WHEN EDUCATION MAKES YOU ASHAMED OF YOUR BACKGROUND

 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.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Mark says:

    It is a challenge for black children who go on to college, especially when it is far away from home if not in distance, in culture. I think about the brothers and sisters who go away to Northern Michigan, Ferris State, Saginaw Valley, from places like Detroit, Flint and Grand Rapids. When you combine that with a culture that still extols the more ‘less than’ qualities of the black experience, it sets up for the ‘enlightenment’ and growth to turn into a self loathing.

    This is part of why our ‘talented tenth’ fail to reinvest and develop in the areas that they are from. Sadly, the mindset throughout much of black america is still very limited and excelling in school is still looked upon very poorly. Adding that with all the other social issues that plague the education of minorities in America, I think that our college graduates feel as though they are aliens to where they come from, starting with their own home.

    How foreign does everyone back home seem to them, from ‘Momma and them’ at the house to everyone they knew hanging at the park or at the day care center with their unplanned responsiblity that they were so unprepared for? They have to be counting their luck at having escaped that fate and now must find a way to pay off loans and still make inroads towards their career.

    A lot of hidden resentment surfaces, and changes into a hatred and distate for where they are from and who they actually are. Should they keep their noses to the grindstone, they will soon move into a class of people whose thinking are so different from the folks they left behind, that they may as well be from another country. So they then further stoke those deep rensentments (which, btw, may or may not be justifiable) by adopting a new set of morals and ideals.

    I could go on, but I think this is far enough for now.

    1. Anna Renee says:

      Thanks, brother for your comment about this subject. I was just wondering about it all. I find so many black folks who are obviously educated and it seems that the more educated they are, the more they have hatred for “black people”! They start lumping black folks into the pathos box, no longer able to differentiate those subtle, yet beautiful things about us! They become blinded to the complete truth of their black people, and are only able to see themselves from that negative”other” perspective.
      I suppose it has to be difficult. Being esconced in a culture that has put in much work defining your black culture as bad in every way, or at least woefully deficient at best. I wonder, though, if it would be the same type of alienation if the black child went to school, say, in Ghana or Cuba or some other country, that may not celebrate blackness, but at least doesn’t denigrate it? Would that child return with that deep seated self hatred? Would that child be more minded to be a help–a contribution to the community? Would that child have more pride and hope? In addition to knowledge of another country?
      I remember watching a documentary of black children who went to Africa (I forgot which country) to interact with a group of children–I think they all were students. The African American children learned alot about true deep poverty, but what was more interesting, they learned how those African children, though very poor, were full of hope for their futures!! They were not broken by the poverty! I remember one scene when the children, probably they were about 15 and 16 years old, were walking along a path and found a pond of dirty water and the African girls started to drink from it! One African American girl broke down in tears because she was afraid for the African girl to drink that water! The American girl probably was sad, confused and hurt that the African girl she now knows personally has to drink this water.
      The African girl was shocked and surprised by the African American girl’s reaction and ran over to comfort her!! The girls all bonded closely over the incident and were hugging and loving each other! It was beautiful to say the least!!

      Oh, and thanks for all the links! I appreciate it!

  2. James McCoy says:

    Thoughtful and insightful post that every Black person would do well to read!

  3. Great post, Anna! I’ve seen the same happen with those I am connected to as well…even in my own family. It’s been something that I’ve been reflecting on for a long time. Being inspired by the insight of Great Ancestors & Elders like Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Dr. Asa Hilliard, Paulo Friere, Dr. Naim Akbar, Dr. Amos Wilson & others; I’ve concluded that the Afrikan-centered educational system is the most appropriate educational system for American Afrikan children.

    Other ethnic groups understand the importance of having their children reared in an educational setting that is sensitive to their culture and will instill in them a worldview derived from their culture. That’s not to say that they won’t learn about and be inspired to appreciate other cultures; but first you must develop a knowledge and love of self before you can genuinely embrace others. It seems that many American Afrikans are so eager to prove that they are not racially prejudiced and racist (a feat that Dr. Frances Cress Welsing says is impossible for American Afrikans) that they turn their children over to a public school system where the White Power Structure has ultimate authority – hoping that their children make it through their system “ok”. The recent report by the Schott Foundation recently revealed that this gamble is failing our children and our community on many levels. (http://www.blackboysreport.org/)

    As a parent whose children will become school age in a few years; I’m inspired by those who have taken the Afrikan-centered Education theory and put it into practice. Recently, I learned of the Kamali Academy in New Orleans (http://kamaliacademy.wordpress.com/) and for a long time now I’ve been thankful for the Council of Independent Black Institutions which has a directory of Afrikan-centered schools located in various states. (http://www.cibi.org/newsite/index.html#/home)

    I’m hopeful that more and more American Afrikan parents will explore these types of options, create Afrikan-centered Home School Networks, After School Programs, and Saturday Academies. These will be vital supplements for our children until the American Afrikan community begins building our own independent schools that nurture the holistic development of our children and serve the interests of our community.

    1. Anna Renee says:

      Yes, Brother! Unfortunately for some, they can’t afford anything other than free public school! I say at least, also take part in the free public library! We have to be proactive in our education and our children’s.
      I’m so thankful that I made my way to the public library when I was just a little tyke. My mother instilled that desire to read in me. In fact my first bus ride alone was to the library which was about a 7 minute ride! I remember that I almost missed my stop! I have great memories of my education in that library.
      As for my son, I and his father took him out of the public school, and barely managed to afford alternative schooling for him. So my son has experienced a number of schooling settings. His went to–Catholic, Afrocentric, Black Revolutionary, Black Muslim, I even home schooled him–both on my own with my own curriculum and with a “legitimate” program connected with a school system that supported home schooling! He experienced it all, but now at 28, he’s well rounded! Back in the 80s for a young black couple making their way, it really was hard to get good affordable relevant schooling!
      I would say to you that it’s a huge battle, but it’s worth it! Especially now days–it wasn’t even this bad back in the day, and I still refused for my son to be in Oakland CA school system!!
      Supplement their educations with the library, and never let up being focused on your children’s education! Teach them how to be interested in their culture AND their history! LEARN how to make it interesting to them. Experiment. Never give up and never let up!!! Many good hard working parents LOSE their children by taking their focus off even for a second.
      It’s critically important! I’ve been through this blogosphere and have come across MANY brothers and sisters who were MISEDUCATED! Knowledgeable, but ignorant and self hating!!! It’s brutal, brother!!!
      Forget completely about political correctness.

  4. Melzie says:

    You are on the money, Anna Renee. My parents always instilled a sense of pride and encouraged us to have a healthy thirst for knowledge, so I didn’t really think about it until reading your post. We’re definitely a dynamic people with a history that should never be overlooked, and it’s up to us to enlighten the younger generations. Great post!

    1. Anna Renee says:

      Thanks, Curvy! I’m so glad that I didn’t go through that type of self hatred. I learned about my history because I worked in the San Francisco Public Library for 15 years. I thank God, because if I had not worked there, I would probably had ended up with this kind of shame and self hatred. I wasn’t opportune to go to college–we couldn’t afford it. But the free library was my college education that lasted 15 years!!! With no tuition! And with a paycheck!! It was all good!

Spend Your Two Cents With Me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s