I was thinking about that black child who manages to make it to Harvard, or Stanford or one of those “Institutions of Higher Learning”. Oftentimes that child has grandma and Big daddy, Uncle Ray and Aunt Mabel pooling their meager resources together, so they can attend college. That black child may even have his or her church family taking offerings to help with the costs. The church is investing in that child’s success. It may even be that the child is financing his or her own college education, with much hard work! The whole family is invested in that child’s going to that “Institution of Higher Learning” and succeeding.
So the black child goes off and starts the struggle. The first semester is tough! Harder than the child even conceived. That child returns home at break for a rest and for the familiarity, love and affection of her family. And bless God, the church family and her own family embrace her and shower her with love and encouragement to keep on keepin’ on! That black child returns to school and struggles through the the end, earning her diploma! Praise The Lord!! But that child may also come back with something they didn’t bargain for! Shame. Shame for the ways of their simple family. Shame for the way Uncle Ray pronounces his words. Shame for the way grandma acts. Shame for the neighborhood and even the church.
While the child was away at college, he has had his eyes open to a whole new world and culture. They have had intimate acquaintence with the way “they” do things, and their opinions about things, and their access and wealth and ease. Their ways seem to make better sense. The child has been exposed to the dominant culture on a much larger scale than they have been used to seeing, and have been overwhelmed. This time can be dangerous for the child’s self image. Comparisons are being made between his own black world, and this new information about “their” world. If the information about black people is negative and the child has nothing to fall back on, then that child may be harmed concerning her black culture and black identity.
The child may start hating black people and the ways of black folk, and start seeing himself as outside of blackness and start focusing only on racial stereotypes–the “negative” aspects of being black in America. They may start blaming black people for all their “social ills”, or start believing it’s some kind of inherent inferiority of black people.
It’s imperative that we send our children off to college fully prepared for this kind of spiritual assault. We have to know our history, or at least know how to access it. We have to believe that we are fully human, just as everyone else is–that means there are good and bad aspects to our lives, just as it is for everyone!! Too often, black people are protrayed in a horrible negative light, and we start to believe that it all is inherent to our souls, rather than the oppression that we suffer under.
We go through so much to put our children in college! We have to protect our investment, which is their minds, by filling it with the truth of who we are as a people–at the very least with a knowledge that we are human just as everyone else is. Our kids need to know that what they may not know about our very rich and multi-layered history is easily accessed on-line. They know how to do research on everything else–they need to learn how to research their history as well. This is the answer to all those who would try to define them in a negative, nasty, history-less manner. Let us not allow our children to go to college and come back mis-educated, which is really uneducated.