Following comedian Bill Cosby’s sentencing this week on charges of aggravated indecent assault, some observers are linking his prison term to his infamous “Pound Cake” speech.
Cosby delivered the speech in 2004, at an NAACP event marking the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. In the speech he strongly criticized the African-American communtiy, including attacking African-American Vernacular English, and came down especially hard on parenting and single-parent households.
You can hear an excerpt from the speech below.
The “pound cake” reference comes from the following quote from the speech:
“Looking at the incarcerated, these are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake! And then we all run out and are outraged, ‘The cops shouldn’t have shot him.’ What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand? I wanted a piece of pound cake just as bad as anybody else, and I looked at it and I had no money. And something called parenting said, ‘If you get caught with it you’re going to embarrass your mother.’ Not ‘You’re going to get your butt kicked.’ No. ‘You’re going to embarrass your family.'”
The AP reports that Cosby’s image as a model husband and father, built largely through his TV appearances, “took an abrupt turn” when he gave the speech.
“He used his celebrity status to condemn poor African-Americans, chiding them to pull up their sagging pants, deriding them for having children out of wedlock and blaming them for their impoverished circumstances,” the AP reports.
The report quotes Cosby saying in the speech: “Are you not paying attention? People with their hat on backwards, pants down around the crack … with names like Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed and all that crap, and all of them are in jail.”
“Cosby himself is now in a Pennsylvania prison cell, and many black Americans see his sentence as a moment of racial comeuppance,” the AP reports. “As they learned of Cosby’s three- to 10-year prison term for sexual assault, the same people who were his targets in the 2004 speech regarded his fate as a convergence of karma, hubris and hypocrisy.”
The AP quotes Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill saying Cosby “made the decision to focus his attention on beating up on the black poor, on telling the world that black people were dysfunctional, pathological and undeserving of equal protection under the law. When somebody like that, who positions themselves as the moral authority of black America, gets called onto the carpet, you ain’t getting no breaks here.”
Added writer Michael Arceneaux: “I knew he was a hypocrite. To learn how much pain he has caused to women over decades … I find it ironic. Those speeches proved to be his undoing. I’m glad he got what he deserved.”
Below is an audio clip of a portion of Cosby’s “Pound Cake Speech” …