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Does Academia Make you White

I've been in school a long time, heard alot of facts, read alot of books, and researched innumerable studies. And, all in all, I can say that I have learned a great deal. Yet, when I think about my learning in its' totality, I can not escape the notion that "academia" seems to socialize the so-called Black academician into a consciousness that is very influenced the ideals, values, and beliefs based in"white supremacy." Now, you may ask, "what exactly does all that mean?" Essentially, the higher the Black academician ascribes to climb in the world of academia, the more westernized/eurocentric the body of information becomes.

Before you dismiss what it is that I am saying, let me further explain how. First off, most Americans are educated from the start using a paradigm which is also entirely shaped from the perspective of European persons (i.e.

history being the greatest example). In elementary, middle high school, and college, students learn American History throughout, which is almost entirely the account of white males and their dominance upon the weaker races. To be more specific, we learn that the Europe has always been the so-called "civilizing force" the world throughout.

A great example would be the illustrations that all children recieve of Native Americans, which describes them as "savages" that were running around naked and hostile until the pilgrim landed upon their "godless" soil. And last, but definitely not least, students learn that the African-American was running around naked in Africa, and that he was a slave, whom enjoyed the toils of his labor; he, in turn, creates the "all-time favorite-Negro spiritual", but accepts his place of servility willingly. Now, one could only imagine what this does to the psyche of the pupils who are taught these lessons. One may assume that the European pupil would in all probability excel, because he has been taught that he is the dominant, civilizing, intellectual who created polite society and academia itself.

The African-American child, in many cases, performs poorly because he has developed an unconscious inferiority complex, which has manifested itself in sometimes poor scholastic performance. On the other hand, those who do excel are many times branded as "acting white," because the psychology of inferiority has inadvertantly been supplanted in the minds of the students in a way that makes them believe that Blacks are innately less intelligent. Sound familiar? These types of lessons are such that they keep the status quo balanced.

Think about it, education has always been the means by which the powers that be separate the haves from the have nots, only further stratifying class and economic positions of the persons that live in this country. It all makes so much sense. We are told early on, in every classroom, that the higher performers are "the cream of the crop," tbus making the rest less valuable; We are told that "knowledge is power," thus making the smart kid the "powerful." We are told that we are priviledged, thus making educated people part of an "elite" group, which is especially true of the college-educated African-American. Now these sayings are probably motivational to many, but the problem is that all should be encouraged to do well, not just a select few.

And, consequently, these types repetitive mantras, if you will, have a way of pushing many of the African-Americans whom excel in scholastics to shy away from their "blackness." Remember, "blackness" is coorelated with ignorance; it is aligned with that which is bad and undesirabe, as it always has been. Now, I am not saying that this is true of all Black academicians; However, I would dare say that many have felt the pressure at one time or another to be more "white." This is even more pervasive the higher that one goes in academia.

Black academicians are taught how they should talk, how important it is to appear as a scholar; otherwise, one could be accused of being "too black.".Throughout the educational experience, students are pointed to book after book, that is supposedly to help then become authorities in different areas. Problem? most of these books are written by Europeans, and are thus written from a European perspective that does not take into account the relevance and effect that the Black experience has on the Black academician and the culture. What is even more disturbing is the fact that many of those persons that are considered to be the foremost scholars on African and African-American culture are also European.

So, the question then becomes "how can the so-called Black academician become better equipped with a knowledge of self and the tools necessary to equip and lead his people if he is continually taught from a Westernized construct, the same one that in fact has served to strip him and make him take an assimilationist stance that requires him to leave out those matters that are culturally significant.I've sat in class after class, where we Black "academicians" have talked about what we consider the "Black Problem." And, very passionately i've heard many a classmate say with passion and conviction what "those people" could do if "they" would educate themselves." Now, "who does that sound like.?" Those words are emblematic of the disconnection between the Black academician and those that he desires to help; However, there must be reconnect if things are to change.

If the Black academician is to truly understand the problem, he has to take his knowledge beyond the walls and halls of academia; I ask you, "how can a doctor diagnose a problem if he never examines the patient in an up close and personal way?" He can not. He can only guess because he has heard of some of the symptoms at one time or another. In effect, if Black America is to make more strides toward liberation and America wants to truly educate its' people, we must first be able to fully understand their problems and concerns, which can be done through education. To do so, we must get in the midst of our people, know our people, and stop seperating ourselves from our people, because for too long the opposite has been happening in the halls of academia. In other words, we need to "stop preaching to the choir." We must also include the notion of Afrocentricity (circularity) in our teachings and Africa in the classroom; as cliche' as it sounds, it is not just Black history, but it is American history.

As we've seen since the years of desegregation, the other stuff "just aint workin'" (forgive the EBONICS) . Essentially, what I am saying is that the canon from which we work now to educate our youth is prejudiced, warped, and only furthers exacerbates attitudes of racism and discrimination that have existed in this country for centuries; And, if we are to truly educate and empower "Black Youth," which the world claims are the laziest and poorest performers in most classrooms, then the Black academician must make it his job to write his own story, and teach from his own perspective.

.Carolyn Hall is a native of Memphis, Tn. SHe recieved both her BA and MA in English from tennessee state university. Currently, she resides in Atlanta, GA.

She is a doctoral candidate in African Womens Studies and a professor of English at the same institution.

By: Carolyn Hall

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