Southern plantation owners greatly feared two things when enslaved Africans were emancipated: (a) financial ruin (b) the obliteration of a Southern culture that their wealth and political interests rested upon. Southern plantation owners understood that money provided power; however, it was their regions cultural priorities that dictated their future. The American historical record indicates that these southern gentlemen were willing to destroy the nation before they would agree to the discarding of their cultural beliefs and priorities. Of all of the lessons that this period of time provides, it is this emphasis on culture that offer the greatest lessons for African-Americans; unfortunately, lessons regarding the importance of culture are consistently ignored.
Quite possibly the most shocking commentary regarding intra-racial cultural matters emanates from an unlikely source, Chris Rock; the same individual who publicly informed the entire nation, Black and white, that there was “a civil war going on between Black folk and Niggers. And Niggers have got to go.” Chris Rock’s piercing observation delves into on of Black America’s dirtiest pieces of laundry, that being certain segments of our community embracing and even celebrating anti-social behavior and repeatedly displaying unbelievable hostility toward education.
There seems to be a social, intellectual, and cultural poverty that has infected a significant portion of our race. Chris Rock’s stand-up focused upon one particular aspect of this poverty when he remarked, “Nothing makes a nigga happier than to not know the answer to your question.” The aforementioned statement is sad, but nevertheless true; and unbeknownst to those outside of our community, frequently spoken about behind closed doors amongst African-Americans.
The blessing and the curse of culture, is that it does not change immediately, it gradually morphs overtime; put simply, these subtle changes are indiscernible to the untrained eye. Once they become obvious, it is much too late to stop them. There is no other way to view the contemporary state of African-American culture. When this proud people emerged from the institution of chattel slavery, they faced innumerable problems. When asked what they most desired, the answer was simple: (a) to find their family — one must remember the disruptive nature of American chattel slavery — (b) to secure a piece of land to work, and (c) to secure an education. Emancipated Blacks linked their oppression to their lack of education; a situation that they continually worked toward correcting.
Such priorities ruled the nation for at least the century following the U.S. Civil War. However, today appears to be a new day for large segments of their community, particularly regarding educational pursuits. It is not accidental that this devaluing of education began with the integration of schools and the removal of large swaths of African-American teachers, particularly males, who served as the primary, next to parents, role model in the lives of Black children. Nearly fifty-years since the Brown v. Board of Education decision, we have a supposedly integrated educational system filled with Black children who are often displaying an unmistakable hostility, not indifference, toward education.
It is extremely difficult to identify a single villain in this process that has left many African-Americans hostile toward intelligence; a position that is so formidable that African-American children who excel inside of the classroom are branded ‘acting white’. However, a great starting point toward explaining this unfortunate turn of events would be an examination of contemporary “ends-justify-the-means” economic formulas that justifies any and everything as long as it is profitable in the end. This message is unfortunately piped into African-American homes via ‘Reality TV’ shows on a continual basis. Leading those absent an understanding of authentic Black culture to glean that such anti-social behavior and antics are representative of whom we are as a people.
The adoption of a value system that makes the pursuit of money and material goods the ultimate goal serves as the pivot that many African-American problems extend from. It is this pursuit of money that leads to the ‘dumbing down’ of Black America. Those who have adopted such a position wallow in an ignorance that begets a lack of politicization, that begets, economic ignorance, that begets poverty, which reinforces the initial step in this devilish process.
The alluded to situations and priorities has manufactured a group of individuals whose sole priorities are the pursuit of and consumption of material goods to the detriment of not only themselves, but also future generations. It is this population of individuals whose pursuit of the adornments of material success without the presence of any substance that Chris Rock is terming Niggas. And unbeknownst to them, the vast majority of the globe, particularly law abiding African-Americans agree that it is time for them to go.
James Thomas Jones III