Analysis of Bill Cosby’s “The Pound Cake Speech”

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During the 2004 NAACP awards ceremony at Washington, D.C., in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the landmark case Brown vs. Board of Education , Bill Cosby delivers a speech, which would be subsequently referred to as “The Pound Cake Speech, criticizing the lifestyle and lack of parenting in the African–American community. The speech has been severely criticized for it is delivery and topics expressed within it. Author Jerome Corsi notes, "Cosby was attacked both for his flippant tone and because his argument appeared to 'blame the victim' for the racial inequality and racial injustice suffered." The purpose of this essay is to examine why the use of comedy, partitioning of listeners, and scapegoating of African-American parents, as the sole cause of African-American social problems, lead to the poor reception of Cosby's speech. Although Cosby has had a university education and received many honorary degrees, which few achieve, nonetheless, he is associated more as a successful entertainer than a scholarly educator. Interestingly, Cosby has self-described himself more of a class clown than an academician during schooling. Cosby started his entertainment career as a stand-up comedian doing performances across America during his younger years. Comedians have a notorious talent for stirring up crowds and encouraging clamor from the audience. They compose jokes that anyone can relate to and, thus, reach broad demographics during their performances. The talent has remained with Cosby to present and is manifested within the tone of his speeches as well. Throughout Cosby’s speech there is a comedy element hidden in a tragedy element. When Cosby discusses the blame on Caucasians in African American communities, he jokes, “... ... ... middle of paper ... ...livered his same points in a more formal manner with less humor. If Cosby had addressed his listeners as a collective union instead of fragmented denominations, listeners would have been coherent in relating to the problems presented by Cosby. Cosby uses the rhetorical device of pathos by placing guilt on African-American parents. Furthermore, Cosby repetitively informs his listeners that absence in parenting is the telltale root of all problems faced in the African-American community and its presence, alternatively, as the key solution to eradicating those problems; however, he does not thoroughly delve into describing the solutions or present methods on how to accomplish better parenting via examples. The combination of these aforementioned shortcomings contributed to the poor reception, criticism, and disparagement Cosby received in the aftermath of his speech.
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