Tag Archives: Education

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

WHY HAVE SO MANY OF MY STUDENTS NEVER READ THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X?

During my nearly two decades as an African-American Studies Professor, I have learned many lessons regarding the U.S. educational process and its impact on the minds, imagination, aspirations, and psyche of African-Americans. I am confident that you agree that one of the most unfortunate by-products of the American educational system is that the vast majority of black children matriculate through the system without any understanding of the unique historical circumstances or the contemporary plight of what it means to be black in America. It is not a stretch to assert that after engaging in the American educational system, African-Americans are better versed in the history of every other race than their own., there are few things that cause more anxiety than the realization that I am on the verge of entering a classroom full of African-American collegians that have no idea of the African-American experience. I literally have to brace myself for the experience. And what an experience it is.

Personally, there are few things that cause more anxiety than the realization that at the beginning of each semester, I will enter a classroom overflowing with African-American students who know little, if anything, about the black experience. I literally brace myself for the daunting experience.

I am confident that most would be shocked to learn that my students arrive in my classroom bereft of either an understanding or desire to engage the black experience. In fact, it is common for students to rebel against the reading of classic black texts such as Chinua Achebe’s, Things Fall Apart or Alex Haley’s classic monograph, The Autobiography of Malcolm X. The alluded to displeasure is so significant with many students that they actually emit an audible groan with faced with the prospect of engaging the black experience.

Incredibly, I have had students pursuing a reliable escape route from dealing with the past experiences of Black America object to reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X on religious grounds.

Considering that such antics occur every semester, I am prepared to subdue them via a simple question that illuminates the cavernous holes in the vast majority of African-American students K – 12 educational experience. The question is a relatively mundane one of “How many of you have read Anne Frank?” Invariably, every hand rises. I then ask the overwhelmingly black audience, “How Many of you have read The Autobiography of Malcolm X?” Rarely does more than one or two hands rise.  I follow these initial queries with the following one. “Now which of these texts, The Diary of Anne Frank or The Autobiography of Malcolm X do you think is more applicable to your life? The story of a Jewish girl hiding in a closet or one that follows the life of Black man in America who to this day is revered as one of the most significant figures of the twentieth-century?” My students never dispute this poignant observation.

Although I hate to admit it, it appears that the primary catalyst to my student’s resistance to engaging The Autobiography of Malcolm X or any other classic black text is that somewhere along their travels, they have learned to devalue the contributions of black writers and historical figures. If anything, they seek a refuge from the stigma associated with blackness, even if that soft landing spot causes them to ignore the harsh realities that they are facing on a daily basis. The alluded to desires communicates a deep-seated self-hatred. If they are not careful, African-Americans perspective of their people can closely mirror that of white supremacists.

Let’s be clear on this matter, I have no problem with students reading The Diary of Anne Frank, I consider the text to be significant enough to have visited the location where the story occurred. Hence, I will never refute the story as an indispensable part of Human history; however, I also recognize that such recognition and reverence is due African-Americans stories as well.

It is an understanding of the phenomenal impact of education on the mind that has led me to address this matter. When one considers that humans are social beings, meaning that we learn everything that we “know” through either experience or lessons gleaned from others, education sets the foundation for our values, priorities, and worldview. The fact that education sits at the center of our understanding, the influence of school teachers should never be de-emphasized.

If permitted, I would love to ask the committees and decision makers that champion the worth of Anne Frank’s story and dismiss The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the following questions.

  1. What is your rationale for including The Diary of Anne Frank on the must read list and not The Autobiography of Malcolm X?
  2. Why do you consider Anne Frank’s story of more valuable than Malcolm X’s?
  3. What impact do you think that a K – 12 educational experience devoid of any African-American books has upon the minds of students regardless of their racial identity or ethnic background?
  4. What does it mean when school districts fail to include any classic stories that center upon African-Americans or the African-American experience?

The consequences of African-Americans not learning their history should be obvious — low self-esteem, an absence of knowledge of self, and being turned off from the discipline of history, if not the entire educational experience. Although often ignored, the truth of the matter is that black children are not the only population damaged when the African-American story is left out of the standard American History/Social Studies curriculum; it damages each child, regardless of race or ethnicity by enveloping them in an unnecessary ignorance. The absence of the black experience in the curriculums of American school systems causes the following issues.

  1. It allows for the development of woeful ignorance in regards to African- Americans and their historical experience.
  2. Gives the impression that persons of African descent have never contributed anything to society; thereby, allowing for racism to grow like a wildfire.
  3. The lack of any understanding of the African-American experience or contributions throughout the annals of time severely taints any racial discussions.

It is out of a desire to cease the never-ending racial animosity between American racial/ethnic groups that I call for those power brokers who select reading materials for American school children to consider the stories of myriad races and groups. History clearly dictates that the only weapon we have against ignorance is education. Considering such truth, it is long overdue for American children, including African-American children, to have access to classic black texts and authors, it is the only weapon that we have against pervasive racial animosity and angst in the new millennium.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

INSIDE OF A BOOK: THE PERFECT PLACE TO HIDE IMPORTANT THINGS FROM AFRICAN-AMERICAN MALES

While discussing the difficulty that I was experiencing regarding my students non-desire to read anything of substance, an acquaintance shared a remarkably sad story that verified my complaints in an unusual manner. The story went as follows, “I know a brother who recently had his house broken into. And I am telling you that these thieves ransacked the place trying to find a hidden stash of money. It would be an understatement to say that they destroyed everything in the place. Unfortunately for the thieves, they never found the stash because the brother hid his money in the least likely of places, the books on his bookshelf. Incredibly, the only thing left untouched were the bookshelves and the books that they held.” At this revelation, I mused, “I guess what they say is true, ‘If you want to hide something from black folk, put it in a book.’”

Although these events led me to shake my head, however, as an educator and writer I must tell you that this event holds far more meaning and significance than one could imagine. Experience has taught me that we should not be so quick to dismiss the age-old statement of “If you want to hide something from black folk, all you need to do is put it in a book.” I have come to understand that it is increasingly rare to meet African-Americans, particularly males, who read classic black literature; black females are not above criticism in this regard as the vast majority of them have never engaged writers such as Alice Walker or J. California Cooper, however, they are extremely familiar with Zane and the filth they call “urban fiction.”

The decline in literacy within the African-American community is a crisis that has gone largely unnoticed. The decrease in literacy, particularly among African-American males, is only the calm before the storm. The alluded to “dumbing down” of African-American male students is as pernicious a danger to their existence as AIDS, police brutality or even the Trump Presidency.

Consider for a moment the following indicators that highlight the dire straits of African-American male literacy.

  • The average African-American (male and female) 12th-grader reads at the same level as white 8th-graders.
  • The 12th-grade reading scores for African-American males were significantly lower than all other racial/ethnic groups.
  • Only 14% of African-American 8th-graders are proficient in reading.

For black males, the absence of literacy promises a future devoid of any understanding of African-Americans past struggles and extreme difficulty securing employment sufficient to take care of themselves and any offspring they may produce. There is absolutely no doubt that each of the above variables is crucial to African-American males’ maturation into adulthood. Obviously, there is no other path to satisfying the demands of African-American females possessing the desire to marry a black man than to grow them within our community via proactive socialization and the development of what can be best termed a black economy that rivals those of other groups.

A crucial aspect of every uplift effort within Black America rests upon literacy, the process of engaging information, synthesizing it, and then making logical decisions regarding how it can be best used to benefit our group. Until we get this simple process down, we will continue to experience the same frustrations that have seemingly dogged us like an ominous cloud.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

HOW A GROUP OF EIGHTH-GRADERS FROM ARNOLD MIDDLE SCHOOL REMINDED ME OF WHY I DO WHAT I DO

Like everyone else, I am susceptible to growing weary while performing the mentally straining and emotionally exhausting heavy lifting required to provide the next generation of African-Americans even a remote possibility of succeeding in a society where their inferiority is an absolute given. There are periodic moments when one’s will to continue this never-ending fight is nearly extinguished; without fail, a symphony of doubt, frustration, and questions regarding the seeming futility of the struggle appear as the weary blues. The only balm to the mental and emotional exhaustion mentioned above is the occurrence of some event that reminds you that it has not all been in vain. Unfortunately, the alluded to validation cannot be ordered on command; instead it arrives via unexpected sources at opportune moments.

Recently I was approached regarding my willingness to aid The Collegiate 100 — a subsidiary of the 100 Black Men of America — an organization of extremely impressive African-American collegians that are simultaneously positioning themselves for success while lifting others as they climb the ladder of success, via addressing a group of 8th Graders from Arnold Middle School during a scheduled campus event. Mentors selected these 8th Graders for a host of reasons. During my adolescence, they would have been labeled “at-risk youth,” a term that indicated more about environs than intellectual capabilities and prowess. I knew such a group very well as years ago I carried a similar label. I accepted the assignment without hesitation.

As usual, I arrived early to the 9:30 event and busied myself researching topics for future blog postings, however, slightly before the scheduled start time, a cadre of students, the majority of them currently enrolled in one of my History courses arrived and began their preparations for the young scholars’ arrival. Within minutes our “guests of honor” arrived, took their assigned seat, and were listening to my presentation regarding issues such as self-responsibility, planning, and the development of a familial educational legacy. Put simply; my address sought to inform these young people that they are the primary determinant of their success and the future of this entire nation was resting upon their broad and sturdy shoulders.

One of the promises that I made to myself as a student was that if ever provided the public speaking opportunities that I would never replicate the droning and draining lecture style of orators who operated out of an old authoritarian style of I lecture and you passively listen to my brillance. Put simply; such characters left no room for interaction with by the end of their address was an auditorium full of inattentive listeners. Hence, I always consider it essential that I interact with my audience via a “Question and Answer” segment.

As previously mentioned, the desperately needed jolt that re-energizes those who have grown weary of the Herculean task of uplifting Black America invariably comes at an opportune moment from unexpected sources. I am proud to relate that I received a much-needed jolt from this group of 8th Graders who dared to betray a steely silence that always accompanies persons of their age by peer pressure. To my delight, this group engaged me in an unusual manner that simultaneously displayed their brilliance, intellectual curiosity, and previous exposure to success formulas resting on personal accountability. Their mentors are to be applauded as these children demonstrated an unusual ability to answer an array of issues presented to them in a manner that betrayed their youth. Their superior intellect was displayed at every turn except when I queried “Where do you plan to be five years from now?”

After several questions regarding by background, my alma mater, the degrees I have earned and books that I have written, most were shocked to learn that I was a first-generation collegian. As expected, the conversation turned toward questions surrounding why they should attend a Historically Black College or University.

The question, poised by a brilliant young lady on the left side of the auditorium, was a particularly piercing one of “Since you have been to a white university and now work at a Historically Black University, why should we come to an H.B.C.U.?” Although I have much love for my alma mater, THE Ohio State University, to the best of my ability I explained to this attentive audience that at a place such as Prairie View A & M University “You will not only be invited into, but also joining and embraced by an esteemed tradition of black thinkers, educators, and professionals who are dedicated to aiding you in traveling down a road that they created for your success. You matter mightily at this place from the moment that you make the decision to enter and well-beyond your exit. You are going to find that we will nurture you, challenge you, and guide you every step of the way as you pursue your dreams, goals, and aspirations. At this place, we are serious about producing productive people.”

By the end of our interaction, the vast majority of these individuals had expressed their intention to become Prairie View Panthers and vowed to keep in touch during their high school tenure. As I gathered my belongings and prepared to exit the venue, one young man rushed up to me and related the following, “I thought about where I will be five years from now. I am going to be sitting in your History class right here at PVAMU.” I could do nothing other than smile at him and respond, “Sir, I’m looking forward to it. And I truly mean that.”

As I ended my exchange with this obviously brilliant young man, one of the chaperones for this youth group approached me and stated the following. “You probably don’t remember me, but I was one of your students.” I searched my mental Rolodex for him, yet came up empty. He continued, “I looked different back then. I had a big Afro and gold fronts (teeth). However, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for all that you did for me. I am assuming an Assistant Principal position next week.” I could do nothing but laugh at the fantastic news and responded, “From gold fronts to Assistant Principal?” We both shared a hearty laugh at the development.

One thing was sure, as I exited the building, I knew that these young people had made an indelible impact on me; an impact that re-charged my emotional state and simultaneously reminded me of why I do the work that I do.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III