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Jewish World Review / July 20, 1998 / 26 Tamuz, 5758

Mona Charen

Mona Charen

Disappointed by Cosbys

THE GRIEF CAMILLE COSBY must feel at the murder of her son excuses any wild statements she has made regarding American society.

Nevertheless, her indictment, published in USA Today, demands a response. To do less is to lend credence to her words.

The Cosbys
One might have expected the Cosbys to hold views different from the paranoid delusions Camille Cosby voiced. The Huxtables from "The Cosby Show," after all, believed in the American dream.

They worked hard, went to college and achieved success. The Cosbys themselves have achieved wealth and status that have propelled them into the stratosphere of American life. And Bill Cosby is loved and admired (including by this columnist) in a way few other Americans can match.

But now, Mrs. Cosby has written that she believes "America taught our son's killer to hate African Americans." She finds it inconceivable that Mikail Markhasev could have learned such hatred in his native Ukraine, whose black population is near zero.

In fact, it is perfectly possible for people to revile those of other races and ethnic groups even without exposure to them. Cathy Young, who was raised in the old U.S.S.R., explained in The Wall Street Journal that anti-black bias is rife there, and African exchange students have had a notoriously hard time of it in Moscow. Mrs. Cosby might want to ponder the fact that anti-Semitism is currently having a strong run in Japan, whose Jewish population is near zero.

Mrs. Cosby believes that "racism and prejudice are omnipresent and eternalized in America's institutions, media and myriad entities." And she cities a few examples.

The Voting Rights Act signed by Lyndon Johnson in 1965 is due to expire in 2007. "Congress once again will decide whether African Americans will be allowed to vote," she writes.

This is absurd. The Voting Rights Act actually expired during the Bush administration and was renewed -- not as a safeguard to ensure black voting but as a kind of affirmative action for black candidates. The notion that blacks would be denied the right to vote anywhere in the United States is simply preposterous.

Mrs. Cosby also cites the presence of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant and Benjamin Franklin on our currency as evidence of approval of slavery, since they were all, as she writes, "slave-owners." No, Grant, Franklin and Hamilton were not. Grant put his life on the line to end slavery. Franklin was a noted abolitionist. The others are honored for creating a country that was capable, in time, of providing liberty and justice for all -- however flawed its first steps might have been.

"God," writes Cosby "and most Christian holy people artistically have been recreated in images of whiteness. This shrewd propaganda undeniably lessens the worthiness of most of the Earth's people."

"Shrewd propaganda"? European artists have naturally depicted Jesus as white, which is perhaps a sign of ethnocentrism, but then again, Jesus was white. That each ethnic group tends to imagine God as the image of itself is universal and hardly evidence of a sinister conspiracy to exclude "most of the Earth's people."

Finally, Cosby decries violence and "the misperception immortalized daily by the media and other entities that crimes are committed in poor neighborhoods inhabited by dark people." In his book "Body Count," John DiIulio calculates that whites are 50 times as likely to be victimized by black criminals as blacks are to be victimized by whites. Black males aged 14 to 24 represent just 1 percent of the population but 17 percent of crime victims and 30 percent of offenders. Take the example of Pennsylvania -- in 1990, 42 percent of all violent offenses in the state occurred in Philadelphia (which contains only 14 percent of the population), and the overwhelming majority of those crimes were committed in predominantly black neighborhoods.

That is the truth. Another truth is that racism in America is the severest sin we can imagine. Every American institution, from the schools to the churches to the media, promotes racial harmony. But some blacks, alas, including Mrs. Cosby, are remote from reality, still imagining that they live in the America of 1920. Her facts are wrong, and her indictment is a slander. But she deserves our prayers for her unimaginable grief.


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©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.