The Mis-Education Of The Negro

By Barney Blakeney

I hear it all the time, but I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the concept – integration has been detrimental to Black folks.

Sometimes when I talk to Black folks about education and economics I get that comment. It baffles me. I think integration is a good thing. People should intermingle. I don’t think people should be colorblind, but I think people should appreciate, even celebrate their differences, that skin color shouldn’t matter when it comes to how people interact. I know that’s a utopian ideal. It ain’t real life. Still

Who was it that wrote the book “The Mis-Education of the Negro”? Thank you, Google! I just googled it and lo and behold, it was Carter G. Woodson, the guy who started Black History Month. Back in high school some friends read the book and suggested I read it. Though an avid reader, I never did. Google just gave me an outline. Phenomenal!!!

I got stuck just reading Wikipedia. There’s little excuse for Black people to be uninformed today. Information is just a click away. They used to call television ‘the idiot box’. We’ve got a new idiot box. It’s called a cellphone. People spend so much time on their cellphones, but too rarely use it to get valuable information. In about a minute Google just told me something I’ve spent the last 50 years trying to figure out.

Woodson published the “The Mis-Education of the Negro” in 1933. According to Google, “The thesis of Dr. Woodson’s book is that blacks of his day were being culturally indoctrinated, rather than taught, in American schools. This conditioning, he claims, causes blacks to become dependent and to seek out inferior places in the greater society of which they are a part. He challenges his readers to become autodidacts and to ‘do for themselves’, regardless of what they were taught. History shows that it does not matter who is in power… those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they did in the beginning.”

Here is a quote from the book: “When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.”

That’s stuff I’ve been thinking for years – even used the quotes. Didn’t know where it came from or maybe forgot. I guess the stuff Step and Ellis used to talk about rubbed off. It’s certainly stuff I think about today, nearly 100 years after Woodson’s book.

There now is ongoing flap about public education. For the Blacks of Woodson’s day, there was no public education. Born in Virginia in 1875 the son of former slaves, Woodson had to put off schooling while he worked in the coal mines of West Virginia. He made it to Berea College, becoming a teacher and school administrator. He gained graduate degrees at the University of Chicago and was the second African American to obtain a PhD degree from Harvard University. Most of his academic career was spent at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where Woodson eventually served as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

I hear brothers today brag about being self-made. Woodson was self-made! Apparently his thing was “Do it your damn self.’ I get it that Black people pay taxes for schools just as everybody else. We pay for public education. But American society never has given us our fair share on that investment. Don’t mean we shouldn’t continue the struggle to get it. But don’t expect it to happen any time soon. Why would an oppressor give the oppressed the information to free himself from oppression?

Black folks fell for the flim flam that is American integration. And now in 2019 the American president tells people of color to go back where they came from. I ain’t from The Congo. I’m from Charleston! Black folks built this country and made it one of the most powerful nations on the planet. And despite slavery, segregation and second class citizenship carved out a culture that created Black men like Carter G. Woodson.

So how, in 2019, did we get to a place where we depend on our oppressors to educate us? How in 2019 do we own little and keep nothing. In the 1920s our oppressors violently destroyed our prosperity manifested by communities like Tulsa’s ‘Black Wall Street.’ We rebuilt then 60 years, abandoned ours because ‘the white man’s ice is colder.’ I get a twinge every time a Negro tells me how much they earn – and Negros love to tell you how much they earn – because it validates the mis-education of the Negro.

They say if you don’t learn from history, you’re doomed to repeat it. We’d do well to learn from Woodson and pursue our own path to education and economic success. This sham is not an integrated society. I think it can be, and eventually will be. But for now, don’t be a victim of the mis-education of the Negro.

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