The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races.
W.E.B. Du Bois, 1903
One of the most difficult aspects of being Black in a world dominated by oppressive and murderous whites is maintaining one’s sanity. It is this delicate balancing act of maintaining one’s “right mind” that proves elusive for the vast majority of African-Americans, regardless of their educational level and class status. An undeniable reality that leads me to state that the most significant health issue in Black America is not HIV, obesity, high-blood pressure, heart disease, sicke-cell anemia, or some other physical ailment; rather it is a rampant case of mental illness that is manifested in myriad unconscionable ways among some of the least likely populations.
Although I am aware of the blatant occurrences of ridiculous behavior that we see emanating from the economically and educationally marginalized segments of our Race, their repeated appearances on viral videos throughout the internet make me cringe, however, they are in many ways helpless victims in this larger scheme of racism, economic exploitation, and the propagation of white world supremacy. In many ways their victimization by the educational system, Capitalism, and myriad other ways flows directly from a segment of individuals that should be addressing, if not preventing, many of these matters; I speak of “educated Negroes”.
My anger, frustration, and exasperation is turned toward those who have been provided innumerable and unprecedented opportunities to stretch their minds, travel the world, and secure “educations” that our ancestors could have not fathomed; the individuals that I speak of are the twenty-first century “Talented Tenth”.
The foremost question that we must broach in regards to our modern-day “Talented Tenth” is of what utility are any of their educational accomplishments or financial gains to the masses of Black folk? Put simply, are they even aware of the significant role that they are supposed to play in the “liberation and salvation of the Black nation?” This population displays every sign of what I previously termed the most significant health crisis in our midst, mental illness. This population of educated Negroes have decided to distance themselves from the Blackness that incubated their birth, existence, and growth into adulthood in favor of the worldview, priorities, and materialistic goals of a nation that loathes their existence.
The primary role of “the Talented Tenth” is to both engage a tyrannically hostile white society and secure the tools needed to pave a path for their people’s liberation. Put simply, they are to lay the ‘blueprint’ for racial uplift. Herein lies the genesis of the powerlessness of educated Negroes today; meaning, that they have no real understanding of the utility of knowledge. They are engaging educational institutions for individualistic goals of financial and material gain. Obviously, such priorities promise little if any benefit to African-Americans collectively.
Absent an understanding of the utility of education prior to one’s engagement, individuals from oppressed populations will invariably be indoctrinated with the ideology of their oppressor. Put simply, there is often an inverse relationship between educated African-Americans exposure to white universities and our utility to Black people.
One of the most glaring examples of the damage hewn from a naïve engagement with white educational institutions is found in the refusal of the vast majority of Historically Black Colleges and Universities to deal with African-American issues. Save for a few exceptions such as Tennessee State University and Howard University, one is hard pressed to find a significant presence of Black Studies on HBCU campuses; ironically, they are prevalent on predominantly white campuses. Hilariously, those who lead Black college campuses have done their feeble-minded best to replicate the curriculum offerings of white campuses and shunned any significant association with Black Studies in favor of supporting, via significant monetary resources I must add, Hispanic Studies, Chinese Studies and institutes, etc. Clearly, these Negroes are out of their minds.
Despite my strongest hesitations, it is obvious that once naive Negroes “without a knowledge of self”, engage white institutions, they emerge displaying every indicator of mental illness, if not outright insanity.
Hence, it is obvious that the group W.E.B. Du Bois projected would lead us out of our enslavement to white America has in effect endorsed and encouraged our subservience. I close with a quote from the great Marcus Mosiah Garvey who warned us of the so-called “talented tenth” when he stated to the masses of Black folk that “ANY LEADERSHIP that teaches you to DEPEND on another race is a leadership that will ENSLAVE YOU!” Let me say that again. “ANY LEADERSHIP that teaches you to DEPEND on another race is a leadership that will ENSLAVE YOU!” And for my money, the typical “educated” Black is not only helping with our collective enslavement, but also crazy enough to believe that it is his job and duty to do such.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III