Category Archives: Education

Why a Steeply Declining Black Readership is so Problematic for African-American Writers

I guess that we should not be shocked when a bit of sadness or depression results from the realization that there are very few independent black writers addressing pertinent issues affecting Black America. If one is not careful about their thought processes, they will find themselves believing that the Black Community is a place that is hostile to intellectualism. Instead of substance, it appears that our people are desirous of superficial black romance novels set in urban settings or pimp chronicles that do little to illuminate the mind and everything to reinforce deplorable stereotypes and caricatures of a black populace that is already woefully maligned in public spaces.

I am absolutely certain that my concern with this issue flows from my disappointment with African-American collegians whose exposure to and willingness to engage great black texts is often non-existent. As an African-American studies professor, my initial interaction with my students occurs with me asking them to introduce themselves, to aid this often painful process I ask them a simple ice-breaker question of “What is your favorite book or who is your favorite author.” The answers that I receive regarding this simple query are in a word frightening.

  • “I have never even read an actual book.”
  • “My favorite author is J.K. Rowling. I love Harry Potter.”
  • “My favorite author is James Patterson.”
  • “George Orwell, 1984.”
  • The Diary of Anne Frank.”

By the time that the last answer is given, my feelings are vacillating between anger, disappointment, and frustration that the tradition of great black writers and books could very well reach an inglorious end with this most recent generation. This moment always causes my mind to retrieve what I now consider to be the sage advice of former student Nicholas Malone of The Academic Grind Center who poignantly asserted, “But Jones, you have to remember that no one is reading anymore. They are watching Youtube Videos to get their knowledge.” Although I hate to admit it, I now realize that Malone’s observation is correct.

Therein lays the answers to one of my most common questions of “what are they reading?” The sad answer is that they are not reading anything, particularly anything that will illuminate their mind in regards to what it means to be the descendant of stolen and enslaved Africans in a land that abhors their continued presence.

Let’s be honest about this matter, at this present moment black writers, regardless of the quality of their scholarship or creativity, are largely irrelevant to the masses of African-Americans. Although many may consider this assertion to be biased as I am a writer, however, the blame for the marginalization of serious black writers at this present moment must be placed on the intellectually narrow shoulders of African-Americans who have found satisfactory titillation living shallow lives filled with gossip, foolishness, drinking/drugs, and entertainment outlets that guarantee the extension of black misery and suffering for them and their offspring.

When it comes to intellectual endeavors, the only thing worse than being lost is not realizing that you are lost, and have no desire to alter this depraved state. It is in this netherworld that I find the vast majority of young Black America.

Make no mistake about it, any marginalized population whose only means of educating themselves flow from their oppressors fountain of knowledge will never realize their subordinate status, but also will eventually begin to exhibit signs that remind one of Stockholm syndrome; meaning, that blacks will seek to not only assimilate with their oppressor but also work to further substantiate and strengthen the very system that has historically oppressed them. It is this situation that has led the masses of black folk to tune-out poignant African-American writers of today and yesterday.

What is quite possibly the most frustrating aspect of this sordid situation is that within these same hollow vessels of intellectual nothingness that my students arrive as I recognize raw intelligence and mental acumen. The realization that they have the ability to engage great black writers leads me to the conclusion that their minds, the most precious resource Black America has, have not been directed in such a direction. Although I am far from a conspiracy theorist, the truth of the matter is that there has to be something afoot when school boards and the administrators who execute their directives decide that The Diary of Anne Frank is mandatory while works such as Native Son, Assata, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, Some Soul to Keep, The Invisible Man, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X are unworthy of being taught in American classrooms. An educational process that mutes the voices of Alice Walker, Alex Haley, Octavia Butler, Richard Wright, Toni Morrison, and James Baldwin will ultimately mute the genius of succeeding generations as it will starve from intellectual freedom and stimulation. Make no mistake about it, an irrelevant school curriculum has led to many African-American students non-desire to engage black literature and intellectual ideas in a significant manner.

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 voice such as mine to emerge without censoring it in some form or fashion. The fact that serious black writers 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 their lives illuminating a path to liberation.

Apparently, they are not seeking to become free.

The absence of black support via the purchase of even a single book, a voluntary donation, or 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, 2018

Books published by Dr. James Thomas Jones III

 

Please support Independent Black Scholarship; it’s the only way that we are going to free our minds.

Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Historical Narrative of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

‘Foolish’ Floyd: The Life & Times of an African-American Contrarian

O’Bruni: An African-American Odyssey Home?

A New Year’s Resolution Worth Committing To: Black America’s Most Important Step Toward Liberation

Of course, I am neither ignorant of nor arrogant enough to deny the significance of a New Year. This momentous occasion is in many ways an opportunity for each of us to reflect on the path that we have traveled and pledged our commitment to correct what we now consider previous errors or garner some increased understanding of prior motivations, intentions, successes, and failures. The dawning of a New Year is an occasion that must be celebrated as it provides another opportunity to get “it” correct.

Although many African-Americans vigorously resist any insinuation that Race remains the very pivot that their life chances and opportunities rest on, the American historical record denounces their viewpoint. To this very moment, Race, a socially constructed political expedient that has always benefited those who could be comfortably termed the opponents of Black America, remains the ultimate rallying call for whites and the supreme hurdle to persons of African descent. Despite the obvious impact that Race has had on America’s development as THE leading world power, it remains a truth that is never to be raised in the public sphere. Any insinuation that Race remains a major factor in the oppression of African-Americans renders one a voiceless intellectual pariah to be shunned by legitimate scholars and political thinkers. Even black intellectuals seeking to curry favor with white powerbrokers will publicly denounce the pernicious effects of Race on their people.

The feeble denunciations of the impact that Race has on this nation are easily silenced by an American historical record that drips with the blood, sweat, and tears of African-Americans. One of my favored articulations of the means that Americans, regardless of their race/ethnicity, will go to in their ridiculous denouncement of Race in America flows from the pen of W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois penned the following assertion as the opening paragraph of his classic text The Souls of Black Folk.

Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, “How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil?” At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, “How does it feel to be a problem?” I answer seldom a word.

DuBois’ poignant words, written in 1903, prove that Race is not a recent development, it pre-dates the moment that drunk white colonists vowed to “not be the slaves of Britain” in some dark pub in Boston.

It is past time that African-Americans accept that Race is as American as baseball and Apple Pie. Failure to accept this basic reality prevents African-Americans from the basic understanding that Race impacts everything in this nation, including a daunting social order and politico-economic processes designed to extend the subjugation of Black America. Although difficult to accept, the prejudice and discrimination that flows from Race are found in school curriculums and popular culture images and expressed via the dastardly gaze of disapproval that black women shoot at black men that they know nothing about or the fallacious belief that more than a few black men hold that women of any other race/ethnicity make better wives than black women.

Hence, the most important question facing Black America is a relatively simple one of “How do we fight against a powerful system that whose existence hinges on our continued domination and disorganization?”

Let’s be honest about this issue, it is difficult to have a logical and productive argument that refutes a historical record that proves that the path to liberation for recent arrivals to this nation has been Nationalism. One of the most maddening aspects of Black America’s oppression is that the path to immediately ceasing our exploitation has been shared by a series of black leaders/prophets who have repeatedly taught that the only path to liberation is Black Nationalism.

Unfortunately for Black America, the introduction of Black Nationalism causes significant trepidations to arise in the souls of African-Americans. Experience has taught me that very few of our people understand what is meant by Black Nationalism. It is for this reason that we must teach our people that Black Nationalism is actually a very simple and logical concept. Brother Malcolm X termed Black Nationalism in the following manner. “The black man should be in charge of the economics, education, politics, and politicians that represent his community.”

It is the time that we focus our energies educating our people about politico-economic matters that promise extended rewards and benefits. For example, it is imperative that we demystify Nationalism and explain to our people that other groups have shown an amazing discipline in silently executing their nationalist plans. Consider for a moment that most large American cities have a China Town, Little Italy, German Village, Korea Town, and the list goes on and on. These are expressions of Nationalism by groups that understand that there is strength in numbers, meaning they pool and circulate their dollars, educate their own with a relevant education designed to increase their power, and grow their own politicians who do not forget for a single moment who put them into their political position and who holds the power to remove them at a moments notice.

At this moment, I am reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King’s poignant book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? for the following reason. We need to start this process of uplifting Black America somewhere.

From my perspective, everything hinges on education. It is only via a relevant education that is designed by those seeking to uplift Black America that we will be able to prevent the future development of African-Americans who have such little understanding of Race and the politico-economic collectivism needed to uplift the community. It is only ignorance regarding substantive politico-economic that explains such populations refusal to realize that white ethnic groups have used these means to uplift their kind while taking an oppositional position to similar efforts within their own community.

We can talk about many things surrounding our people, however, no real viable solutions will be offered, let alone attained, until we decide to illuminate our minds regarding the path we have traveled, the present situation that we are in, and the glorious possibilities for black liberation.

Happy New Year, Y’all. Let’s get busy with a relevant education that allows us to develop concrete plans that once executed will lead to the black man and woman “being in charge of the economics, education, politics, and politicians that represent his community.”

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2018

Why a Relevant Education is the Most Critical Element Missing in the Liberation of Black America

One of my favorite Malcolm X quotes is “only a fool would let his enemy teach his children.” The power of this quote is two-fold, one the one hand it is simple, yet on the other hand, it communicates a multi-layered analysis of the very foundations of Black America’s primary problem. Anyone who has ever listened to Brother Malcolm knows very well that his oratorical style forced our people to take a serious look at themselves. Malcolm knew very well that if our people performed an honest introspection of their everyday behavior and decisions, even they would see that their foolish actions and decision-making process play a significant role in matters of nation building and racial uplift.

Considering the indispensability of education in both the analysis of our historic racial problems and the development of much-needed plans to address those issues, it has always puzzled me that education is not considered the foundational cornerstone to nation-building. Unfortunately for Black America, our people frequently ignore the supreme utility of education. Although many of my Black Nationalist peers will question the following assertion, neither political matters nor economic strategies supersede the supreme importance of education to black liberation. It is via education that we are able to illuminate all other issues such as the politico-economic misery that our people have endeared for centuries. I long ago realized that everything and I do mean everything, I do or say pivots directly off of my exposure to ideas, thoughts, and concepts learned via some educational endeavor.

There is little room for a reasonable debate against the fact that we each entered this world knowing nothing. Everything that we know, or better yet think that we know, was learned through observation or instruction. Make no mistake about it, a relevant education is the difference-maker between an individual wandering through life seeking purpose and a person who wisely decided to by-pass meaningless employment opportunities granted from a hostile white community and decided to embrace entrepreneurship with the intention of servicing and employing their own people. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s Ten Point Platform and Program beautifully articulates the utility of a relevant education for Black America.

We Want Education For Our People That Exposes The True Nature Of This Decadent American Society. We Want Education That Teaches Us Our True History And Our Role In The Present-Day Society.

We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.

A relevant education is a lynchpin between an individual who spends life aimlessly searching for where they fit in and a politicized individual who understands his indispensability to develop the politico-economic base that his people’s interests rest upon.

If we were to reverse Malcolm X’s assertion that “only a fool would allow his enemy to educate his children”, it would read, a wise man teaches his own children the past, present, and future direction of his people.

History indicates that the primary utility of a relevant education for Black America is found in its ability to generate solidarity and like-mindedness. One must remember that such matters are supremely important to African-Americans as many of us do not even agree on the ultimate goal of black liberation, let alone an appropriate path to reach that destination.

The historical record of any people that have successfully escaped the shackle of tyranny displays that group uplift follows solidarity of thought. Despite what many may wish for, the alluded to solidarity of thought does not miraculously appear, it is manufactured via educational institutions and social, economic, political, and cultural mandates. Consider for a moment that it is not accidental that the vast majority of students who emerge from the University of Notre Dame are pro-life as the school’s curriculum shapes their thinking in that regard. Nor is it accidental that the foremost issue on the agenda of Jews is the protection and sovereignty of Israel; every portion of that community’s socialization process is aimed at impressing upon succeeding generations that until Israel is free, they will never be free.

A similar teaching was advanced by the great historian John Henrik Clarke who admonished persons of African descent strewn throughout the West that “until Africa is free, you will never be free.” Unfortunately for persons of African descent, such teachings have failed to take hold as we have yet to develop an educational mechanism that convinces our people that such a worldview is the only reasonable one.

Any “leader” interested in the liberation of his/her people realize that their ability to manufacture consent is crucial to all of their endeavors. Although many may disagree with “the manufacturing of consent” via educational institutions, the truth is that there are no more efficient means of generating collectivism than controlling what is taught in school houses. If the above statement is valid, the opposite must also be considered valid as well; meaning that there is no more efficient means of guaranteeing that a socially fractured, politically disorganized, and non-collectivist economic people such as African-Americans continue along that path of inefficiency than by indoctrinating them with an irrelevant curriculum that busies their mental processes with items that have nothing to do with the development of an escape plan from their exploited status.

The painful truth is that the aforementioned process of “dumbing down” African-Americans via an irrelevant educational curriculum has been both the favored and most reliable tactic of white power brokers. As an educator, I will not be unduly harsh on teachers as they are little more than frontline soldiers who take their orders from higher-ups. My criticism is aimed at a non-responsive educational system that has succeeded at its real task of continuing the marginalization of generations of Black America. Put simply, white school curriculums do not now, nor have they ever, intended to aid Black America in mobilizing politico-economic resources in preparation for a surge to secure what Khalid Abdul Muhammad routinely termed “the liberation and salvation of the black nation.”

This is a critical moment for Black America as it is imperative that our educators turn inward and continue creating independent “freedom schools” that provide a relevant curriculum for African-American children. Black America must become extremely serious about taking ownership of its present plight, a crucial aspect of that process is finally accepting that no one is coming to help you in this endeavor, let alone to save you from an all too familiar misery. We must busy ourselves developing independent educational institutions that not only inform our people of their last place status in every social, health, economic, and political indicator but also work to scientifically address these issues.

The great Panther Party leader Fred Hampton once remarked that “War is nothing but politics with bloodshed and politics is nothing but war without bloodshed.” It is time that African-Americans realized that they are actually at war for both their continued existence on the planet Earth and the future place of our children in that world. I hope that we embrace this call to educate our own and stop being the fools that Malcolm told us we would be if we continued to allow our enemy to infiltrate our children’s minds. There is no doubt whatsoever that our children are our most valued and precious resource; a resource that must be protected ‘by any means necessary.’

James Thomas Jones III, Ph.D., M.A., M.A., M.A.

#ManhoodRaceCulture

Books published by Dr. James Thomas Jones III

Please support Independent Black Scholarship; it’s the only way that we are going to free our minds.

Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Historical Narrative of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

‘Foolish’ Floyd: The Life & Times of an African-American Contrarian

Reclaiming a Fading Legacy: Why I Make My Students Read Assata aka Counterbalancing an Irrelevant American Educational System that has Failed Black People

During my initial lecture in my freshman survey course, a course that invariably includes upperclassmen who have avoided addressing mandatory history requirements, I purposely attempt to pique their interest in the subject matter as a preemptive strike against the malaise that the subject matter of history generates in their minds. If nothing else, this introductory moment allows me to gauge their understanding of African-American history.

When I address the volatile identity politic driven 1960s, my area of expertise I might add, I highlight several notable Black Powerites by asking those assembled in front of me if they know anything about Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, George Jackson, Fred Hampton, or Carl Hampton? Puzzled and bewildered looks appear on the faces of my young charges. Without fail, it is not until I reference the name Assata Shakur that the hands of a few students who are eager to share that they know who this revolutionary sister is confidently raised. For most, this is their moment, the one opportunity to prove to me that they do know something about African-American history; unfortunately, it is a moment that will definitively prove how little they do know. Invariably, some non-descript student eagerly announces to their classmates that “Assata Shakur is Tupac Shakur’s momma.” I just shake my head and sigh as once again, my students have confused their Shakur’s. In one swoop, this particular student has erased the legacies of both Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s mother, and Assata Shakur, our revolutionary sister who remains exiled in Cuba. Experience has taught me that this is a common misstep among my students.

The above mistake occurs so frequently that it has caused me to ponder the following question; what does it mean that the vast majority of my students do not know about Assata Shakur. What does this troubling historical illiteracy say about black educators, the American educational system, and the black community?

One does not need to be a pessimist to reach the conclusion that the fact that African-American children have no real understanding of Black History means that the American educational system has no utility to Black America. Dare I say that sizable portions of this antiquated and non-representative institution have no utility whatsoever when measured against a much-needed effort to liberate Black America socially, politically, culturally, and economically.

I fervently believe that the process of inquiry and intellectual curiosity are critical components of the development of self-identity, politicization, and the generation of priorities for Black America. Such conclusions force me to use Assata Shakur’s story, Assata, in my courses on a repeated basis as it is a succinct articulation of the cost African-American revolutionaries have paid for their commitment to liberate their people around the globe.

I am confident that you understand that as a black educator, I consistently wrestle with matters of education and the development of a relevant education on a consistent basis. I am not ashamed to share that the alluded to moments of reflection engender a slight depression. The alluded to depression is a direct extension of the realization that the irrelevant curriculum that teachers, regardless of race/ethnicity, are forced to teach has created bountiful crops of African-Americans who are not only guided by a pervasive ignorance regarding African-American history, but also are quick to attack anyone that raises issues such as Race, racial inequality, prejudice, discrimination, or racism. Their complicity with their own oppression has been manufactured in American school houses.

In the end, the question of who will teach our people about the heroic struggle persons of African descent have undergone around the globe remains. The only reasonable answer to this query is that enlightened African-Americans must recommit themselves to educating our people “by any means necessary.” In many ways, we have no other choice if we are to survive. Failure to take definitive action in this matter ensures that we will continue our tradition of being economically exploited, socially inappropriate, and politically inept; places that I hope you would agree we have occupied for far too long.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

“We Sick Boss?”: The Unfortunate Tendency of “Educated Blacks” to Value White Schools over H.B.C.U.’s

Considering that I am approaching the half-century mark, I hope that most people understand that there are some viewpoints that I will never abandon. And when I say that I will NEVER abandon them, I mean it. In regards to many of these issues, I cannot envision a scenario where my perspective will ever change on substantive matters such as how I measure professional success. Although I am aware that many consider my refusal to budge a character flaw commonly referred to as stubbornness; I consider it a sign of integrity.

The above topic of how I measure professional success served as the battleground for a contentious battle between myself and a former collegiate classmate. Although we are both African-American Studies Professors, our viewpoints could not be more divergent.

As is our usual routine, a rather mundane discussion transformed into a significant disagreement regarding how professional success should be measured. This disagreement began the moment that I took significant issue with his belief that after toiling for years at a small religious-based black college his arrival at a “prestigious” white university signaled that he “had finally made it.”

I must tell you that my anger increased as this “brother” denigrated H.B.C.U.’s while lauding predominantly white institutions. To be honest, I felt as if I were stuck in the middle of an unaired episode of The Boondocks, I knew better. My mind could not resist bringing forth the imagery of Malcolm X who took those who believed that their decreasing proximity to whites was a valid measure of professional success to task via a crude historical analogy regarding a House Slave and a Field Slave. According to Malcolm, the House Slave loved his Master so much that if the Master got sick he would ask, “What’s wrong boss, we sick?” There is little doubt that my former collegiate classmate not only identifies with whites, but also has integrated their value system and priorities into his worldview. Put simply; they are his measuring stick.

This matter led me back to a quip that famed educator Jane Elliott articulated. “If you want to get ahead in America, act white.”

Despite my most fervent attempts, I have not been able to shake the conflict mentioned above as it reveals so much about a class of Black America who have been given significant opportunities, yet have failed to “stay the course” and work toward the liberation of those individuals and institutions that have yet to arrive. It is no stretch to assert that such individuals are of no utility whatsoever to the Black Community as they have been ‘brainwashed’ by an educational system and socialization process that will never cease its denigration of Black America.

What a waste of opportunity. They should be ashamed of themselves, however, such realizations escape them.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2017