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