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.
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