“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.” ~The Mis-Education of the Negro
I would be remiss if I didn’t write about education during black history month. Although I’m a firm believer that black history shouldn’t be celebrated only one month during the year but that’s neither here nor there. As far as the black community is concerned I think this past couple of generations the two areas in which we have become inattentive is the placement of black men as heads of households and the stress of importance towards education. Today I will be discussing the latter.
Black History Month began as Achievement Week which was fathered by Carter Godwin Woodson. He completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1912, where he was only the second African-American (after W.E.B. DuBois) to earn a doctorate. Woodson was one of my fraternity brothers and he brought forth the idea of Achievement Week during our 1920 National Conclave held in Nashville, TN at Meharry Medical College, the school that I now attend. I take great pride in that fact Dr. Woodson chose my school as the place where he wanted to promote the study of black life and history.
In generations following the end of slavery, there was great emphasis placed on educating ourselves. During slavery it was illegal for African-Americans to even know how to read so I would imagine that when we received the opportunity to do so we took full advantage. In the approximately 40 years between post-slavery and the turn of the century great minds were produced such as George Washington Carver, W.E.B. DuBois and Carter G. Woodson. These names will forever be remembered for their intellectual prowess and contributions to their race. Their dedication to education was unparalleled.
Comparing the value placed on education within our community then and now would be laughable. DuBois’ philosophy on the Talented Tenth would be more like the Talented Two in today’s society. Like Christopher Wallace said, “either you’re slingin’ crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot.” Educating your mind is not easy. Sometimes it doesn’t pay off monetarily. Cultivating your mind just isn’t cool anymore. With young men idolizing Lebron James instead of Ben Carson and young women wanting to be Beyonce instead of Alice Walker the placement of idolization in our community is severely misplaced.
Everyone wants to be a rapper. No one wants to be a doctor. Everyone wants to be a ball player. No one wants to be a teacher. Why? Everyone wants fast money. And can you blame them? A doctor might make $200K a year while having $300K in student loan debts. A teacher (who is entrusted with our greatest assets, our children) might make $35,000/year. Children see rappers on television driving high end cars and flashing expensive jewelry or they hear about athletes signing multi-million dollar contracts for throwing or catching a ball. This is the path of least resistance compared to the path that takes years of hard work just to make pennies on the dollar compared. Honestly, which one would you aspire to be?
There are many factors that have contributed to the decline to the significance of pursuing an education in our culture. The absence of parents in the schooling of their children. Governmental neglect and budget cuts when it comes to inner city schools. Pop culture and its anti-education propaganda. Most of all, individual responsibility when it comes to indoctrination.
By the way, Happy Valentine’s Day ladies. I love y’all long time.