“Some people graduate, but we still stupid.” – Kanye West (Graduation)
As the idea for this post formulated in my brain I realized once again this might be one of those posts where I’d probably be preaching to the choir. Then I thought harder and came to the conclusion that maybe I wouldn’t be. I’d like to assume that the majority of readers who frequent this blog are educated but what I’ve come to realize is that the fact that you are educated doesn’t necessarily make you smart. That’s beside the point I want to make today.
Reading is fundamental.
3 words but they encompass so much more. It’s become so cliché that I think it has lost almost all meaning. I ride the train to work every morning and a social study experiment could be done on any sample population you wanted. The subgroup I want to focus on is young black males.
When I ride the train I listen to my iPod while reading so I’m pretty much in my own world. Occasionally I may look up from my book and notice what other people are doing. I’ll see people doing everything from listening to their iPods, playing games on their phones, doing crossword puzzles or Sudoku. It’s hard for me to not think in terms of race so when I usually see someone reading a book1 it’s usually not a black person. On top of that I don’t think I’ve seen a black male reading a book on the train.
This got me thinking.
Why don’t black men read more? Ask yourself when was the last time you read a book (that didn’t have pictures). How many books do you read on average per year? Even my friends who have degrees and are educated don’t read for leisure.
I think more than any other group of men black males are perceived as lacking in intellectual skills. Stereotypes via racism and sexism as being more body than mind, black males are far more likely to appear dumb. I remember this culture going all the way back to grade school. A young Tunde would read books such as Goosebumps and Fear Street series by the great RL Stine. Before I got into sports I would rather read during recess than play football or kickball. In the eyes of my peers I was perceived as “weird”. In black culture it seems black boys, disproportionately numbered among the poor, have been socialized to believe that physical strength and stamina are all that really matters. Either you slang crack or you got a wicked jump shot. They have been taught that thinking is not a valuable labor.
These black boys who have been socialized grow into black men who know that they’re not supposed to be critical thinkers and they try not to be. A black man, even an educated one, who thinks critically, is still regarded suspiciously in mainstream culture. I think we should do a better job reading for leisure. Reading to improve our critical thinking skills. I know that often at the end of the day we’d rather deal with mind numbing bullshit but I implore you to pick up a book (assuming you don’t read regularly). There’s a reason a lot black male prisoners, with time on their hands, more often than not relish the opportunity to learn reading and writing skills. Yet in reality these are skills they should have learned in school early in life. Do you ever wonder why when almost all hope is lost men under these circumstances often immerse themselves into books?
1. Sometimes I hate technology. Companies would have you think that you’re not cool if you don’t own a kindle or a nook or a reader. I’ll pass on that. I still prefer buying books and nothing beats seeing words in print or books in your bookcase.