Tag Archives: Black Intelligence

The Richard Wright Keynote Address: Why Formal Education Should Never Be Considered A Sign of Knowing Anything About African-Americans

If one considers the axiom that “there is strength in numbers” to be true, it is reasonable to assert that intra-racial in-fighting and disarray is a significant obstacle for Black America. At the present moment, there may be no greater obstacle to black liberation than the tendency of many African-Americans to dismiss education as a worthy goal. My tenure as an educator has taught me that many within our community have crossed lines that could be termed indifferent to intellectualism and entered the realm of hostility.

I often find myself in a contentious debate with a fellow African-American who will seek an escape route from a mental tussle via the stating of, “Well, I may not have the education that you have…” In fact, I have come to believe that such phraseology has little to do with a surrender and everything to with issuing a covert denunciation of a lifetime of study.

Far too frequently I encounter African-Americans who have concluded that the development of the mind is trumped by a haphazard pursuit of material goods and financial resources. If nothing else, Black History Month highlights this questionable priority arrangement and the reality that far too many of our people have little to no interest in a life of the mind. Although it pains me to admit it, experience has taught me that the vast majority of our people could care less about black intellectualism, it is quite simply “not their thing”. In place of a life of the mind, there appears to be an eagerness to envelope oneself within a comfortable blanket of comprehensive ignorance, a spot that many resist exiting at all costs.

Possibly the most startling aspect of this resistance to black intellectualism is that it is found in every segment of our community. To my dismay, the lamentable ignorance that serves as a sturdy foundation for so many is apparent among even the most formally “educated” within our midst. Consider the following incident for a moment.

I was recently invited to serve as a consultant for an educational institution seeking to bolster its Black History Month programming by advising them on who they should bring in to deliver their keynote address. When hired to do this job, I thought it peculiar that an assembly of black educators was at a total loss as to who they should pay tens-of-thousands of dollars to lecture to their students. However, my bewilderment soon subsided as it became obvious that each of the Ph.D.’s assembled in this meeting needed an immediate sabbatical that should have been used to take a few African-American studies courses.

I am confident that you understand that in time, the topic of who they should bring in to deliver the main lecture for that year’s Black History Month was raised. It was from that moment that I felt that I had been hurled into an intellectual abyss where any knowledge of black intellectualism was forbidden.

One male professor asked his colleagues the following question.

Did you know that this is the 60th Anniversary of Richard Wright releasing Black Boy?

This assembly of educators communicated their understanding of that fact by nodding their heads. This communication was quickly followed by the one who issued the initial query with an assertion that

I think that we should invite Richard Wright to campus to deliver our keynote address for Black History Month.

My mind spun as I was befuddled by the assertion. My confusion grew exponentially when this assembly of educators offered non-verbal agreement to the suggestion. My level of disorientation increased as “highly-educated” administrators in charge of million dollar budgets dedicated over twenty-thousand dollars to bringing Richard Wright to campus. I did not know if I should burst out in laughter or tears at this discussion.

There was no denying that this thirty-minute session that laid the groundwork for Richard Wright’s appearance revealed two lamentable offenses: (a) these so-called educators had no real understanding of Richard Wright and (b) their ignorance of black intellectualism extended further than the author of Black Boy and Native Son.

There was no denying that this assembly of educators, a group that had been extended the privilege of shaping the minds and worldviews of subsequent generations of African-Americans, possessed little knowledge of the African-American experience. If they had even a modicum of understanding of Black America, they would have known that Richard Wright had been deceased for nearly fifty years. I asked these black educators assembled within the room the following questions.

  • When was the last time you read anything written by Richard Wright?

  • When was the last time you saw Wright on television giving an interview or lecture?

To my amazement, a few committee members, apparently seeking to display their intelligence and counter what they erroneously perceived to be an attack on their intelligence, related that they had read recently released essays by Richard Wright. One individual went so far as to say that he had seen a recent interview of the great writer. I knew that they were all lying.

The rising tensions in that room would only increase when I revealed to them that it was an impossibility for them to have read something recently written by Wright or to have seen a recent television appearance as the man had died in November of 1960.

As to be expected, many of these highly-educated administrators were furious that I had silently sat and listened to them pledge monetary resources to bringing a dead man to campus. I am confident that you agree that their misdirected anger should have been aimed at themselves.

I can only hope that the alluded to “educators” dedicated their energies toward engaging the rich legacy of black thinkers, writers, and intellectuals that have served as central figures in “making a way out of no way” for a downtrodden black populace that has known no true everlasting friends.

Although difficult to admit, the anti-intellectualism that serves as the foundation for many within our communication, regardless of their educational background and socioeconomic status, reveals its possessors to be as significant an enemy to the liberation of Black America as the most virulent white racist. It is time for us to change the way we view the world, change our priorities, and embrace a legacy of intellectualism that is unrivaled by any other people on the planet. Our failure to do so will only prolong our customary last-place position in this and every society.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2018.


It is quite possibly one of the most ridiculous charges that African-Americans have hurled against one another, a charge that could havegood bad hair been included in the legendary “Willie Lynch” letter as it carries a historic venom that agitates on-going intra-racial battles concerning skin color — team light-skinned vs. team dark-skinned — as well as that old Negro preoccupation with hair texture and length — good hair vs. bad hair — each contestation more ridiculous and counterproductive than its predecessor; however, any examination will show that people invest significant emotions into the above battles. The most recent battle occurs sagging pantsmost frequently during the K-12 educational experience, however, I have seen its appearance among African-Americans well into their forties, the bias I alluded to is the assertion that academically achieving African-Americans are somehow “acting White”.

Now it would be very simple to dismiss these assertions of “acting white” on for its blatant stupidity. However, such an approach, although preferable and convenient, miserably fails to address this matter and denounce the legions of asinine people, children and adults, who have invested into such foolishness. Although one would think that those who charge academically achieving and cultured African-Americans with ‘acting white’ would have a monopoly upon African-American History and Culture, the truth is that they have a mastery upon nothing other than niggardly behavior and ridiculous thought. From my perspective, what they are in effect stating when they school 5charge their peers with ‘acting white’ is who are you to have an interest in anything that develops your mind beyond the pursuit of inconsequential things; Air Jordan Sneakers, Gucci Clothes, Burberry, Prada, Michael Kors Bags, Smart Phones, Booty Implants, Play Station 4, etc. Despite the protests from those who intimately attach their self-worth to material items, it is them, and their children, “that feel some kind of way” when others neither admire nor compliment their gaudy attire.

When one thinks about it, the primary difference between African-Americans that are progressive thinking and those that are involved in a mindless pursuit of inanimate objects. The latter group was best summed up by 90’s rapper Grand Verbalizer Funkin grand verbalizerLesson Brother J of X-Clan when he stated, some of our people are “Always trying to obtain with no attempt to achieve.” As the father of a brilliant twelve-year-old son, who is unfortunately encountering these issues surrounding his diction and academic achievement, I feel that it is imperative to ask those who are attempting to persecute and ostracize the intelligent children in our community a question that I am certain that they have never heard; Do you have a Black Conscious mind?

Now this question of having a ‘Black Conscious Mind’ is not a silly construct that will equate the thinking of our people to Nikkiignorance, Ebonics, immorality, and betrayal as those things have nothing to do with being a person of African descent; in fact, they are the personification of the way our ancestors have never thought, acted, and lived throughout the annals of time. What exactly can one consider having a ‘Black Conscious Mind’? From my perspective, there are several factors that indicate one does, or does not, possess a Black Consciousness. Most fortunately, it is very easy via the following self-test for one to find out if they have a “Black Consciousness”.

  • Do you love and respect for all persons of African descent?
  • Do you realize that our History does not begin with slavery?
  • Do you realize that chattel slavery is not our shame?
  • Do you know who David Walker is?david walker
  • Do you know who Maria Stewart is?
  • Do you realize that surviving slavery shows our ancestors strength?
  • Do you realize that our ancestors gave this nation their first belief in God?
  • Do you understand that your ancestors are the first people on the planet to believe in ONE God?
  • Do you know who Nikki Giovanni is?
  • Do you realize that our ancestors gave this nation its first humanity?
  • Do you realize that our ancestors gave this nation Jazz Music as an eternal gift?
  • Do you realize that our ancestors gave this nation its very soul?
  • Have you read Michelle Alexander’s work?Cube
  • Do you know who Assata Shakur is?
  • Do you know who Paul Robeson is?
  • Do you believe that Ice Cube was prophetic during NWA’s Fu$K the Police?
  • Do you know that Hip-Hop Culture matters?
  • Do you know who John Henrik Clarke is?
  • Have you ever read The Autobiography of Malcolm X?
  • Have you ever heard Thelonious Monk play anything?
  • Have you ever heard John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme?Terence Blanchard
  • Have you ever heard Terence Blanchard’s Over There?
  • Have you ever heard Ras Kass, Nature of the Threat?
  • Do you know who Rakim is?
  • Have you ever just sat and listened to Nas’ Illmatic for its lyrical beauty?
  • Does the fireside scene in Glory move you to tears?
  • Have you patronized a Black bookstore in the past six months?
  • Have you ever seen a live performance of an August Wilson play?James Baldwin
  • Have you ever read The Price of the Ticket by James Baldwin?
  • Are you down with 10-10-50?
  • Do you know who Grange Copeland is?
  • Have you ever read anything by the prophet Audre Lorde?
  • Do you know who Octavia Butler is?

If you answered NO to more than three of the above questions, you have some serious work to do because you do not have a black consciousness and therefore have much work to do.

Now this was not constructed to constrain your thoughts, actions, and/or behaviors, rather to highlight to those of you who erroneously believe that foul language, public indecency, poverty (mentally, socially, politically, and intellectually), are signs of Blackness the error in your thinking. How could you ever believe that this foolishness that we see today from Love & Hip-Hop through World Star Hip-Hop are in any form or fashion a representation of African-American life and culture. Get your mind right, IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!

Dr. James Thomas Jones III