnership and perhaps never having attended a wedding.

Build on Our Legacy

In 1950, we still feared our parents and respected them. We know that for a fact because we were both in our early teens that year and were both testing our limits.

We and the others in our generation weren't saints. We'll be the first to admit that. We were filled with piss and vinegar like many teenage boys-white, black, and otherwise. If we saw something we wanted and didn't have any money-and trust us, few of us ever had money-we thought about taking it, sure. But something called "parenting," something that had wormed its way into our heads from the time we were still in the womb, said to us, If you get caught stealing it, you're going to embarrass your mother.

The voice didn't say, You're going to get your butt kicked. We knew that and expected that from experience. No, that inner voice said, You're going to embarrass your mother. You're going to embarrass your family.

As we became older and grew more interested in girls, our hormones raged just as boys' hormones rage today. The Internet may be new. Cell phones may be new. But sex, we don't need to tell you, has been around since Adam and Eve. So has shame. We knew that if one of us got a girl pregnant, not only would she have to go visit that famous "aunt in South Carolina," but young Romeo would have to go too, not to South Carolina maybe, but somewhere. It would be too embarrassing for Romeo's family for him to just sit around in the neighborhood with a fat Cheshire cat smile on his face.

And there was something else we understood: that girl likely had a daddy in the home. And he'd be prepared to wipe that grin off Romeo's face permanently. This was what parenting was about. It wasn't always pretty, but it could be pretty effective.

Parenting works best when both a mother and a father participate. Some mothers can do it on their own, but they need help. A house without a father is a challenge. A neighborhood without fathers is a catastrophe, and that's just about what we have today.

Can we fix this? Can we change it? We don't have a choice. We have to take our neighborhoods back. We have to go in there and do it ourselves. We saw what happened in New Orleans when people waited for the government to help. "Governments" are things. Governments don't care. People care, and no people care like parents do-well, except maybe grandparents and other caregivers, and thank God for them.

CALL-OUTS

Richard Rowe, in Baltimore, reported on one path to change: Twenty years ago in this city we started the "Rites of Passage." Nobody else was doing it on the East Coast. We started looking at how the African-American male was going downhill. Twenty years from now, I hope we will not be having this same type of conversation. The purpose of our program is to nurture young men who can maintain, protect, and provide for a family and a community.

The problems start early for black boys, and we can all see it. Call it ADHD or learning differences or whatever you like, but our young black males can act up a Level 5 storm in class. The fact is that little boys are diagnosed with ADHD approximately three times more than girls. Also, black boys are diagnosed with higher rates of mental disabilities and emotional problems than black girls, white girls, and white boys.

To be sure, little boys in general are more aggressive than little girls. In some cases, too, teachers are wary of black boys and too quick to dump them into special education classes. This kind of racial profiling and discrimination against active, aggressive black boys by school personnel accounts for some of the discrepancy in the numbers, but the bottom line is still bad.

Why is the problem so grave? A mother can usually teach a daughter how to be a woman. But as much as mothers love their sons, they have difficulty showing a son how to be a man. A successful man can channel his natural aggression. Without that discipline, these sons often get into trouble at school because many teachers find it difficult to manage their "acting out" behavior. If you think we're exaggerating, talk to a teacher.

CALL-OUTS

Some words of wisdom from Dr. Bernard Franklin in Kansas City: In our culture too often boys are reared and taught by women who want boys' behavior to be like girls'. But boys were never, ever created to sit still. Boys are active, always have been, always will be.

And so sometimes mothers have to pass them on to uncles or other men. We also have to figure out how to get more males in the classroom so that these boys can have active participation with another man in their lives.

There is another thing that little boys don't do any more: go to church. When we were kids, once a week we had to get dressed to the nines in clothes we'd rather not wear and spend an hour sitting and kneeling quietly in a place we'd rather not be. But this was a useful and necessary discipline. We learned how to sit still. We learned how to sit quietly. We learned self-control, and we knew the consequences if we didn't. We could always go out and play ball when church was over, a little wiser for the experience.

Today, many boys don't go to church and couldn't even put their clothes on straight if they did. Many of these kids have never tied a tie or buckled a top button or shined their shoes. Sadly, the first real suit many of them get to wear is colored orange. And what's really unfortunate is that the beltless, droopy-drawered look you see on the streets is a fashion straight out of prison. Boys like the defiance of the look, and some make it part of their permanent identity, but that look doesn't get anyone a job.

Acknowledge the Problem

As these boys move through school, their behavior goes from bad to worse. The schools don't help much because they are often of terrible quality. Even the good schools are designed to favor girls, whose language skills tend to develop earlier than boys.

The boys are much more likely to end up in special education programs than girls, or white boys for that matter. Special education at its best is helpful for kids who need it, but too many kids are warehoused in these classes and never make it back to the mainstream. And if the drugs or the warehousing doesn't work, the schools finally just suspend the kids or expel them. Troubled black boys in schools are more than twice as likely to be suspended as white boys or Hispanics, and this does no one any good except the neighborhood drug dealers.

CALL-OUTS

Gregory Payton, in Cincinnati, talked about his journey: Going into the service, flying around the country, fixing battleships-that's a good life. But what I couldn't figure out was, if it was so good, why did I put my whole life in a tube? I'm talking about a crack pipe. I put everything I ever had in that tube, and nothing came out the end but smoke.

After coming out of the shipyard, I quit. When I say I quit, I quit everything. I gave up. I gave up on me. I was homeless.

But when I started listening to people, I started changing. And when I started changing, some things happened to me. And one of the things I did was I went back to work. But you know, in Cincinnati, they don't have ships. So I had to go back to college.

You have to have a vision. You have to have people who believe in you too. You have to have people who support you. You feel support. You feel love. They seem like small things, but yet, they're so big, and they're so great. One of the things I do know is that we all make mistakes. But where I work now, they have a little sign on the door, and it says: a smooth ocean never helped build a sailor's skills.

What I found out is that it starts with me and it ends with me. I can't blame anybody for anything. I just gotta keep my head down and keep moving. The thing I do now is I just don't quit anything.

When the boys get suspended or expelled-admit it, parents-there is usually a good reason. The problem is that not all of us will admit it. Our boy gets sent home, and what do we do? We get angry at the teacher or the principal or the school board. We call a parasite lawyer like those we see on TV. "No, Mrs. Jones, it's not their fault! How dare they punish little Jovon! Let's sue." By the first grade, we're encouraging the kids to use "the other dude did it" defense, and some of them never forget it. They'll keep repeating "The other dude did it" like a mantra right up to the day they die, all too often courtesy of the state of California or Texas or Florida, (at this time the leading states in applying the death penalty).

To be sure, the justice system disfavors black males, and some are in the system who should not be. But tragically, too many of our sons deserve to be right where they are.

Those black boys who do make it to high school drop out more often than they graduate. Without a working dad in the home, or in their lives, most of them fail to learn the kind of basic hands-on skills that would help them find an entry-level job.

Working fathers can teach their sons about the necessity of hard work and about the need to show up on time and stick to a job. A working parent can also introduce them to a rather simple device that all of us hate but that most of us have learned to live with-an alarm clock. Getting up when you're tired and going to school or work is not something that comes naturally to anyone. It's something that kids have to learn at home.

One advantage that African-American kids have over most people in the world is the ability to speak English. It's the international language of business. To be a success anywhere on the globe, you have to speak it. But we're letting this advantage slip away too.

Many of our kids don't want to speak English. In our day, we used to talk a certain way on the corner, but when we got into the house, we switched to English. Everybody knows it's important to speak English except for some young people you see hanging around on the corners.

You can't land a plane in Rome saying, "Whassup?" to the control tower. You can't be a doctor telling your nurse, "Dat tumor be nasty." There is no Bible in the world that has that kind of language. We used to blame the kids for talking this way until we heard some of their parents. Some black parents couldn't care less. Too many teachers, of all ethnicities, couldn't care less too.

Most black employers we know want to see the entire community prosper. But even they don't want to hire boys who can't dress properly, and who speak as if English were a second language. When we see these boys walking around the neighborhood, we imagine them thirty or forty years down the road wandering around just as aimlessly, and we want to cry. The problem is they don't see themselves down that road.

These boys don't really know what the word future means. Neither did some of their parents. And that's why they're just hanging out at the bottom for five or six generations, trapped in housing projects that were built to stabilize people just long enough to get a job, move out, and move on. Even if there were more affordable housing out there, many of these guys would not be able to find their way to it!

Face the Facts

Black males are failing at alarming rates in the schools. Their rates of suspension and expulsion from school far exceed that of other groups. Given the high drop-out rate, the number of black men entering and graduating from college is far below the number of black women. Currently, in college and professional schools, black women outnumber black men two to one. And if you don't think that causes a problem for female students, you haven't talked to one.

Is it something about being an African-American male? Aren't we smart enough? Black Americans fought to open doors of opportunity-and now black immigrants are walking through these doors while too many of us are hanging out on the street corners. There is certainly institutional racism-particularly against black men-but racism doesn't explain everything. Black men are, in fact, lagging. If it weren't for the relative success of recent black immigrants in schools and college, the statistics would be even worse.

Enough young black males behave badly at an early age that they set the norm for other black boys. The stereotype of the angry and potentially violent black male can lead to racial profiling by teachers in the early grades. This makes it doubly difficult for those boys who are trying to behave and trying to get ahead to succeed. Soon the kids begin to stereotype themselves. These images lead to low expectations for achievement, which then become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Check the numbers:

Homicide is the number one cause of death for black men between fifteen and twenty-nine years of age and has been for decades.

Of the roughly sixteen thousand homicides in this country each year, more than half are committed by black men. A black man is seven times more likely to commit a murder (excluding military actions) than a white man, and six times more likely to be murdered. (Black mothers live with these numbers. We don't know how they sleep at night.)

Ninety-four percent of all black people who are murdered are murdered by other black people.

The life expectancy at birth of black men is sixty-nine years, compared to seventy-five years for white men, eighty for white women, and seventy-six for black women.

In the past several decades, the suicide rate among young black men has increased more than 100 percent.

In some cities, black males have high school drop-out rates of more than 50 percent.

Young black men are twice as likely to be unemployed as white, Hispanic, and Asian men.

Although black people make up just 12 percent of the general population, they make up nearly 44 percent of the prison population.

At any given time, as many as one in four of all young black men are in the criminal justice system-in prison or jail, on probation, or on parole.

By the time they reach their midthirties, six out of ten black high school dropouts have spent time in prison.

About one-third of the homeless are black men.

This is madness! Back in 1950, there were twice as many white people in prison as black. Today, there are more black people than white in prison. We're not saying there is no discrimination or racial profiling today, but there is less than there was in 1950. These are not "political" criminals. These are people selling drugs, stealing, or shooting their buddies over trivia.

And when these kids get out, they are no longer kids. Many are hardened cons, and they are then recycled back into the community with the same antisocial, violent skills that got them sent away in the first place.

(Continues...)




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