Confusion

Confusion, once established, can be extremely difficult to unseat. This is especially so where skills of critical evaluation are lacking.

Marcus Garvey on Black Intellectuals

“The present day Negro or ‘colored’ intellectual is no less a liar and a cunning thief than his illustrious teacher. His occidental collegiate training only fits him to be a rogue and vagabond, and a seeker after the easiest and best by following the line of least resistance. ”
–Marcus Garvey, The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey

Sunset of the academy

I agree that getting your doctorate can be a worthwhile endeavor, but for reasons that extend beyond those discussed by Jacques Berlinerblau in the article “You probably won’t get tenure. Get your Ph.D. anyway“. Get your doctorate if you find the process intellectually rewarding, are acquiring skills that you can leverage in the marketplace beyond the disappearing tenure-track (say in publishing, consulting, entrepreneurship, etc.), want to develop a body of specialized expertise in a field that you can then teach in various settings (secondary schools, community colleges, etc.), are open to teaching abroad (there are some great opportunities internationally and this problem isn’t necessarily universal), and can do so without going tens of thousands of dollars in debt. If none of these apply, it probably isn’t worth the time and stress to get the degree, as that will only compound the stress which accrues after being on the tepid job market for a few years.

We are living in the sunset of the academy that most of us wanted to work in. Yes, its sad, but the only thing to do is to accept the passing of this thing and adapt. I don’t want to overstate this, but there is a great opportunity here to reinvent the models of knowledge dissemination that have been variously supported and now aborted by the academy (think about what has been done to Africana studies or other fields focused on critical social discourse). Personally, I would love to work with others who are interested in forging ahead into this new frontier. There is much to be done.

On the academic life

I think that the academy is overly concerned with its own importance; that what passes for criticality within it can generally be characterized as, at best, safe and non-threatening to the global systems that it purports to critique; and at worse, discourses that obfuscate what terms like “critical”, “radical”, or “revolutionary” potentially mean.

I may be wrong, but I think that Amy Jacques Garvey, Malcolm X, Hannibal Afrik, and so many others who were advocates of African liberation situated their work beyond the confines of academia because academia is not–despite the copious use of the terms “critical” or “social justice”–a sustainable front in revolutionary struggle. It is a potential contested zone, but many of the people best positioned to contest these spaces are more interested in attaining the rewards of the institution, rewards that do not change or challenge the material conditions that we face. Many others are, sadly, forced to prioritize their own survival over the lofty ends of reality transformation, as these spaces can eviscerate the emotional well-being of those unprepared for the incalculably numerous microscale attacks on their humanity that occur therein.

Yes, some of us survive to have respectable careers. However, we are consequentially and perpetually weighted down by the armor of self-protection, distracted by the maddening churn of assessment and evaluation, made less productive by the efforts to prevent our brain spaces from being new sites of colonization by the armies of vacuous rhetoric and needless toil, and made less productive in the worlds that we actually inhabit as our vision of an emancipatory social possibility is filtered through language and paradigms that binds and blinds us.

The academy is a self-disguising and dynamically modular möbius loop. It masks its own redundancy with the illusion of relevance and the busying of professors who it perpetually seeks to reduce to the status of drones.

It has become the new shrine whereupon whose alter we sacrifice fertile minds and preciously finite time in the hopes that the mystery gods of the heavens will transmute our offering into transformative action in the world. If so, it will be the first time in the history of the world that work has been accomplished absent a preceding and corresponding effort. Such is the unforgiving nature of the world, that words, no matter how abundant are no proxy for action. As the elders remind us, “Kazi (work) is the Blackest of all.”

Pongezi kwa kazi nzuri (Congratulations for good work)

Pongezi (congratulations) to the Indigo Nation Homeschool Association graduates. Your determination, commitment to excellence, and cultural grounding is an important lesson for us all.

For the parents, we are carrying on tradition, driven by the idea that teaching our children is not simply an option, but a matter of necessity. Many of us have collectively recognized that education is, at its core, a maintenance institution, one that seeks to affirm and sustain a particular social order. In this society, one where African life is devalued, we have to ask the troubling but urgent question of what social order are our children being prepared to perpetuate? And after finding the answer unsatisfactory should further query, what type of world do we envision, and how can our children be socialized so as to maximize their capability of contributing to this enterprise? This is no trivial matter.

Carter G. Woodson reminds us that many of our people, having been the recipients of miseducation, are resigned to frustration and despair as their educations have not prepared them to solve the vexing problems of their people (the eradication of the systems of white supremacy and rapacious capitalism), nor are they permitted to join that social order of their oppressors as equals. Thus the educated African, Woodson states, “…becomes too pessimistic to be a constructive force and usually develops into a chronic fault-finder or a complainant at the bar of public opinion. Often when he sees that the fault lies at the door of the white oppressor whom he is afraid to attack, he turns upon the pioneering Negro who as at work doing the best he can to extricate himself from an uncomfortable predicament.”

On Monday we celebrated those who are seeking to create and become a new generation of leaders for our community, rather than the endless churn of serfs which the dominant institutions succeed in producing. Thus for many of us, our charge, quite simply, is nation-building. Education for liberation, because our future requires no less.

Taking the easy way out: White saviors and Black education

Black children don’t need White teachers who believe that they are saviors. Black children need the system of White supremacy to be annihilated so that problem of structural racism can be addressed definitively. Sadly people are more interested in being domestic missionaries in Black communities than dealing with the system which creates and sustains conditions of oppression. This is, after all, much easier and much less dangerous than confronting White recalcitrance, privilege, and hostility.

To put it more clearly, Black folks are quite capable of solving our problems. We are, unfortunately, beset by a system which has worked in wondrous ways to constrain our capacity. One fine example of this is the assassination of Black leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His death is hardly anomalous, but is merely an echo of the global tyranny rained down upon Black leaders who have had the audacity to insist that African/Black land, labor, and resources were theirs to use as they would; that Black folks have, like all other people, a basic right to self-determination. These assassinations were the opening salvo for more destructive campaigns which have effectively crushed movement after movement for self-determination domestically and around the world. It is the height of hypocrisy to revere Dr. King, while failing to recognize the call for radical social transformation that he advocated for when he said, “The dispossessed of this nation – the poor, both white and Negro — live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against that injustice, not against the lives of the persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty.”

Again, Black folks don’t need White missionaries. We need liberation, and White folks desirous of “making a difference” should start by dismantling the system that benefits them and hurts us so greatly. Their unwillingness to collectively embrace such a struggle is proportional to their irrelevance to our efforts.