You can be Black and intelligent - 2.28.2007.1
As Black History month comes to an end I wanted to address something I read on Sunday, [I have just heard about the Kenneth Eng piece in AsianWeek and will be discussing that shortly!] As I was doing laundry I was reading the Press & Sun – Bulletin and noticed the article Success comes with a price. The article, written by George Basler, deals with an old issue – “acting white”. It seems that students in Binghamton, and I know for a fact in other parts of the country, are ridiculed for having intelligence. When I say this is an old issue I mean it evokes thoughts of slavery with slaves in the field taking task with those that lived in the slave-owner houses.
I cannot believe that this still goes on. I spoke on this a while ago in my post Do you qualify to be black? - 10.01.2006.1 and I need to say it again it seems. Why is there this expectation that to be African American there has to be a specific style and manner? Since when have any individuals been locked into any narrow view of how they should act or think? How did the pursuit of knowledge, the one treasure that once gained can never be taken away, become a less than noble pursuit? How as a culture have we allowed our children to view being able to think (language being the vocalization of thought) as being an indignity?
This is not a new thing as I mentioned above. I can clearly recall the occasional comment that I thought I was too smart, or white, or not black, back in high school at Evander Childs and during my career as a stockbroker. The one or two people that mentioned such a comment to me, or a few of my best friends (whom I still know to this day and have known for 30 years), were virtually always in remedial classes, drop-outs, on drugs and/or dealers. That doesn’t make them bad people per say but it did make their comments meaningless to me. I mean how stupid do you have to be to not be able to look at me and see I have African blood in me? But I really thought it was something that wasn’t common.
I am wrong, as this article proved. Black culture in America, and the Black community, have failed our kids by allowing this ignorance – no let me correct that – idiocy to continue. This is the slave mentality actively affecting our children. This is the result of children having children, drugs, inadequate schools, and parents failing to be parents first and the child’s friend second, as I see it.
I have never heard any other race question the race of someone in their race. I have never seen any group complain that their children are intelligent. I have never seen such an active pursuit to hold back peers as this article and my own experiences describe. And this is the root of back-handed comments such as the ‘articulate’ ‘clean’ and others often used to address any African American that has gained a higher education. This is the heart, in my opinion, of why so many fail to try to achieve better in their lives.
It is this mentality that creates lemmings, rushing out to blindly buy the latest $100+ sneaker (that costs $5-10 to make and advertise), or watch a film because a black actor/actress is featured in it (though the quality of the film is obviously sub-par like the Honeymooners remake or Soul Plane), or blindly vote for a politician because of their party affiliation without any knowledge of their platforms or politics in general. To be a Black American is more than what I wear, what I buy, or what career I endeavor in. Being an African American is not a commodity choice. I cannot shed it like a pair of over-priced jeans, nor would I.
To deprecate those that chose to improve their lives with knowledge, rather than pollute it with drugs or mindless apathy is a crime. Not a legal crime but a social and moral one. To be intelligent is not ‘white’; there are intelligent people of all races. Again I mention that for centuries African American have made inventions and breakthroughs that have helped create the world today as much as did the slave labor that made the foundations of this nation. Those that would say others are ‘acting white’ need to invest some time in reading about history and the achievements of those African Americans that came before them and see that perhaps they should say that those same individuals are in fact ‘acting Black’.
I hope the kids in Binghamton and in school across the nation hear this. I hope they remember that Black and Proud is not just a song or t-shirt slogan (and I freely admit I do sell a clothing line of a similar statement) but that it has a meaning. I wish that they keep a copy of this and recall it when they seek higher educations and better lives. There is no trade off in being African American, or Black American if you prefer, and intelligent. Anyone who would proffer such a choice has nothing to offer. Inevitably I suspect that anyone that would make such a comment will fail, the source of that downfall being within them. I learned long ago, I could chose to abandon my pursuit of knowledge and join those on the corner selling drugs and making a lot of cash. Of course I would also share in their short lives, extended jail terms, and drug addition. That choice was easy to make and hard to live. Yet my life and experiences today are often the only conversation piece I have with the survivors of the corner when I visit home, still selling, still going to jail, still dying violent deaths without glamour or fame or family and true friends. That is the true outcome of the thug life and the antithesis of knowledge in my opinion.
This is what I think, what do you think?