Enough : The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do about It
Half a century after brave Americans took to the streets to raise the bar of opportunity for all races, Juan Williams writes that too many black Americans are in crisis--caught in a twisted hip-hop culture, dropping out of school, ending up in jail, having babies when they are not ready to be parents, and falling to the bottom in twenty-first-century global economic competition.
In Enough, Juan Williams issues a lucid, impassioned clarion call to do the right thing now, before we travel so far off the glorious path set by generations of civil rights heroes that there can be no more reaching back to offer a hand and rescue those being left behind.
Inspired by Bill Cosby's now famous speech at the NAACP gala celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Brown decision integrating schools, Williams makes the case that while there is still racism, it is way past time for black Americans to open their eyes to the "culture of failure" that exists within their community. He raises the banner of proud black traditional values--self-help, strong families, and belief in God--that sustained black people through generations of oppression and flowered in the exhilarating promise of the modern civil rights movement. Williams asks what happened to keeping our eyes on the prize by proving the case for equality with black excellence and achievement.
He takes particular aim at prominent black leaders--from Al Sharpton to Jesse Jackson to Marion Barry. Williams exposes the call for reparations as an act of futility, a detour into self-pity; he condemns the "Stop Snitching" campaign as nothing more than a surrender to criminals; and he decries the glorification of materialism, misogyny, and murder as a corruption of a rich black culture, a tragic turn into pornographic excess that is hurting young black minds, especially among the poor.
Reinforcing his incisive observations with solid research and alarming statistical data, Williams offers a concrete plan for overcoming the obstacles that now stand in the way of African Americans' full participation in the nation's freedom and prosperity. Certain to be widely discussed and vehemently debated, Enough is a bold, perceptive, solution-based look at African American life, culture, and politics today.
When Bill Cosby addressed a 50th-anniversary celebration of Brown v. Board of Education, he created a major controversy with seemingly inoffensive counsel ("begin with getting a high school education, not having children until one is twenty-one and married, working hard at any job, and being good parents"). Building from Cosby's speech, NPR/Fox journalist Williams offers his ballast to Cosby's position. Williams starts with the question, "Why are so many black Americans, people born inside the gates of American opportunity, still living as if they were locked out from all America has to offer?" His answers include the debacle of big-city politics under self-serving black politicians; reparations as "a divisive dead-end idea"; the parlous state of city schools "under the alliance between the civil rights leaders and the teachers' unions"; and the transformation of rap from "its willingness to confront establishment and stereotypes" to "America's late-night masturbatory fantasy." A sense of the erosion of "the high moral standing of civil rights" underlies Cosby's anguish and Williams's anger. Politically interested readers of a mildly conservative bent will find this book sheer dynamite. (Aug.)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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July 23, 2007
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Excerpt from Enough by Juan Williams
THE LEADERSHIP GAP
The stinging dart at the center of this controversy targets new black leadership.
Critics often charge Bill Cosby, in his Brown anniversary speech, with beating up on an easy mark: poor black people. Wrong. The critics are the ones who veer off target. Cosby repeatedly aimed his fire at the leaders of today's popular black culture, which is often not just created by black artists, but marketed and managed by black executives. He was talking about current black political leaders and, most of all, about the civil rights leaders who time and time again send the wrong message to poor black people desperately in need of direction as they try to find their way in a society where being black and poor remains a unique burden to bear.
Cosby's point is that lost, poor black people have suffered most from not having strong leaders. His charge is that these leaders--cultural and political--misinform, mismanage, and miseducate by refusing to articulate established truths about what it takes to get ahead: strong families, education, and hard work. Every American has reason to ask about the seeming absence of strong black leadership. Where is strong black leadership to speak hard truth to those looking for direction? Where are the black leaders who will make it plain and say it loud? Who will tell you that if you want to get a job you have to stay in school and spend more money on education than on disposable consumer goods? Where are the black leaders who are willing to stand tall and say that any black man who wants to be a success has to speak proper English? Isn't that obvious? It would be a bonus if anyone dared to say to teenagers hungering for authentic black identity that dressing like a convict, whose pants are hanging off his ass because the jail prison guards took away his belt, is not the way to rise up and be a success.
There's a reason it takes strong leadership to make these points. It takes a leader to articulate why success in a world that so dramatically devalues black people is a worthwhile goal. When young people--and older people--take on a spirit of rebellion in their clothes, language, music, and other forms of expression, they're only responding in a fairly rational way to a society that has first insulted and degraded them. It takes a real leader to look beyond the immediate emotional satisfaction--and even the academic justification--of throwing up a middle finger in the face of the oppressor, and see the bigger picture. It takes a leader to think through the consequences and outline a better path--even if it requires sacrifice in the short term, sacrifice that may include giving up the easy emotional satisfaction of ultimately pointless acts, unexamined gestures of rebellion that never rise to the level of true resistance or long-term revolution. But that kind of leadership is sorely lacking.
Why have black leaders spent the last twenty years talking about reparations for slavery as if it were a realistic goal deserving of time and attention from black people? Why is rhetoric from our current core of civil rights leaders fixated on white racism instead of on the growing power of black Americans, now at an astounding level by any historical measure, to determine their own destiny? Fifty years after Brown, much of the power to address the problems facing black people is in black hands. Here is Cosby at the very start of his famous speech:
"I heard a prizefight manager say to his fellow, who was losing badly, 'David, listen to me, it's not what he's doing to you. It's what you're not doing.'"
Black Americans, including the poor, spend a lot of time talking about the same self-defeating behaviors that are holding back too many black people. This is no secret. It's practically a joke.