Although I would love to support the recent decision by Surry Community College to offer a course on African-American History, I have grave concerns regarding a decision that many of my contemporaries are immediately celebrating. Now please do not mistake my ambivalence to the addition of the course as a sign that I have lost my desire for African-American studies, because I haven’t, however, this issue raises a host of questions that sit at the core of the education of the next generation of African-American activists. The alluded to questions are rarely posed in a culture of political correctness that causes African-Americans to obsess over a consideration of the feelings of others instead of a desperate pursuit of uplifting the race. At the present moment, Race is an arena where “fools rush in, and Angels fear to tread.”
The Surry Community College course addition will be taught by Rick Shelton, a white male instructor who plans to have “students analyze how the African-American identity, born in bondage, changed with the rise and fall of slavery in the United States, they will also be pushed to view blacks beyond the traditional stereotype simply as victims and will explore the ways in which black women and men took control of their lives to leave a lasting impact on America’s history and future. Upon completion of the class, students should be able to analyze significant political, socioeconomic, and cultural developments in the history of African-Americans.” My considerable consternation regarding this course being a representation of African-American Studies is found in this statement.
It ‘s not hard for me to pinpoint my reservations regarding this matter, I simply take significant issue with African-American Studies courses that defang the discipline via curricular offerings that recall Black America’s storied past without any intention of preparing the next generation of black activists for action. Put simply; I abhor courses that are little more than academic exercises whose objectives could be achieved via trivia cards. At the core of my fear is that if African-American studies courses are not led in the correct vein, they are minstrel-like, meaning white history courses in Blackface that no longer serve as training grounds for the next generation of “Race men and Race women.” The continuing need for politically astute and historically knowledgeable African-American youth to lead the struggle for “the liberation and salvation of the black nation” leads me to cringe at the Surry Community College course offering.
Mr. Shelton’s hope that “upon completion of the class, students should be able to analyze significant political, socioeconomic, and cultural developments in the history of African-Americans” falls well-short of the activist training ground that is African-American studies at its best. Make no mistake about it, the failure to use African-American studies programs as a training ground for the next generation of social activists’ works against any future progress toward the advancement of Black America.
I hope that you comprehend why I look at this situation as a double-edged sword. I do take delight in the appearance of an African-American studies course on yet another collegiate campus; however, I also cringe at the fact that it is in no way intended to be used for the uplift of Black America.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017.