African Americans: Our People Feel A Moral Obligation To Pretend To Be Ignorant.



( One of the major problems that we have in the Black community is a failure to recognize our own intellect. We fail to realize that having to deal with adversity from the time we wake up in the morning until the time we close our eyes at night has made us more, rather than less. We assume that everybody can see and understand everything that we can plainly see, and that our unique insight into reality is simply common knowledge. It’s not. But as a result of this assumption, we tend to dismiss our intellect as routine, or average, and invest all of our intellectual potential into being cool and “soulful” instead of in math, science, philosophy and psychology. By making that erroneous assumption, we’re severely short-changing ourselves, and the world. So it is a must that Black people start to take our intellectual development more seriously, and make knowledge the new “soul.”

What Black people call “soul” is actually creativity, and as any cognitive scientist can tell you, creativity is intelligence.  So if Black people are known for having soul, what that actually means is we’re known for having intelligence.  What we call soul is actually intelligence seeping out through the cracks as a result of not being used for other pursuits. Thus, the reason that Black people seem to have so much “soul,” is because we were prevented from expressing our knowledge, intellect, and creativity in any other way. Later, we developed a hostility toward knowledge as a direct result of our history of bondage in this country, but it’s time for all of that to come to an end.

During slavery, house slaves, who were the more educated among us, had a tendency to look down their noses at field slaves. As a result, many of us developed a hostility toward knowledge. We tend to feel that Black people who take pride in their intellect, or who are dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge are trying to be White. So instead of embracing our intellect, many of us take great pains  to hide it.  That’s why Black intellectuals like Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson are always trying to be so cool. Their attempt to be cool is actually an apology to the Black community for pursuing knowledge. Their actions tend to say, “Yeah, I’m a professor with multiple degrees, but that don’t mean I ain’t one of you.”  What that demonstrates is that they feel that they have a moral obligation to be ignorant in order to prove their Blackness.”  Young brothers on the street do the same thing when they say things like “What it be like?”,  “What it is?”, or  “Stay Woke.”  They know that’s bad English, but they feel an obligation to sound illiterate to prove their Blackness.

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Another reason that many Black people feign ignorance is for survival. When my grandparents, who raised me while my mother was in college, would go back to visit Louisiana, they would never take me along. When I asked them why, my grandfather said, “Because you talk too much and you could get us killed.”  You see, many White folks are very insecure, so during the Jim Crow era, one of the fastest ways for a Black person to be lynched was to let White folks know that he was smarter or better than them in any way. And even now, the fastest way to lose a job is to let your boss know that you’re smarter than he is.

There are a lot of White folks who don’t appreciate Blacks having the audacity to be intelligent at all, because it’s a direct assault on their delusion of superiority, and in many cases that delusion reinforces their entire sense of self-esteem – “I might not be much, but at least I’m better than them.” That’s the primary reason they hate Barack Obama so intensely, because he’s walking and breathing proof that their delusion of superiority is a myth.  Clear evidence of that can be seen in the fact that even though Obama has long since gone on about his business, Donald Trump is still trying to compete with him. You’d think that Barack was living next door. So old-school Black people had a rule of thumb that my grandfather laid out to me as a kid – “Never tell people everything you know.”

But it’s time to set those old traditions and attitudes aside.  The new paradigm in this country is not just about race, but class. The Donald Trumps of this world don’t care any more about poor and working class White people than they do Blacks and other minorities, and Black people have a unique understanding of White supremacy that other groups lack, so it has become our responsibility to educate them. If poor and working class Americans are going to survive in this country, it’s is imperative for Black people to step up to the plate, because  ironically, it’s going to fall on the shoulders of the Black community to first, educate itself, and then begin to educate others on how to deal with this greedy and self-serving beast – and we can do this.

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An excellent example of who we actually are was reflected around the turn of the 20thCentury, when you could find Black musicians sitting along the side of the road playing washboards, tubs, and anything they could put together that would make a sound. When people passed them by, including White musicians, they would simply smile, and sometimes even throw them a few pennies for the modest effort and industry that they displayed for even attempting to make real music with such crude instruments.

These simple music-makers were looked upon as “quaint”. There was no hostility towards them at all, because they weren’t a threat. After all, they couldn’t possibly be a threat to the White musicians, since they could never hope to get any real instruction in music. Most of them couldn’t even read their names, so why should anyone ever worry about them learning to read music? They had to struggle just to get through grade school, so what threat did they pose to White musicians who had access to the great music conservatories of the world?

Well, little did the world know that in the very near future, those simple little ragtag musicians with their makeshift instruments would morph into some of the greatest musicians the world has ever known. They would contribute one of the most important and harmonically complex forms of music to the world in the history of all mankind. Few knew at the time that one day Universities, musicologists, and music conservatories all over the world would struggle to understand the complexity of their musical genius, and even fewer could have guessed that many of these “quaint” musicians would someday become world renowned, and synonymous with their respective instruments–Louis Armstrong, Jellyroll Morton, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane–just to mention a few.

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As a point of irony, I began to typed “Duke” into Google, and the program completed my entry with a list that presented Duke Ellington before the Duke of Windsor. I’d say that says it all about the impact that the Black culture has had on this society, and the world.

But what we’ve got to recognize and address as a community is that creativity is not restricted to just music. The reason that the creative genius of Black people has been reflected more in music than in business, science, or technology is because it was an area where we didn’t have to depend on the approval of others, and more importantly, we were rewarded in the community for its development. We’ve also got to recognize, as any scientist who studies cognition well knows, creativity is not stagnant–it has associative properties that allow it to be transferred from one endeavor to another. Thus, as Barack Obama has clearly demonstrated, Black people have much more to offer the world than a twelve bar blues.

But due to the racist history of this country, the intellectual capacity of Black people have always been grossly underestimated.  Thomas Jefferson said the following:

“They [Black people] are more generally gifted than the whites with accurate ears for tune and time, and they have been found capable of imagining a small catch. … Whether they will be equal to the composition of a more extensive run of melody, or of complicated harmony, is yet to be proved.”

Well, I wonder what Tom would have to say about this regarding our ability to be “equal to the composition of a more extensive run of melody?”

So just as the Black community has educated the world in music, it now falls upon us to educate them in generalized knowledge and common sense. Thus, we must educate ourselves against divisiveness and begin to recognize that our battle is not against THE White man, but against a particular GROUP of White men. If we fail to recognize that fact and continue to allow them to stir division among the working class – Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics, gays and straights – we’ve already lost.  Because as Former President Barack Obama pointed out, we must begin to recognize that “We are the change that we seek.”

Staff Writer; Eric L. Wattree