Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Mis-education of the Negro

"The most disastrous aspect of colonization which you are the most reluctant to release from your mind is their colonization of the image of god." -France Cress-Welsing
"i saw no African people in the printed and illustrated Sunday school lessons. i began to suspect at this early age that someone had distorted the image of my people. my long search for the true history of African people the world over began." -Dr. John Henrik Clarke

since i've moved back to the south, i've had much more contact with the two smallest people in my nuclear family-my niece (4 years old) and my nephew (7 years old). i see the shows they watch, see the food they eat, and get a since of how they see the world in everyday conversations with them. unfortunately, this is has lead me to realize that there are some serious issues in how we raise our children, especially black children. i believe most people have already come to this conclusion, but i think that every single aspect of a black child's life needs to be examined in order for us to get back to pride, solidarity, collective respect for one another, health, economic stability, etc.

for one, i will say that they have all they need-meaning food, shelter, well-rounded and well-intending adults caring for them, love, acceptance, etc. what they do not have is an African centered education; an education or a foundation that enables them to be strong, intelligent, and proud black adults.
the other day, i was showing my nephew a cartoon on youtube based on one of the African Folktales of Anansi the spiderman (or the spider??). there is a part in the video where Anansi goes to the Sky God and asks him for his stories. the Sky God looks something like this. this is the conversation that ensued:
nephew: (with one eyebrow raised) thats god?
me: yea, whats wrong with him?
nephew: thats not what he looks like.
me: well how does he looks?
nephew: he has a beard and long hair and....and he has a tan. Jesus has a tan. he [the sky god] is dark. he [god] ain't dark like that.
me: so god isn't black?
nephew: no. he's tan like Jesus.
in essence, he believes god to be white. this should not have shocked me, but it did. it hurt, actually. this is probably one of the worst things a black child could say. i shouldn't be shocked, considering even the images in our house is white, the ones at the churches he's been to are white, the ones in his Sunday school books are white, and the ones on television are white.
the only response i could gather to say was "some people think he's black", to which he didn't respond. i don't hold any beliefs in any gods or god-like entities, so i feel as though telling him "god is black" would be lying to him. however, if he is going to believe in a god (which, in itself, i have no issues with) i would rather it be one that looks just like him.

i think it's one thing to understand the level of dehumanization it took for us to forget the gods of our ancestors and that it began with the onset of colonialism, but it is another to attempt to change that colonized concept in someone else's mind, especially that of a 7 year old. how does one (one that is not the parent) begin to even address it? and how can i, someone who has no concept of "god" even tell him that his idea of "god" is incorrect? i do, however, believe that having a concept of god that looks like oneself is best for the individual psyche. Cheik Anta Diop and Dr. John Henrik Clarke have both spoken about the tragedy of our dissociation from African religions and philosophies.

the problem is not just a concept of god, but what consequences this idea will have on him as a black person. his concept (like most black and brown peoples') of good and bad will have a white/black dichotomy. and considering he isn't "tan", his identity will never be content with his level of self-worth, or with that of other blacks.

but this isn't just from church and religious organizations, white supremacy is also very evident in the shows they watch. The Disney Channel is, like most shows on television, mainly white with black and brown people peppered here and there. my niece likes Justin Beiber and her favorite show is Hannah Montana. Justin Beiber is a sack of nothingness and boredom who has more hype than talent, but Hannah Montana is interesting. although she's already white, she embellishes herself with a blond wig in order to become the famed, loved, and talented teen-aged pop star. the only black people on The Disney Channel's shows are service people, baby-sitters, the chunky, loud, neck-twisting black girl or the comic relief, hip-hop loving, urban black boy. and considering i've been told that my hair is "busted" on a number of occasions by my neice (whose hair is also natural), it's already visible how this show has manifested itself in her ego.
i think as adults, we tend to think that children do not pick these things up; that they don't see color, but one only has to see the doll test to know that this is far from reality. if we do not educate our children (our; not just our own but the collective), they will be mis-educated, as many of us have come to realize too late.

so right now, i'm thinking of whether i can actually have any influence on them. even if i were to embark on a complete African history lesson, equipped with philosophies, gods, goddesses, religious concepts, names, dates, books, videos, maps, instruments, and everything would be only me doing this, and thats only for a portion of the day. is it enough to combat hours (upon hours) of white-washed television, religious books and church full of white imagery all of which is happening in a 70% white populated town? even though i, admiteldly, am far from knowing enough about Africa. i suppose i'll have to at least try.

comment. think. criticize. educate. recommend any books, videos, etc. you think might be useful.

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