Washington — Comedian and family advocate Bill Cosby renewed criticism of child rearing in some segments of the black community Wednesday, but he eased up on black youths themselves and chided parents instead.
"You think your child can be managed with a cell phone," he told a Washington conference sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. "My call is for tighter reins -- know what your children are doing."
Cosby has drawn both praise and criticism for his views on the subject of family values in the black community since he called some black youths "knuckleheads" who "can't speak English" in a speaking appearance in May.
But Cosby focused instead on parents Wednesday.
"There's a tremendous amount of dirty laundry that these kids bring in," he said, "when their mother brings in three different men in the course of about 12 years, and all the men coming from some low form of life. When the child witnesses the mother being battered, then making love to the man, then being battered again, then putting him out and taking him back in, this child is helpless and scarred forever."
No one on the seven-member panel, convened to address the topic of "Educational Apartheid in the U.S.," directly criticized Cosby's comments. But some drew attention to other sources of societal problems.
"Many of our students come in angry and are labeled as special ed," said Deborah Jewel-Sherman, superintendent of public schools for Richmond, Va. "But coming from the background they've had, they have a right to be angry."
Several panelists openly defended Cosby. Pointing at the entertainer, Roosevelt, N.Y. School District Supt. Ron Ross said, "We should not jump on our brothers when they tell the truth."
Cosby first made headlines on the issue of black family responsibilities in May during a Washington, D.C., celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision, a landmark ruling in the battle for school desegregation.
The entertainer shocked his audience when he declared that while much progress has been made since the 1954 Supreme Court decision, "the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal."
Cosby's critics branded these statements as elitist and divisive.