"We can no longer simply create mobs to make our demands; the system knows how to give Band-Aids to little cuts. They know that yielding in principle to satisfy the mob quiets them; but it does not offer lasting solutions"
By Dr. Sunday-Joseph Otengho, PhD., PhD.,
The Need for Collective Self-Reliance
There is a Balundu saying that “he who feeds from the hand of the oppressor can never hope to go free.” I implore any wise leader in the village to lay hold of the Kwanzaa principles. They are not for the Christmas holiday; they are for building the village. The village can only be as strong as the strength of the family. Give me men and I will win the war; give me women and our nation is protected; give me children and our future is secure. The village has reached a point of diminishing returns. Let us lay hold of our young. Let us acknowledge our failures, discern our strengths, and correct our perceptions. We can no longer hold a distorted view of right and wrong because we only end up blaming others for our own atrocities. By not holding our end of the bargain, we have given the system the strength to continue denying us what is rightfully ours. We know this quite well even though a few of us would rather not care to admit it. But not to know that you do not know and not even to wish to know what you do not know is intellectual infertility.
The Community Must Be Informed
Humor yourself by understanding the issues that plague our village, and God knows, are many. Remember that it is the nature of cowards to attack the character of others in order to hide their own ignorance. We are operating on an information superhighway. This is, therefore, no place for being misinformed. We can no longer simply create mobs to make our demands; the system knows how to give Band-Aids to little cuts. They know that yielding in principle to satisfy the mob quiets them; but it does not offer lasting solutions. Remember, too, that an opiate eases the pain of the present but it never takes away the cause. Picket lines are created to maximize the strength of our negotiations, and therefore they should never go up until we know we are at a vantage point.
Must Manage our Resources Through Good Governance
As I stated before, the African-American community has enough money to cater for its own. I do not believe that economics is the problem. I am rather inclined to think that the village is primarily confronted with a political and social crisis, albeit with annihilating economic consequences. If there is going to be any sustained economic progress, it will be because the village has achieved good governance. A village that mismanages its resources does not understand the value of time management. And we know time is running out on our youth. I would implore all well-meaning and incompetent leaders to step down.
The future of our children depends on wise leadership that understands its plight in a system that has trapped them. Give our children a chance to enjoy happiness, participate in the political process, freedom from cruel, inhumane and degrading police brutality, the right to recognition and equal treatment under the law, the right to succeed before they are branded most likely to fail, the right to moral, ethical, and effective judicial remedy, freedom from arbitrary interference, freedom of assembly and association, the restoration and creation of an intelligentsia that understands civil activism and the right to be a person. These are essential requirements for a civilized political system.
A Rigged System
Bear in mind that the political system that the African-American child lives in is rigged. The promise of Stuart Mills’ Just Society has become a nightmare because of the continued application of philosophies that shaped and directed the world views of the founders of this nation. The African-American child’s negritude has become the essence that the system thrives on because of a distorted image of the “African male.” Those who covenanted with God to create a Godly society turned out to be victimizers with a taste of freedom. The African-American village has been accused of not being able to connect morality with religion. But how can they when those from whom they borrowed Christianity have not made that connection?
Distorted images of the “African male” did not just happen overnight. They were fashioned and engineered by philosophers both in Europe and the U.S. during the 17th and 18th centuries. These philosophies fashioned foreign policies, mission, and missionary statements and attitudes, and led to the further demise of the African people. The story of Africa is a history mainly relayed by deceivers, dis-locators, de-culturalizers, contortionists, and dis-possessors. Such historians and missionaries have “put down” Africans. The history of Africa and that of the African of the Diaspora, as taught is schools and the ensuing textbooks, is the story of a White man and his adventures among the "Savages". Here is the esence of their mandate:
I. Read what Rudyard Kipling had to say in The White Man’s Burden.
"Take up the White man’s burden, Send forth the best ye breed. Go bind your sons to exile To serve your captives need: To wait in heavy harness On fluttered folk and wild Your new-caught sullen peoples “Half devil and half child.”"
II. Immanuel Kant and David Hume held the view that Africans, by virtue of their blackness, are precluded from the realm of reason and civilization.
A. David Hume: “I am apt to suspect that Negroes and, in general, all other species of men (for there are four or five different kinds) to be naturally inferior to Whites. There never was a civilized nation of any complexion than White.”
B. Immanual Kant: “ . . . [F]undamentally is the difference between the two races of men and it appears to be as great in regard to mental capacities as in color . . . . this fellow was quite black from head to foot, a clear proof that what he said was stupid.”
III. Thomas Jefferson: “ . . . [T]he blacks are inferior to the whites on the endowments of both body and mind.”
IV. Hegel: “Africa is no historical part of the world; it has no movement or development to exhibit. Historical movements in it--that is, in it’s northern part--belong to the Asiatic or European world.” In another statement by Hegel: “This is the land where men are children, a land lying beyond the daylight of self-conscious history and enveloped in the black color of night. At this point let us forget Africa, not to mention it again because Africa is no historical part of the world.”
V. The Supreme Court of the United States of America echoed the moral fiber of its day toward people of African descent when it ruled in the case of Dred Scot and also in Plessy v. Ferguson. “The Negro has no natural rights that the white man is bound to respect.”
VI. George Curvier: “The African is the most degraded of human races and his form approaches that of the beast.”
VII. Dr. Samuel Cartwright: “They break, waste, and destroy everything they handle.”
VIII. Richard Burton, English Explorer: “The study of the Negro is the study of man’s rudimental mind. He would appear rather a degeneracy from the civilized man than a savage rising to the first step were it not for his total incapacity for improvement; and he has not the ring of the true mental. . . . He seems to belong to one of those childish races never rising to man’s estate who fall like worn out links from the great chain of animated nature.”
IX. Samuel Baker: “Human nature viewed in its crudest state as seen amongst African savages is quite on the level with that of a brute and not to be compared with the noble character of the dog. There is neither gratitude, pity, love or self-denial, no idea of duty, no religion, nothing but covetousness, ingratitude, selfishness, and cruelty.”
A Cultural Bomb
These philosophies set a cultural bomb that was meant to annihilate a people’s belief in their names, their languages, their environment, in their heritage of struggle, in their unity, in their capacities and in themselves as collective human beings who happen to look different from them. If Africa is not achieving, it is because it has become a wasteland of non-achievers whose deceived psychological hope is to identify with that which is most removed from who they are, giving them a foreign and distorted perception of their ethos. So much so that it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify who an African is. Is it the English-speaking (Anglophone), black-skinned, French romancing (Fracophone), curly-haired (Lusophone) or the Portuguese-speaking mix (Mulato) who has been elevated to a human being because half of his blood is from the holy genes of the Portuguese male? Is it not ironic that the academic world should accept as fact those theories about Africans by people who are known for telling lies about Africa and distorting that which is real in order to influence negative perceptions of Africa?
What Burden Do Modern Scholars Bear?
These modern scholars should not be named among the elite when the African and African-American child continues to suffer self-hate because of the systematic enhancement of negative, psychologically-seducing, pedagogical principles that have reduced people of African origin to a position of a non-cultured people. Fashioners of assessment instruments like the Bell Curve should be asked to apologize to the entire academic community. And sad indeed are the educators who buy into these degrading frameworks. Educators of good repute must protect the integrity of the minority child, especially the African male child.
It is to this glaring influence that Africa’s story be retold and rewritten by African scholars (and any other scholars who might have some ounce of moral fiber). Those who have triumphantly overcome and dismantled the philosophical web that had entrapped them are the only ones capable of telling the truth about themselves. It is their struggle to seize their creativity in history through control of the means of social and collective self-definition. It is returning to their roots to find a heritage that is next to none and still lingers among the masses.
There Is Hope Only When the Curriculum Becomes Relevant
The African-American child will be able to acquire the needed social norms, attitudes, values, and ideas that have been distorted for him. Such historical land mines of Plessy v. Ferguson for the African-American were a sounding board during the 1884 Berlin Conference that declared Africans landless and valueless. Psychological violence began then with the resulting partitioning of Africa, and the African child finds himself fighting a war he has no knowledge of. And he asks the question, “Why?” The psychological scars left on the African Child nearly render him academically unable to fit in the system of education created for him by those who despise him. The African child’s measure of intelligence is based on a system that has belittled him and branded him as a non-achiever. My mother told me that I was intelligent because I was a Mulundu, but the European system measured my intelligence by how grammatically correct my English language skills were and if I could remember that David Livingstone “discovered” the Victoria Falls. To this I reply, “I have my own heroes and I have a good grammatical command of my own language. And these two make me a very intelligent person since I am also able to adapt to a Standard English for my own personal and economic reasons. Put me as an African, born at the lowest scale, on all intelligence tests, and I will still beat you at your game.” The sad commentary, however, is that there are many African children who have been victimized by these culturally-salted intelligence tests and are being branded as non-achievers by the new generation of colonists, colonizers, bigots, and imperialists who are continuing a tradition set in motion by their forefathers. It should make you angry as an educator and cause you to want to fight for our children’s educational sanity. They are bombarded by currents they do not understand and have no strength to fight for everything. My fellow educators, we cannot afford to lose another generation of our progeny.
Against All Odds
The African-American child must be an intelligent child. When he looks at the images of his world as represented by the system that is trying to educate him, what does he see? He is supposed to accept a mindset of low status, humiliation, corporal punishment, slow-footed intelligence and ability, downright stupidity, non-intellectualism and barbarism. His status is confirmed by the geniuses or giants of Western intellectual and political establishment like David Hume when they say: “The negro is naturally inferior to the whites.” And his close friend Thomas Jefferson takes it further and says, “The blacks are inferior to the white on the endowments of both body and mind.” The United States Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson: “The negro has no natural rights that the white man is bound to respect.” The result of this description is disastrous if the African-American child does not have access to educators who are able to dismiss these myths that have been accepted as great scholarship. Can an African child pick up the works of Hegel and find images that describe him as one having nothing harmonious with humanity to be found in him and no intelligence to develop and hope to be guided to academic achievement by a system that subscribes to Hegelian philosophies of government and education? Try as he may he will not succeed unless a collaborative effort is made to rescue him. It is sad to watch and hear a child on the video entitled “7-Up South Africa” describe black people as ugly and white people as beautiful, feeling hopelessly boxed up in a black body that she cannot change and never chose to possess.
The History and Culture of Africans Must be Told
What is the bottom line? It is important for each one of us to understand the importance of true cultural identity. I am of the opinion that cultural identity empowers students to achieve academically. One of the main contributors to a dominant culture’s success is based on the fact that their students see themselves identified in the curricula they are required to learn. They see in it their heroes, ideas, values, customs and history. They see in it a harmonious reason for a possible future that provides for their needs. They see the true equitable benefit of becoming an informed, skilled and productive citizen. They know that the successful guardianship of democratic values depends on their education. In totally identifying with the curriculum, academic achievement becomes second nature. This continues to be my contention. We must design curriculum frameworks with which all children in our society can identify. Since education is for our children, then their needs and interests should be served and put as a priority on our academic agendas. We must close the academic gap between so-called achievers and non-achievers, not by color but by instructional design that caters to all children. Let our children see this change in our generation. They should not have to wait like their forefather, Dr. W. E. B. Dubois who waited for such change for 93 years and died in exile, disillusioned, because nothing had changed. Change must come and it must do so by a calculated design and expediency. Outdated social institutions and systems that perpetuate cultural discrimination have no place in 21st century America and the world. To this end, AAA, Inc. is committed to total intellectual and cultural emancipation of all children especially, those of African origin.