Except for a few exceptions, the vast majority of “news programming” aimed at African-Americans should be reclassified as celebrity gossip television as it rarely diverts from mindless non-sense and superficial analysis. Beyond Roland Martin’s News One coverage, Black America is largely devoid of media outlets that provide pertinent information designed to illuminate a path to liberation. I am uncertain if we should blame the Black Press or black people for the current absence of in-depth news coverage aimed at Black America.
The Black Press’ contemporary irrelevance is not only unprecedented but also intertwined with its non-desire to cover significant issues within Black America. Someone needs to inform the Black Press that extensive coverage of church anniversaries and community bar-be-cues instead of political matters and socioeconomic issues affecting Black America makes them co-conspirators in the oppression of their people.
Sadly, the Black press has become so irrelevant to the lives of black Americans that the periodicals are given away for free. If the adage of “that which is given away for free has no value to others” holds true, the Black Press is in a more precarious position that I initially thought.
Make no mistake about it, any marginalized and oppressed population whose only means of communication hinges upon their gaining access to their oppressor’s media outlets is in serious trouble. Not only can they be muted at any moment, but also their most revolutionary voices are guaranteed to be filtered, censored, or silenced.
The above issues facing the Black Press are made exponentially worse by the harsh reality that a significant portion of Black America has developed what could be appropriately termed a ravenous appetite for salacious celebrity gossip and conspiracy theories based upon nothingness. The gravitational pull that popular culture non-sense has upon African-Americans has resulted in not only the decline of the Black Press but also the vanquishing of a long tradition of revolutionary penmen who have always provided daunting critiques and analysis of racism while also pointing the way to liberation.
Although rarely heard from anymore, a cadre of serious black writers still exists within America. Unfortunately for black intellectuals, they have coerced into taking a Faustian deal of (a) working for white companies, (b) subduing the intellectual quality of their penmanship, or (c) remaining entirely independent of white censorship and financial support; I have chosen the final option.
Unfortunately the long tradition of black writers who were heard and celebrated as a result of the courage they displayed while ‘speaking truth to power’ has nearly ground to a halt. In the words of Mos Def, African-American writers have learned an arduous lesson of “freedom ain’t free.” Consequently, financial concerns have prepared the vast majority of black writers for co-optation by the very entities that they should oppose. Ironically, the fall of independent black writers is directly related to the intellectual decline of an African-American populace that succinctly expresses its hostility to black intelligence by refusing to support black scholarship in any written form. Despite all efforts to refute this reality, the unfortunate reality is that Black America in its totality has no interest in increasing its understanding of either its oppression or a path to escape from it.
The resistance of African-Americans to support serious black scholarship guarantees that we will never see another James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, Countee Cullen, Maya Angelou, or Toni Morrison, at least not at the same rate that they appeared during the twentieth-century. Contemporary novelists realize that the tide has shifted away from substantive black literature detailing the beauty of African-American life. Modern black readers shun works such as The Third Life of Grange Copeland (Alice Walker), Beloved (Toni Morrison), Native Son (Richard Wright), or Kindred (Octavia Butler) for ghetto pimp tales and lascivious tales revolving around sexual impropriety. Unfortunately for Black Intellectualism, ghetto urban stories about drugs, crime, prostitution, adultery, and fornication are devoured by black anti-intellectuals as if they are life-sustaining air.
There is no greater sign of the damage that an irrelevant school curriculum and excessive exposure to and integration of a morally reprehensive dysfunctional culture has upon the psyche of Black America than its inability or non-desire to engage black literature and intellectual writings in a significant manner.
It is this transformation of Black America, not the election of Donald Trump, which should frighten African-Americans because it guarantees that the oppression of African-Americans will continue unabated well into the new century.
Ironically, if Manhood, Race, and Culture were not an independent space where I am beholden to no one, I would be unable to address this matter with the truthfulness that I have. I prefer my independence, regardless of the financial costs; and rest assured, there is a steep economic cost associated with that decision.
I understood long ago that white media outlets would never allow a strong black voice such as mine to emerge without censoring it in some form or fashion. The fact that serious black scholars invariably have to maintain some type of relationship with white entities to ensure their material survival should be the epitome of embarrassment to Black America. However, I have found that Black America has neither shame nor embarrassment when it comes time to support black writers who have sacrificed significant portions of their lives illuminating a path to liberation.
The absence of support via the purchase of books, a voluntary donation, or even a quick note makes the road that independent black scholar’s traverse not only lonely, but also incredibly dark and daunting. So on behalf of all independent black writers let me encourage you to offer some signal that you appreciate what we do, because it is hard out here on those of us who have yet to bow our heads and go work for the man.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2016
Please support Independent Black Scholarship; it’s the only way that we are going to free our minds.
Author, Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Historical Narrative of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense
Author, ‘Foolish’ Floyd: The Life & Times of an African-American Contrarian
Author, O’Bruni: An African-American Odyssey Home?
All available at Amazon and black bookstores throughout the nation