The Mis-Education of the Negro
-- Recent trends in popular culture are moving in the wrong direction
It appears to me that there is a pattern of popular culture in the Black community that keeps redefining our world to adjust to an increasingly declining world view. I am worried that each time another report about "gaps" is written, we will see ourselves on the wrong side of widening gaps. I believe a contributing factor is the tendency to rationalize our situation by substituting trends from popular culture to "explain and adapt to the gaps." This behavior seems self-destructive to me, and falls into a category that may fit the description of Carter G. Woodson -- "The Mis-Education of the Negro."
1. We grew tired and offended by being called "colored people" and "niggers", so we began to redefine ourselves, first insisting upon the use of "Negro" at the time of MLK's leadership of the civil rights movement. During the Black consciousness movement we simply became "Black". The post-Civil Rights era introduced "African American" as our preferred identifier. No one among us wants to be called colored or Negro anymore, but there are mixed feelings about whether we should simply be "Black and Proud" or "African American." It is easy for our historical oppressors, and their modern-day beneficiaries, to see us as faceless blacks. It is more difficult to use their pejorative discrimination based simply on color and leverage it to build a stronger community. How do we gain strength from our heritage if we are simply Black?
2. From our position of oppression and lack of formal education, our language developed into a sub-cultural language, an idiom of English that came into prominence in the 1970's -- identified as "Black English" -- and even resulting in an attempt to gain acceptance for "Ebonics" as an accepted way of communication. When an African American speaks standard English, he or she is accused by some within our community of "acting white,"and outside our community the code word "articulate" is used to describe an African American who speaks and writes standard English well. Hmmmm!
3. The once unaccepted behavior of unwed motherhood has now exploded into a redefinition of Black families -- with single-parent families headed by women becoming the norm in our communities. These families tend to be poor, have lower levels of education, higher levels of unemployment and incarceration. It is more difficult to achieve upward mobility from such families. How do we build "strong Black families" under these conditions to combat these outcomes?
4. An article describing "reluctant readers" seems to be another way that popular culture has entered the dialog about "reading skill." Instead of standard tests of reading ability, it feels like an attempt to validate such persons who "text all the time" as having valid reading skills. It is true that poor children are exposed less to books, magazines and newspapers in these homes, and what limited material they are exposed to is not written in the standard mainstream format. This statement bothers me -- "If we want our "reluctant readers" to shed their reluctance, we must acknowledge that their "texts"-no matter how low-brow we consider them-are legitimate forms of writing."
My question is, "How will we help them to become able to read legitimate forms of writing?" We are moving to more and more forms of self-directed learning. Most of these are based on the ability to read and comprehend legitimate forms of writing. What are the long term prospects for these "reluctant readers" in a Global Society?
Am I over-reacting?