Fear of an Intelligent Black ManBy Paul Scott -Guest Columnist- | Last updated: Sep 25, 2009 - 11:59:38 AM
Back in the early 90's there was a short lived fashion trend when Black youth, like the ones wearing “Scarface” T-shirts today, were proudly sportin' shirts with slogans such as “Knowledge is Power,” “The Blacker the College, the Sweeter the Knowledge” and my all time favorite, “Warning: Educated Black Man.”
The latter was the expression of a sentiment that has existed in this country for centuries. White America is scared to death of a Black man who can read and articulate a position.
On the plantation “Simple Jim” and “Big Buck” were never threats to the status quo. Nor are Krazy K and T-Bone who walk around with guns in their waist-bands shouting obscenities at anyone who passes by. However, “uppity Negro” Frederick who would hide behind the barn and read a book and Marcus who walks around with “48 Laws of Power” instead of a 40 ounce of Old English have always been public enemy #1.
Historically, it must be noted that up until the latter part of the 19th century, Black people were not legally allowed to read as the plantation owner didn't want the people on whom he counted to pick his cotton to have delusions of grandeur that they could one day be running the joint and make his little rotten kids pick the cotton, themselves!
During the period following slavery it was necessary to give the newly emancipated slaves just enough training to make them productive parts of an economic system that was changing from agricultural to industrial. The idea was never to give the masses of Black folks enough education to achieve equality with White Americans.
While an education indeed, was hard to obtain during the 1800's, some were able to break the color barrier. In 1826, John B. Russwurm became the first Black college graduate. It must be noted that many of these early intellectuals used their education to write and speak out against slavery and later, with the coming of the WEB Dubois' and the William Trotters', speak out against racial inequality.
The continuing education of the masses of Black folks has always been a controversial issue.
According to Harold Cruse in his book, “Plural but Equal,” during the 1880's there was an attempt to pass a bill by Senator Henry Blair that would have required the government to provide $77 million to be spent “equally for the education of all children, without distinction of race or color.” This was followed by the investment of White philanthropists in the movement of Booker T. Washington that favored an industrial education for Black folks instead of the challenging White folks intellectually and politically as advocated by Du Bois.
During the mid 1900's, many African Americans thought that public school desegregation (Brown v. the Board of Education, 1954) was going to be the key to social and economic equity that we have yet to achieve.
In regards to the Black Power Era of the 60's, while whitewashed history paints the protesters as “angry Black militant thugs,” it must be noted that the most vocal members of the leadership were intelligent and college educated such as Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) and Jamil Abdullah Al Amin (H. Rap Brown). And while the powers that be may have feared Black Panther, Huey P. Newton's gun, they were more afraid of the bullets that came out of his mouth.
It must also be noted that while Malcolm X went to prison as a street cat he came out of prison as one of the greatest debaters this country has ever known, often debating his philosophies on the campuses of major White universities.
During the “conscious” Hip Hop era (1988-92), it must be noted that those rappers who promoted intellectualism and academic development were demonized by those in power while some of the rappers who glorified gangsta-ism are still making CD's, endorsing products and even making kiddie movies twenty years after the fact.
I am sure that many of the parents who yanked their kids out of school a couple of weeks ago so they would not hear Obama's “stay in school” speech, have no problem with their children listening to Lil' Wayne.
So, the problem of White intimidation by Black male intelligence still exists to this day. Just ask any Black student who was directed to the gym or the wood shop class by his advisor while his White counterpart was guided to the chemistry lab or advanced physics. Or the Black man with a Master's degree who gets passed over for a promotion that is given to Jim Bob, who barely has a GED.
Maybe the attacks on Black men like Van Jones and Pres. Barack Obama will serve a greater purpose.
We must use these instances as “teachable moments” to tell our young people that racists don't hate strong Black men because of the color of their skin but they fear the genius that lies within.
(Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots Fired.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 451-8283 For more information on the “Intelligence Over Ignorance” Campaign go to http://www.ioimovement.com.)