In the journalism business, there's your basic news story. And then there's the news story with legs. We media types love the story with legs. And there was one story in 2004 that had enough legs to win an Olympic marathon.
That story would be the ruckus comedian Bill Cosby caused in May, when he dared utter what everybody knew was the truth: that there are black Americans who aren't holding up their end of the bargain when it comes to educating their children.
The reaction was one of two types: praise for Cosby from liberal commentators and columnists who would have called down the wrath of God on a conservative of whatever hue who had said the same thing. Yes, black Americans have reached the pathetic state where lies, flapdoodle and egregious nonsense spoken by liberals is preferable to truth spoken by conservatives, if the topic happens to be anything about black folks.
The other reaction was to criticize Cosby. Some people are still at it. Considering there were things that happened within Afro-America last year every bit as controversial as Cosby's comments, we have to ask why he's the only one still taking the heat.
There was not only a fight at November's Vibe Awards _ held to honor those who fancy themselves the gangstas, thugs and pimps of the hip-hop world _ but somebody got stabbed. The suspect is a rapper named Young Buck, who's a member of the group G-Unit. Some of the same folks who got upset with Cosby for speaking the truth haven't mumbled as much as a syllable of protest about what happened at the Vibe Awards.
Of course the argument will be that it goes without saying that everybody's opposed to the violence at the hip-hop awards show. That's not true, judging by the lyrics in some rap songs. But nobody seemed too bothered by the nonviolent lyrics in Young Buck's 2004 hit Let Me In either: "I know you gonna let me smoke when I breathe; I know you gonna let me drink with no ID."
Excuse me? Isn't that a paean to underage drinking and smoking pot? And aren't many of the things prevalent in today's hip-hop culture among black youth the kind of things Cosby was criticizing?
Let's fast forward from the Vibe Awards to the Source Awards, another show where the thugs, gangstas and pimps made their presence felt. There was no violence, but what Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan told the audience should have set tongues a-wagging and the computer keyboards of those columnists critical of Cosby a-clicking. So far, it hasn't.
Farrakhan was the recipient of the Source Youth Foundation Hip-Hop Image Award. There's nothing wrong with that. But when he told the rappers and hip-hoppers "this is the greatest generation that we have ever produced," alarm bells should have been set off.
The hip-hop generation? Black America's greatest? The ones who gave us baggy pants that hang down over the butt, who elevated being a thug, gangsta and pimp to a cultural imperative, and who routinely refer to black women as bitches, 'hos, hoochies and skeezas?
Could I be forgiven for thinking that maybe the generation of blacks who fought in the Civil War and helped the Union win it might rank higher? How about the generation of blacks after that, who endured racism and terrorism while raising the literacy rate of freed slaves?
Surely the black Americans of the 1930s _ who supported Ethiopia after Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's fascists invaded the country _ would qualify. Some of those blacks even tried to get to Ethiopia and fight for Emperor Haile Selassie's side. If there are any significant number of today's hip-hop generation making a beeline to help out any African country, I haven't heard about it.
Surely the generation of blacks who fought in World War II _ the Tuskegee Airmen, the truckers of the Red Ball Express, the members of the 761st Tank Battalion and the 969th Field Artillery Battalion (the latter two fought in the Battle of the Bulge) _ is among the greatest. Those black youth who energized the civil rights movement of the 1960s would rank higher as well.
So the hip-hop generation doesn't even come in the top four of black America's greatest. What that generation has done is to act with complicity in some of the most vicious stereotyping black Americans have ever had to face in this country. Our black columnists and commentators know that and should have called Farrakhan on it when he praised the hip-hop generation as our greatest.
And we would have, if we weren't so busy bashing Cosby.
Gregory Kane is a columnist for the Baltimore Sun.
The Baltimore Sun; distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service