Last year Bill Cosby made controversial public comments railing against low-income individuals for not taking personal responsibility for their lives. Lately I’ve been asking myself: where are the Bill Cosbys who are willing to speak just as courageously about the problems of the gay community?
Many were outraged by Cosby’s suggestion that personal failures, and not merely external factors such as racism, are behind the problems facing low-income Americans. The popular entertainer took so much heat for his speech, it’s no wonder more people don’t step into the fire.
Although I believe Cosby could have spoken with greater thoughtfulness, I agree with much that he said. Turning to the problems facing the gay community, my own view is that we must confront them with a balanced approach that looks at both systemic problems and greater responsibility.
Some political theorists have suggested that liberals and conservatives see most problems in fundamentally different ways. They say that liberals see human nature as fundamentally good and say that problems arise from bad social structures, whereas conservatives see human nature as bad and say that problems arise from the lack of personal responsibility. Isn’t it clear that there is truth on both sides?
You aren’t likely to find the liberal leadership of gay human rights organizations speaking out in favor of personal responsibility any time soon. When you hear the call to integrity at all, it often comes from spiritual activists within the gay community.