“If you want to hide something from a Black person put it in a book.”
This is a phrase I have heard one time too many and it makes me cringe each time I hear it. I cringe because this sentiment is seen as comical and, at times, true by other African Americans. One day we speak about Black pride and unity; the next we are gladly laughing at insults directed towards our race. This and other words/deeds done by our own people make me wonder if Carter G. Woodson was correct in The Mis-education of the Negro. Have we moved from physical slavery to mental enslavement?
Jim Crow ended only a little over forty years ago, and although we have been “free” for years, the detrimental mentality that was ingrained into our brains continues to plague our communities. The mind is a powerful tool and while growing up we are told that we can do anything we put our minds too. If our minds are contaminated with stereotypes that tear down our race and our culture then how can we achieve those goals? If we continue to perpetuate these ideals, then why should our children believe that they can rise above all of the “isms” that we face in the world?
More times than not, instead of combating this form of mental enslavement, we subconsciously practice it or make fun of it. In all actuality, it is nothing to laugh at. Black people hold themselves back by reciting notions of self hate to describe others within their race, but then remove themselves from the equation because they believe they are “better” than that. The sad thing is that people like this are feeding into that mental enslavement because talk like this continues to keep our people divided. I believe this is what Dr. Woodson was referring to in his book when he wrote, “The large majority of negroes who have put on the finishing touches of our best colleges are all but worthless in the development of their people.” This is the kind of division spoken about in the Willie Lynch Letter. We support this type of thinking when we appear to be “pro-Black” in public, but behind closed doors that same damaging rhetoric spews from our own lips. We tell our children they can be great, but when the topic of Black people, or our youth, comes up we have more bad than good to say about our own people. We shouldn’t have to wait for Cornel West, Angela Davis or even Susan L. Taylor to give motivational speeches to uplift our people. The responsibility of community uplift falls on everyone—not just a few individuals. The only difference between these activists and everyone else is that they decided to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.
In order to break free from this bondage, we must start to re-wire the way we look at ourselves and our people. Do we define beauty by the shade of black instead of the actual unique facial features of the individual? When another Black person tells us where they grew up or currently live, do we automatically label them with a stereotype that changes the way we react to them? Or, better yet, do we make fun of statements that bring our people down because we are too scared to face and rise above them? W.E.B DuBois stated that the biggest battle in the new century would be the battle for the African mind. In order for us to do better as a race, we must change the way we think, and understand that if it wasn’t for the strong men and women who went against the status quo,we wouldn’t be where we are today. The keys to unlock the mental chains that continue to divide our people are in books, education, and within the concept of unity.
“What I hate is ignorance, smallness of imagination, the eye that sees no farther than its own lashes. All things are possible . . . Who you are is limited only by who you think you are.” – From the ancient Egyptian Book of Coming Forth by Day.