Our problem is not about what the White man is doing or not doing for us, instead our biggest problem is about how we think of ourselves.
According to Kofi Anan, the seventh Secretary General of the United Nations: “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the promise of progress, in every society, in every family. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”
At a recent function, a lady (most decidedly a reader of the CONTACT) told me in no uncertain terms that I had contradicted myself in a previous article. She indicated to me what I had written that if Blacks learned to think more efficiently, they could resolve their own problems and would not need the government.
Assuming full control of the ongoing dialogue, she then pointed out that efficient thinking requires education, and education requires government assistance.
I asked her to pause for a while and ponder on what she had said that education requires government assistance/intervention, following which I then informed her that she was laboring under an erroneous assumption–knowledge is free, so we are capable of educating ourselves.
All we have to do is want it.
I added that it would be nice if the government would educate us, but at best our current system is a taxpayer subsidized babysitting service, and at worst a tool being succinctly used to indoctrinate our young into thinking that they are useless. As I listened to my words coming from her mouth I did not for one moment like their sound; I came off sounding like someone who called Black people whiners for expecting the services they deserve from the government.
The fact is, our government should help to educate our children, and Black people—or any other citizen for that matter—have a right to get anything that they can from the government.
The government can be likened to a pie to which we all contribute, and the political process is about getting as much of the pie as we are able to. Therefore, if Black folks tend to whine it is only because we have traditionally found ourselves pushed to the side, while everyone enjoys the filling and we are left with the crumbs. Blacks are not the only one whining, the rich also whine but that same game is called a different name—lobbying.
So my comment in the article was directed towards Blacks becoming bakers and making our own pie, not depending on other folks to negotiate how many crumbs we are allowed to have. Let’s face it, we are much too vibrant and creative a people to continue living the way we are, and we certainly do not have the time to wait for the government.
We have allowed ourselves to get caught up in a lifestyle where we simply exist from day to day instead of engaging the tremendous talents that would allow us to rise to the very top of this society. No, our problem is not about what the Whiteman is doing or not doing for us, instead it’s about how we think of ourselves.
Whenever scientists measure the intelligence level in man, or any other species, the very first thing that they look for is creativity, and Black people are clearly among the most creative people on this planet. We must recognize our creativity as a cultural treasure that can be used to cure cancer, help man to explore the universe and resolve world disputes.
We are a people that God has groomed to know pain and suffering, and we are currently using our creativity to mask the pain and suffering that we have suffered in this society. After what we have been through and are still going through, we are due some rest and relaxation, but the time has come to quit whining, slow down and contemplate who we are as a people and assume our rightful place in the world community.
The very first step in doing that is to redefine our cultural mores. Again, we have got to replace being cool with being knowledgeable. The only way we are going to do that is by changing the values for which we reward our children. What children want more than anything else is to get the approval of their parents, so we have to teach them early in life that what impresses us the most is what they know, and not how closely they can mimic adult behavior.
Instead of taking Kevon and Shaquanda to show Uncle Jimmy how well they can “ break it down” or “twerk,” we need to wake them up to show their uncle how well they can do a mathematical problem, a book report or write an essay. They can be rewarded for their knowledge; in that way little Kevon and Shaquanda learn early in life that knowledge is the key to success.
I have been told: “Why set little Kevon up for disappointment? His school is not going to prepare him to go to college—and even if it does, where am I going to get the money to pay for it? That should be the least of our problems; our major focus should be to get our young people to fall in love with the pursuit of knowledge. Once we have done that nothing can stop them from obtaining it.
The opportunity to go to top universities such as McGill or University of Toronto is a wonderful thing, but it is not everything. Knowledge is free, and there is just as much knowledge in the corner library as there is at Harvard. It was my experience at university that I did most of my learning anyway.
All they did was tell me what books to read, and what chapters, and thereafter I was tested to see what I had learnt and retained. However, it is the knowledge that’s important, the degree is secondary. Granted, a degree is necessary to get a job–unless you have the knowledge, expertise and experience to create one.
That said I’m sure if we make a concerted commitment to come together as a community to promote excellence, we will find a way to get our young scholars educated. I am convinced that we have enough churches, civic organizations, and successful Black professionals, to get our young people educated–degrees and all. Furthermore, our community will also benefit in a less obvious way from this endeavor.
Knowledge is contagious. Those parents who do not have the education to help their kids with their homework can allow their kids to educate them.
Helping our children with their homework is not only an excellent way to bond, but also an excellent way to help re-educate ourselves. It gives us an opportunity to go all the way from elementary school through college all over again, or, for the very first time. And with the right mindset, it can be fun.
I learned to look at linear algebra problems as actual puzzles, and my sons and I use to have a ball spending hours trying to figure them out. So let’s stop talking and start doing. Who knows, your child may be an engineer or mathematician, just waiting to be inspired.
Wouldn’t that be something?
Aleuta—The struggle continues.