Slavery on Campus, Part 2: The Citadel April 28, 2007Posted by twilightandreason in African Americans, Black History, Blogroll, Higher Education, race, racism, Slavery, The Citadel.
Inside The Citadel’s Summerall Chapel
“Some schools, like Washington and Lee University and The Citadel, have maintained a strong emphasis on Confederate heritage while achieving a reputation for academic excellence.”
-Cameron McWhirter, “Colleges Suffer Identity Crisis,” Atlanta Journal Constitution, February 12, 2005
Many U.S. colleges and universities used slave labor on their campuses to erect buildings, serve meals, clean dormitories, and carry out other forms of manual and domestic labor. Similarly, a number of 18th- and 19th-century college presidents, trustees, students, and faculty owned slaves and/or profited from the sale and importation of Black people for slavery.
Few colleges, however, were founded expressly for the purposes of defending and maintaining the institution of slavery. The Citadel, South Carolina’s public military college, is one such institution. Since the mid-1960s The Citadel has regularly made headlines for its reluctance to admit, and for its questionable treatment of, Black students and women. In the mid-1800s The Citadel was noted for the vehemence with which it’s cadets and alumni defended the institution of slavery, a purpose for which the institution, founded as the Military College of South Carolina, was created. The Citadel library website explains the relationship between the fear of slave insurrection and the early history of the institution:
“By winning the lottery Denmark Vesey was able to buy his freedom and become self sufficient and influential. By being self sufficient and influential he had the resources to plot an insurrection. The insurrection that almost took place put fear in the hearts of the planters. The fear of another insurrection caused the planters to establish a municipal guard. The expense of a municipal guard caused the planters to look for a cheaper alternative. The cheaper alternative was a body of cadets. Ergo, the Corps of Cadets and The Citadel were established. The Citadel came into being because a poor slave purchased the winning ticket to a lottery. (Source: HN.) For an interesting article in the Atlantic Monthly published in 1861 click Atlantic Monthly.. ”
— from the Research Assistance/Knob Knowledge website of The Citadel campus library.
In this excerpt from his address at the 2006 inauguration of The Citadel’s current president, Clemson history professor Rod Andrew Jr. describes how cadets at The Citadel and other southern institutions took their pro-slavery partisanship to the national stage during the Civil War when large numbers of students and alumni joined and fought with the Confederate army:
As the Civil War approached, however, they showed that, while preaching patriotism and public service, they could also represent the forces of tradition and conservatism. As sectional tensions mounted in the 1840s and 1850s, southerners scrutinized all their institutions for their ability and willingness to defend southern “rights” if necessary, including the “right” to own slaves. Southern military colleges proved faithful to the states who bore them, purging their curricula of texts that might encourage abolitionism. When the guns fired at Fort Sumter in 1861, Citadel cadets were there, pulling the lanyards, following their governor’s orders, determined to show that they were willing and able to defend the southern version of republicanism. Teenaged cadets from VMI, The Citadel, the University of Alabama, and Georgia Military Institute fought bravely, and tragically, in the Civil War. Hundreds of alumni from these schools, especially VMI and The Citadel, volunteered as Confederate officers, proving that patriotism, state loyalty, and service were not empty words to military school graduates.
— How Much is Still Relevant? The Citadel and American Military Traditions in the Nineteenth Century. Speech delivered by Rod Andrew Jr., Associate Professor of History, Clemson University for the President’s Inaugural Celebration at The Citadel, in April of 2006.
Today The Citadel continues to struggle with its history of pro-slavery partisanship and Confederate loyalty. As recently as 1992 Black and white cadets were embroiled in conflict over the use of “Dixie” as the institute’s official fight song, and in 2000 Citadel cadets were entrusted with the handling of the Confederate battle flag after it was lowered for the last time from the South Carolina Statehouse. Although these overt symbols of Confederate and pro-slavery loyalty have been officially abandoned, the image of the gentleman officer as white, southern, and male, maintains a prominent place in the hearts and minds of many in the Citadel community. Until that ideal has been abandoned for a more inclusive vision, The Citadel will continue to make headlines, and for all the wrong reasons.
To reach The Citadel’s official website, click here.
Posted by Ajuan Mance
A Beautiful (Black) Mind: Ronald Mallett April 26, 2007Posted by twilightandreason in Academia, African Americans, Blogroll, Higher Education, Physics, race, Ronald Mallett, Time Travel.
Ronald Mallett at the Einsten House in Bern, Switzerland
When Ronald Mallett was only 10 years hold, his father died suddenly and unexpectedly. Young Ronald was stunned by the loss. He had admired his father greatly. He was a smart, hard-working man whose skill in electronics and natural curiosity had dazzled and impressed his young son.
Shortly after his father’s death, young Ronald read a book that would change his life forever. Mallet describes how his encounter with a science fiction classic set him on his life’s course:
Fortunately, among the many gifts my father bestowed on me was a passion for reading, and it was in books that I found some measure of solace. A little more than a year after Dad’s death, one book in particular became the turning point in my life: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. I was consumed by the possibility that I might be able to build a time machine that would allow me to travel to the past and see my father again. This time I would warn him that his bad habits would kill him – and soon.
The possibility of time travel became more real in my mind when, a few years later, I came across a popular book about the work of Albert Einstein. Einstein, said the book, was able to show that time is not unchanging but can be altered; in fact, if you move a clock fast enough, time slows down! This gave me hope that one day I might actually be able to build a time machine. I learned, too, that Einstein was a physicist. There was no other route: I would have to take science and learn higher mathematics to understand his work and embark on my own journey.
Daily life was a constant struggle for my family after my father’s death. I was the oldest of four children my mother had to provide for on her own. Somehow her inner strength kept the family together and allowed us to survive. My dream of a time machine remained a secret and after high school I enlisted in the US air force to get money for college.
Studying on my own while I was in the military, I learned that Einstein had developed two theories of relativity. His special theory of relativity, which has to do with the speed of light, allows the possibility of time travel into the future. This form of time travel had already been demonstrated experimentally. His other theory, the general theory of relativity, has to do with gravity and allows for the possibility of time travel into the past.
When I was discharged from the air force, I set to work and eventually won my PhD in physics from Penn State University. At college, I researched cosmology, which allowed me to study the structure and evolution of the universe as well as the theory of black holes. These subjects provided cover for my interest in building a time machine, which I feared would not be taken seriously.
— Ronald Mallett in New Scientist
Eventually Mallett’s passion would earn him tenure at the University of Connecticut. More importantly, his work on black holes, of great interest for their ability to slow and distort space and time, has earned him the respect of his colleagues as a cutting-edge theoretical physicist.
Ironically, the young Ronald Mallett was not terribly enthusiastic about school. His drive to excel was fueled by his singular passion to uncover the mysteries of space and time and return, eventually, to the past to reconnect with (and possibly to save) his father.
Mallett’s story serves as a reminder that the difference between reluctant or apathetic learners and engaged overachievers can be as simple as the presence of a passion, an interest, or question, or topic, or skill that lends relevance to the pursuit of knowledge.
If you have a passion, share it with a young person you know, especially if it’s a kid who seems disinterested in school and learning. You just might ignite his or her intelletual curiosity. You might just be setting him or her on the path to become the next Einstein, the next Feynman, the next Banneker or Carver, or Woodson… or the next Ronald Mallett.
Check out Ronald Mallett’s personal website (with lots of links to recent articles and interviews).
Posted by Ajuan Mance
The Best and the Brightest April 26, 2007Posted by twilightandreason in African American Students, Black Students, Black Youth, Blogroll, Higher Education.
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Who says no news is good news? Mainstream media outlets may be mired in selective coverage of the Black community’s most unflattering moments, but local newspapers and independent wire services have not forgotten that scholars, prodigies, and overachievers should also make the news.
Here’s just a sampling of what regional papers and independent newswires across the country have to say about the best and brightest Black high school graduates from the class of 2007:
Alabama’s Mobile Register recognizes Bethany Andrews, Kyra Baker, Ryan Davis, Rico Moorer, Brandi Powe, Jasmine Rencher, Kenneth Stallworth, and Claire Watson, local seniors who have each been awarded a National Achievement Scholarship, through the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. These scholarships recognize those African American seniors who scored highest on the PSAT.
Southern California’s North County Times recognizes Edward Alfred. This Cathedral High School senior was recently award a $2500.00 National Achievment Scholarship. In addition, he is also a National Merit Semifinalist, a distinction reserved for the top 1 percent of scorers on the PSAT.
North Carolina’s Wilmington Journal recognizes Niki Evans, one of 500 finalists in the state who will be entering college as part of the 21st class of North Carolina Teaching Fellows. This outstanding senior has a 4.30 GPA in the AP curriculum at Freedom High School where she is involved in community service activities, academic clubs, and the varsity cheerleading squad.
PRWEB has issued a press release announcing the 2007 Boys and Girls Club of Oakland selection for their Youth of the Year, Jasmine Simmons. A senior at McCylmonds High School, she maintains a 3.14 GPA, is captain of her high school’s Mock Trial team, and is a 4-year member of the Oakland, California Boys and Girls Club, where she currently serves as a tutor. Jasmine hopes to attend Howard University, and she aspires to become a district attorney.
Also, check out these links to a sampling of and regional newspaper listings of local National Achivement Scholarship winners:
- Maryland’s Business Gazette
- Virginia’s Fairfax County Times
- The Arizona Daily Star
- Delaware’s News Journal
- The Albuquerque Tribune
- Georgia’s The Citizen
Posted by Ajuan Mance
A Beautiful (Black) Mind: Amobi Okoye April 25, 2007Posted by twilightandreason in Amobi Okoye, Black Students, Blogroll, Current Events, Harvard University, Higher Education, NFL Draft, University of Louisville.
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“My dad was big on (my) going to Harvard, and I was big on playing football… Not to downgrade Harvard, but Louisville had the best of both worlds for me as far as athletics and academic-wise.”
— Amobi Okoye
If you haven’t yet heard of Amobi Okoye, then you don’t read the sports pages or watch ESPN. But even if you’re not a big football fan, and even if you’re not waiting with bated breath for the NFL draft, this is a young man worth knowing about.
Scores of newspapers have printed articles on Okoye, who will likely become the NFL’s youngest player since 1970, and I’ve included at the bottom of this post to profiles on the college football standout; but here’s a short summary of the amazing achievements that have made this true scholar-athlete such a hot topic during this NFL draft season:
Amobi Okoye is that rarest of marvels, the young man who is both an intellectual and an athletic prodigy. Born in Nigeria, Amobi was walking at 7 months old and speaking at 11 months. In his home country he skipped from 5th to 7th grade, and he placed into the 9th grade shortly after arriving in the United States at the age of 12. By 13 Amobi was not only a sophomore in high school, but a varsity football player as well, even starting in one game. When it came time to go to college, Okoye chose the University of Louisville over Harvard, which also admitted him, privileging the strong football program of the former over the academic reputation of the latter. This fall, as a 19 year-old senior at the University of Louisville, Okoye had success on the field (8 sacks, 55 tackles, 15 tackles for loos), and in the classroom (in December he graduated after only 3 1/2 years, with a major in psychology).
This spring Okoye is slated to make his mark on professional football. When he enters the NFL draft he will likely become:
- The young player ever to enter the NFL draft since the 1970 merger
- The youngest player ever selected in the first round of the NFL draft
- The youngest player ever to take the field on the NFL’s opening weekend
So, you may wonder (as I did), what will become of his academic talents and his interest in psychology? Okoye plans to pursue graduate studies in psychology at Harvard, possibly during his off seasons. That’s a tall order for this young prospect, but doing the unexpected seems to be his specialty. Whether on the field or on the campus of whatever institution is fortunate enough to have him as a graduate student, I think we can expect big things.
Want to read more? Here are some links?:
“This Youngster Makes the Grade” (Boston Globe)
“Okoye, 19, Always Has Been a Prodigy” (Detroit News)
“Okoye Young, but Brings Great Ability, Potential” (Chicago Daily Herald)
“He’s ‘Phe’ — As in Phenom” (San Diego Tribune)
Posted by Ajuan Mance
Honorary Degrees 2007 April 21, 2007Posted by twilightandreason in African Americans, Bennett College, Blogroll, College Presidents, Current Events, Higher Education, honorary degrees, Johnetta Cole, race, Ruth Simmons.
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Brown University’s Ruth Simmons receives honorary degree at George Washington U commencement, 2002
Commencement season is at hand, and colleges across the nation are preparing to celebrate the achievements of their graduating students. In addition to colorful regalia, solemn processions, weeping parents, and stately marches, colleges will also mark this moment by awarding honorary degrees to noted community, national, and international leaders. Among the honorees at this year’s commencement celebrations, you will find these distinguished African American and Afro-diasporic scholars, artists, and visionaries (the awarding institution is listed beside each name):
- Johnetta B. Cole — outgoing President, Bennett College — (University of Arkansas)
- Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf — the first Black woman President of Liberia — (Spelman College)
- Ruth J. Simmons — President of Brown University — (Spelman College)
- Elaine R. Jones — first Black woman president, NAACP Legal Defense Fund — (Spelman College)
- Dionne Warwick — noted vocalist — (Columbia College, Chicago)
- Shirley Franklin — Mayor of Atlanta — (Oglethorpe University)
- Monica Kaufman Pearson — broadcast news pioneer — (Oglethorpe University)
- Henry Greenridge — pastor, Irvington Covenant Church — (North Park Theological Seminary)
- Anna Deveare Smith — actress, playwright — (Bates College)
- Corey Harris — blues guitarist — (Bates College)
- Immaculée Ilibagiza — author — (University of Notre Dame)
- Willie Mays — member, baseball hall of fame — (Dartmouth College)
- John A. Rich— professor, Drexel University — (Dartmouth College)
…and more to come…
Posted by Ajuan Mance
Bennett College’s New Madame President April 20, 2007Posted by twilightandreason in Academia, African Americans, Bennett College, Black Colleges, Blogroll, College Presidents, Current Events, Higher Education, Johnetta Cole, Julianne Malveaux, PBS, Women.
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Gradualism simply doesn’t work. The civil rights struggle has to be a struggle for economic restructuring and economic justice. Only when the struggle deals with an array of economic issues can we say we are working on Dr. King’s unfinished business.
— Dr. Julianne Malveaux
Congratulations to Julianne Malveaux, who on June 1st will become the 15th president of Bennett College. Dr. Malveaux will replace current president Johnetta Cole, who is retiring.
Dr. Malveaux is one of the United States’ most visible public intellectuals, known for her outspokenness and for her uncompromising Black feminist perspectives. Cornell West has described her as “the most iconoclastic public intellectual in the country.” I would have to describe her as one of the most refreshingly straightforward Black public voices in America today. I enjoy her regular appearances as part of the roundatable discussion on NPR’s News and Notes program, hosted by Farai Chideya.
I first became aware of Julianne Malveaux during the early 1990s when she frequently appeared as a panelist on the PBS women’s roundtable and newsmagazine, To the Contrary. Widely criticized in 1994 for harsh comments made on that show about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, comments for which she later apologized, Dr. Malveaux has since meshed her notorious candor and audacity with her passion for social justice in an equally provocative but less incendiary manner. Since 1994 she has penned several books, founded her own multimedia production company, she has appeared regularly on a number of radio and television political programs, and has become a syndicated columnist whose op-ed pieces regularly appear in USA Today and other regional and national newspapers.
Many who remain outraged by Dr. Malveaux’s 1994 attack on Justice Thomas have questioned Bennett College’s decision to appoint her as president. Such commentators tend to cast her anti-Thomas tirade of 13 years ago as an unfair left-wing attack on a right-wing appointee. I tend, however, to view her comments as simply another round in the unending political boxing match between African American liberals, radicals, moderates, conservatives, and reactionaries, an intra-racial battle characterized by the trading of outrageous barbs and insults. This war of words has rarely resulted in productive dialogue, but all parties are equal contenders on this curious battlefield.
Having followed Dr. Malveaux’s career closely since I first encountered her on television, and having seen her use her public voice in the service of the greater good–advocating on paper, on radio, and in her television appearances for the rights of college students, single people, workers without health insurance, women athletes, and others–I applaud Bennett College’s decision.
Kudos to Dr. Malveaux and kudos to Bennett College. As your pathways join together, may the road be smooth and the journey take you always upward.
And farewell to the esteemed Dr. Johnetta Cole. Thank you for all that you have done for Black women’s education. We will never forget your contributions, and we welcome any continuing efforts to inspire and enrich our lives .
For a sampling of Dr. Malveaux’s ideas and opinions, check out these essays:
- But Who Watches Out for Singles
- Don’t Believe the Numbers Hype
- Cast into Harsh Glare, Students Find Grace
- Malcolm X Legacy Still Resonates Today
- Coretta, a Leader in Her Own Right
Posted by Ajuan Mance
Virginia Tech April 19, 2007Posted by twilightandreason in Blogroll, Current Events, Higher Education, Nikki Giovanni, Virginia Tech.
We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again. — Nikki Giovanni, University Distinguished Professor
The tragic deaths this week at Virginia Tech have stirred grief in the hearts and minds of all who are aware of this horrible chain of events.
I dedicate this post to the memory of those members of the Virginia Tech community who lost their lives on Monday, April 16, 2007:
…and any whose names have not yet been released, pending identification and the notification of their next of kin.
We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid. We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness.
— Nikki Giovanni, University Distinguished Professor
Across this nation and beyond, tens of millions mourn the loss of life and the accompanying loss of innocence, the tragic intervention of murderous violence into the space of the college campus, that setting which has functioned symbolically and practically as that last cherished moment in space and time for young men and women to explore, create, grow, learn, dream, and entertain their most ambitious and utopian aspirations.
The Virginia Tech homepage has been reconfigured as a hub for those seeting information on Monday’s devastating events. You can find the Virginia Tech homepage at this address: http://www.vt.edu/
To make a donation in memory of those who lost their lives on Monday, click on this link and follow the instructions provided (other websites soliciting donations may be fraudulent): http://www.vt.edu/tragedy/memorial_fund.php
To read the transcript of the stirring and inspiring convocation address by University Distinguished Professor Nikki Giovanni, click this link: http://www.vt.edu/tragedy/giovanni_transcript.php
Posted by Ajuan Mance
Imus(t) Be Hearing Things, Part II April 15, 2007Posted by twilightandreason in African American Students, African Americans, Higher Education, Hip Hop, Imus, race, racism, Rutgers.
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Jezebel or Mammy
Sambo or Pimp
Welfare Queen or Criminal
Coon or Mandingo
Savage or Tom
Absentee Father or Less Qualified Minority
Don Imus, producer Bruce McGuirk, and sometimes sidekick Sid Rosenberg’s racist, sexist banter is only the most recent example of the continuing incapacity of many outside of the African diaspora to see comprehend and form of Black identity that reaches beyond the old, tired categories.* These stereotyped classifications, or what Patricia Hill Collins refers to as controlling images, do in fact exercise considerable control over how Black people are perceived, what Black people are allowed to do, and sometimes (and most tragically) how Black people understand themselves.
Many have attributed Imus’s, McGuirk’s, and Rosenberg’s comments to the common use of sexist epithets in contemporary rap music. To accept this explanation, however, would be to ignore the long history of white racism in the U.S., particularly that form of racism that seeks to force into one of the stereotypes listed at the top of this post any African Americans whose public performance of erudition, expertise, or talent contradicts public conceptions of U.S. Black identity. In the case of the Rutgers women’s basketball team, Imus and his cronies sought to recast these hard-working, talented, and intelligent student-athletes as Jezebels.
Here are some other shining moments when the anxiety of racial identity (fear induced in some white Americans when people of African are perceived as intruding in the metaphorical space [activities, interests, talents, modes of discourse] for whiteness) got the best of white public figures and resulted in these stunningly offensive comments (as compiled by Media Matters:
The Jezebel: On March 31, 2006 syndicated radio host Neal Boortz said that Representative Cynthia McKinney’s new hairstyle made her look “like a ghetto slut.” Around the same time he posted on his website that McKinney “looks like ghetto trash.”
The Welfare Queen: On February 1, 2007 Rush Limbaugh expressed disbelief at young Black people’s reported alienation from government, observing that “The government’s been taking care of them their whole lives.”
The Savage: According to Fairness and Accuracy in Report (FAIR), Rush Limbaugh’s reckless indulgence in Black stereotypes and controlling images can be traced all the way back to the 1970s, when he advised a Black caller to “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”
The Less Qualified Minority: 1) On February 7, 2007 Michael Savage described Condoleezza Rice as “A schoolmarm who has been pushed up the ladder all of her life because of social engineering,” and who “was chosen by George Bush as part of an affirmative action program in order to make his Cabinet look like America.” 2) On Martin Luther King Day 2007, Savage called civil rights “a racket that is used to exploit primarily heterosexual, Christian, white males’ birthright and steal from then what is their birthright and give it to people who didn’t qualify for it.”
*Click here for a transcript of their comments.
Posted by Ajuan Mance
Imus(t) Be Hearing Things, Part I April 15, 2007Posted by twilightandreason in Black Students, Higher Education, Imus, race, racism, Stereotypes.
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Don Imus, producer Bernard McGuirk, and sometimes sidekick Sid Rosenberg are not terribly different from the scores of white undergraduates who indulged their most deeply held stereotypes of Black people at “ghetto” parties.*
Those students see Black undergraduates in their classes and dormitories every day, young African American scholars whose mere presence on their campus would presumably undermine any stereotypes of the Black subject as anti-intellectual; and yet many white students maintain that their Black classmates represents the exception and not the rule, as they choose to believe the authenticity of media representations of Blacks “in the ‘hood” over their own real-life encounters with Blacks on campus.
In a not-so-bizarre and, sadly, not-so-surprising variation on this phenomenon, Imus, McGuirk, and Rosenberg look at hardworking Black women scholar-athletes and see only “hos,” their vision of Black womanhood warped and confined by their incapacity to comprehend manifestations of Blackness that fall outside of the narrow stereotypes perpetuated in the mainstream media.
This is a phenomenon that is familiar to most African Americans. Patricia Hill Collins uses the term “controlling images” to refer to those stereotypes that define and limit mainstream conceptions of Blackness. Most Black folks have experienced the bizareness that ensues when one of us encounters someone (of any ethnicity) who perceives our behavior, interests, occupation, marital status, spiritual practice, body type, etc. as somehow falling outside of that handful of controlling images that is associated with African American identity.
*Click this link for a transcript of their comments.
Posted by Ajuan Mance
A Word on Language April 2, 2007Posted by twilightandreason in Academia, African Americans, Blogroll, Higher Education, race.
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Recent conversations and correspondences boths on- and off-line have turned my thoughts to the sticky question of the relationship Black academics, language, accessibility, and the broader African American and Afro-diasporic community.
The ivory tower, the intellectual elite, the plantation — these and similar terms have been used by progressive activists to capture the perceived (and in many respects the actual) elitist and exclusionary nature of the academy. Add the phrase “slave to/in” or “stuck on/in” and you will understand just a small sampling of the not-so-affectionate nicknames sometimes applied to the Black academic whose published work uses the specialized language of his or her discipline. Such terms are not applied universally, and are generally reserved for those scholars whose texts introduce ideas believed to be emancipatory for African Americans and/or other people of African descent, but in language that is inaccessible to most readers.
I have long been troubled by this line of thought. I think it’s not only acceptable but often necessary for a scholar to use the specialized language of his or her discipline in his or her work. Disciplinary language was not created (solely or primarily) to exclude. Rather, disciplinary language enables scholars to write with precision about subjects for whom more mainstream forms of language have few or no applicable terms. Scholars who use obscure and jargon-filled language in ways that seem excessive and/or exclusionary are often decried by readers both inside and outside of their fields of research.
It is true that some of the people who might benefit from exposure to and debate around some of the ideas expressed in certain scholarly essays and books might be unfamiliar with the language used in some academic publications. Black scholars, many of whom would very much like for their work to become part of a broader discussion of race and identity, tend to transmit their ideas using a variety of different media, many of which are accessible to a wider audience than might find their way into an academiec publication. Many Black scholars give speeches in the community, for example, or do workshops for churches on their areas of expertise. Many do interviews on public radio and local television, media forms that are accessible to virtually everyone.
I cannot say how many times I have heard the argument that books by Black academics are “inaccessible to the people who need to read them the most.” Suffice to say that opinion is very familiar to me. As a Black woman in the academy, however, I would have to say that many of those who need to hear and understand new and progressive anti-racist ideas the most are other people in academe. I could list number of articles and books by Black academics that have changed the way that many non-Black scholars in the humanities and social sciences teach, both in terms of what and how they teach.
And in terms of social change, what happens in college classrooms really does matter. A greater percentage of people go to college in the U.S. than in any other country in the world. That means that students from a wide range of socio-economic classes, races, faith traditions, and regions attend college and return to their communities influenced greatly by the ideas and texts that they are exposed to.
“Big words” and specialized language can be obfuscating and alienating for some; but I don’t believe that this is the problem of the user of said words. My own personal vocabulary is serviceable, but not enormous. I do love words, though, and I do the best I can to express myself with precision and clarity, and to learn new words whenever possible, partly because of the emphasis that both of my parents placed on constantly striving to become more knowledge. Today they refer to this pursuit as lifelong learning. I prefer to call it self-education as a lifestyle.
Something has gone awry in the education young Black people — not the education that kids get in school, but the education they get at home. There was a time when most parents of African descent, many of how may themselves have had limited education, told their children that they needed to have a bigger and broader vocabulary, that they needed to learn more, work harder, take advantage of more opportunities, and in the end just do better than their mom and dad had. There was a time when Black parents and grandparents of all classes taught their kids that each generation needed to have higher standards — of living, of learning, of freedom and joy — than previous generations.
To those who would take issue with ways of using language that they perceive as less familiar, less accessible, or more elite than what they are comfortable with, I would paraphrase some words I once read on a t-shirt:
“I’ve upped my standards. Up yours.”
Post by Ajuan Mance