ATLANTA – Bill Cosby says apathy among some black Americans about violence, drugs, profanity and teenage sex has sunk to a level of asking someone to "pass the salt."
The comedian, who has made waves by criticizing the black community in the past, appeared Thursday night with a Georgia judge who kicked whites out of his courtroom while he lectured black defendants.
Cosby and Superior Court Judge Marvin Arrington spoke at a forum for at-risk youths from the Atlanta area. Both men are black.
"Our children are trying to tell us something," Cosby said to the predominantly black audience at Benjamin Mays High School as he talked about the importance of education and family.
He amused the invitation-only crowd of about 600, which included teenagers identified as "at-risk" by juvenile authorities, with a lament about nonchalant reactions to common problems.
"Well, the mother's on crack cocaine. Pass the salt."
"That girl's baby has no father. Pass the salt."
"Oh, he shot him in the head? Pass the salt."
Cosby, dressed casually in sneakers and a Morehouse College T-shirt, said there are examples of success, and there are examples of failure.
"We look at failure and we're like, pass the salt."
He dismissed critics of his approach who have said that he is airing dirty laundry in the black community.
"That's crazy," he said. "There are black people who have to walk around this dirty laundry."
The judge, who in contrast to Cosby was wearing a gray, three-piece suit with white shirt and pink bow tie, said the comedian contacted him two weeks ago and said, "'I want to come to Atlanta and help you with your fight to try to turn these young people around.'
Chris Tucker also attended at the event. The comedian-actor, who starred in the "Rush Hour" films, urged audience members to find something they're passionate about, saying it's otherwise very easy to get into trouble.
"These young people are worth saving," Arrington said.
The judge has admitted he shouldn't have made white people leave as he tried to scare straight some young black men during the March 27 court session. He said he wanted only to get the defendants' attention without dressing them down in front of whites.
He recounted a litany of criminal defendants who come before him in court, including young men who kill during drug deals and a father who slept with his daughters.
"Somewhere, you can cannot tolerate this uncivilized conduct," Arrington said.