(ThyBlackMan.com) While government has a role in improving conditions in the Black community, the ROOT of our problem is a lack of education and knowledge, and we can’t wait for the government to address that issue, because the GOP has dedicated their very existence to dumbing America down, and with good reason – enlightened people don’t vote Republican.
But we could turn their malevolence into our advantage if we’re smart. While they’re hard at work dumbing the rest of America down, we should double-down on educating ourselves and making the pursuit of knowledge a way of life. That way we can level the playing field. We could make ourselves some of the most literate people in America, because our problem is not a lack of intelligence, it’s an indifference toward knowledge. We need to become knowledge junkies.
We must also educate one another in the wisdom of an enlightened way of life, just like we currently educate one another in our current toxic way of life. I’ve seen it done before, in the sixties – I’m a product of that environment. When I was in elementary school they were about to place me in “Special Training.” I like to had a fit, because Special Training students were separated in their own little bungalow at the very back of the school, and they marched in formation everywhere they went – the rest of the kids used to call them the Retard Brigade. I became so distraught over the idea of being placed in Special Training that my teacher, Ms. Lady Lee, convinced the principal, Mr. DeTonto, to give her the rest of the year to work with me.
But in the end, all she did was teach me that you ARE what you think (that’s why it’s so important not to think of ourselves as victims). And then she gave me a tip: She said the key to looking, and BEING, smart was to ALWAYS stay one chapter ahead of the class (that forced me to start studying and taking my homework more seriously). I was so determined to stay out of Special Training that I made studying a way of life. I started outlining our textbooks, and giving each point they made its own place in the outline. Within a month I had outlined all of our textbooks and knew their content backwards and forward. I suspect that’s why I’m a writer today, because without knowing it, I fell in love with compositional structure in the process.
But thereafter, Ms. Lee started asking questions in class that she knew I was the only one who could answer, and I did. At first, my classmates were amazed, and then finally, they started treating me with a new respect (and so did my mother), and that reinforced my understanding of the value of knowledge. So at the end of the semester, instead of going into Special Training, I went into an advanced class with students who were a year ahead of me, and I’ve been fooling people by using Ms. Lee’s tip every since – because life is not about how brilliant you are, but how knowledgeable.
Then during the sixties, the Black community went through a similar process. We spun on a dime (or maybe I should say “they spun on a dime,” because I was a little late getting on board – I was “doing time” in the Marine Corps). But the community went from being filled with street gangs and crime, to being filled with dashiki-wearing street philosophers. Former gangsters became Black Panthers and joined other organizations to help enlighten and feed the poor. We recognized that we had to do these things ourselves in order to gain the political clout to FORCE the government to change its ways – and eventually it did, and the community began to rapidly move forward. Ford, General Motors, and other major corporations began to open their doors to Black workers, giving them access to the middle class, and the government began to PAY people to be educated and trained.
We made it cool to be knowledgeable. If a brother wasn’t enlightened, he couldn’t even get a girlfriend. It became so hip to be Black that White folks were trying to nap their hair up and wear naturals, and White girls were walking around in cornrows. That’s how the Rock and hippie revolution got started. Before that, White musicians were going on stage in black suits and ties singing “Rock Around the Clock,” and “Venus” – so we’ve already demonstrated that we can influence the world.
But we tend to always allow the White establishment to think 10 years ahead of us (that’s why I’m so big on making education our number one priority). They introduced acid, speed, and other drugs into the mix, and the lure of these drugs began to drag us back down. Then in the eighties Ronald Reagan abolished the “Fairness Doctrine” – one of the nation’s primary educational tools, which forced network and radio stations to give equal time to opposing voices every time they tried to spew conservative propaganda – and then Reagan flooded the inner cities with crack (“Just say no!!!!?”). That devastated two generations of Black people. As a result, that severed the connection of the third generation from their Black cultural heritage, because the parents who were supposed to be teaching them about their culture were crackheads. Then the establishment used the media, with things like MTV and BET to serve as a re-education tool, which brings us to where we are today.
Thus, it is essential that the Black community come together and re-establish our connection with our cultural roots. It’s no accident that we no longer see people like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, or Ray Charles coming out of the Black community anymore. The reason for that is we now have a generation of young Black people where many are just as remote from their Black roots as many White people. Yes, they have Black skin, but thanks to the machinations of the White establishment, they aren’t anything like Black people once were. They’re like cardboard, imitation Blacks who are reminiscent of real Black people.
Think about it – isn’t it ironic that, with the exception of people like Janet Jackson, Tyrese, Mariah, and a handful of others, one of the closest examples of old-school Black soul currently in the public domain is being put out by Robin Thicke? – and I know, because I’m a lifelong jazz musician, so I’m listening . . . and Robin sounds good! And the same is true in jazz. If you go to a concert where they’re playing REAL jazz, it looks like a Tea Party convention, because this generation of Black people don’t support, or even KNOW, their own culture.
So we’d better wake up, or 50 years from now the only people who are going to have the musical skills to play Black music are gonna be White, because they’re devouring our music in music schools and conservatories all over the world as we speak, while we’ve been seduced by the dollar to spew vulgar nursery rhymes to the beat of electronic drum machines.
That’s what I mean by addressing our cultural infrastructure. We’ve got to stop thinking of ourselves as victims. The word “victim” suggests weakness, and Black people are not weak. The adversity that we’ve endured has made us MORE, rather than less. We simply have to recognize that fact, and be PROACTIVE in addressing our issues instead of simply reacting to cultural assaults. The bottom line is, we’ve got to stop telegraphing everything that’s on our minds by screaming and grabbing microphones. No one is impressed by that; it just makes us look like reckless idiots. We’ve got to begin to use our minds to forge innovative and thoughtful approaches to resolving our issues, and we have the resources within our community to do that, right now. And we must always keep in mind the words of Frederick Douglass – “Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.”
“THE SAME BOILING WATER THAT SOFTENS THE POTATO, HARDENS THE EGG. SO IT’S NOT ABOUT YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES, IT’S ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE MADE OF.”
Staff Writer; Eric L. Wattree
This brilliant man can be found at; [email protected].