Bill Cosby is still kicking and ticking, speaking his mind, whether we want to hear it or not.  In a series of recent media appearances, Dr. Huxtable spoke on everything from the Trayvon Martin tragedy to the Obama presidency.  When Cosby talks, people listen, even when the poor man drones on and on and on like that long, dull movie that keeps going and going and going, seeming to never end, like this really long run on sentence that I am slowly typing onto this page right now (deep sigh).

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Bill Cosby, at least for the fact that he gives a damn about “us.”  I respect him for the same reasons that I respect my father.  Unlike the sperm donor responsible for my existence on this planet, my true father is the man who raised me into the awkward (and admittedly irritating) human being that I am today.  Both Cosby and my dad love to share old school perspectives that crinkle the foreheads of everyone around them.  Sometimes they might even say something wise.

Cosby’s latest remarks about the Trayvon Martin case were interesting and actually made quite a bit of sense.  He made the accurate point that the Martin case makes a very strong statement about gun control.  He is right to point out the fact that much of the handgun violence that is responsible for killing so many black men in America results from the easy availability of guns in our neighborhoods.

Cosby was incorrect in presuming that the Trayvon Martin case had little to do with racism.  Trayvon was a black boy in the wrong neighborhood, accused of looking suspicious, and killed in cold blood by a man who wasn’t arrested for several weeks.  I doubt the police would have ever thought they could get away with sweeping the death of a young white woman under the rug in the same way they cut corners with Trayvon.

Cosby did, however, address racism as it pertained to President Obama.  He referred to those who are making unfair racial attacks on the president as being “un-American.”  Cosby was right on the mark, since the racism being thrust at the president is an embarrassment to our nation and threatens the stability and functionality of our government.

What I can’t quite understand, however, is why Mr. Cosby can so readily see the racism in the case of President Obama, but has trouble seeing the racism in the case of Trayvon Martin?  Is it because Obama is a wealthy, powerful politician who graduated from Harvard?  I’d hate to say this, but Cosby’s remarks, while somewhat accurate, are both elitist and a little more political than they should be.

It is likely more than coincidental that Cosby’s comments on gun control and President Obama just happen to support the Democratic agenda.  It’s also interesting that his decision to evade the issue of race in the case of Trayvon Martin is similar to the response of President Obama himself.  What Mr. Cosby, President Obama and others must understand is that racism doesn’t just show itself in the White House.  It exists in an even more pervasive form in other segments of our society.

Cosby’s remarks were not off-base and were far more constructive than his rants against young single parents several years ago.  I share Cosby’s frustrations with young black parents, especially when I meet the young brother with 8 kids, 6 baby mamas, no education, no job, a bottle in his hand, a joint in his mouth, 37 tattoos and a felony.  But it’s important that any conversation about the lack of progress among some of us in the black community comes with an equally diligent commitment to confronting the systems that lead to the stomach-churning outcomes we see in our communities every day.

In other words, when I see the brother with all the kids and no education, I realize that he is a product of a culture and environment that was designed for his self-destruction.  He doesn’t own the media outlets that feed him music that teaches him to destroy his life, he doesn’t control the prison industrial complex that took away his father, and he has nothing to do with the fact that his local school system is woefully underfunded.

Conversations on race must be balanced, and I’m sure Mr. Cosby understands this.  What I hope Cosby also realizes, in his old age, is that we can’t just fight against racism when the victim is a Harvard graduate in the White House.  Racism affects us all.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

Bill Cosby: Right About Guns, Wrong about Trayvon Martin  was originally published on

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