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Educating a Fragile Culture

TIM GOLER | 10/15/2013, 12:57 p.m.
Tim Goler

African-American culture is and has been in a condition of social instability. Black culture is fragile. This is especially true for urban neighborhoods which are almost universally impoverished with a high disparity of negative social issues, including poor health/nutrition, depression, unemployment, stress, drug/alcohol addictions, high incarceration rates, and abysmal education, just to name a few.

These are all factors that contribute to perpetuate vicious cycles of poverty for African-Americans!

This social instability is rooted in America’s history and sustained through formal education, public policies and social norms. Douglas A. Blackmon, argues in his book “Slavery by Another Name” that slavery, despite constitutional amendments, did not technically end for America’s Blacks until 1942 – only 71 years ago! This then means that there are many Blacks living today who were actually born into slavery, the same as our antebellum grandparents and great grandparents.

Our mothers, fathers, grandparents and great grandparents lived through an extremely harsh master-servant environment. Just imagine, less than 75 years ago, large portions of Blacks were regular victims of convict leasing, sharecropping, peonage, Jim Crow Laws, Black Codes, pig laws, and chain gangs with shocking force, brutality and a myriad of other forms of de-humanization. This inhumane abuse was driven by tremendous social forces designed to intentionally hold back an entire culture of Black people for generations. The harmful effects of this treatment continue to reverberate through Black communities to this day. I argue that because of the prolonged and systematic hostile treatment that African-American’s have received in America, the African-American culture is still fragile!

So, how do we educate the children of a fragile culture? You have to strengthen their culture and their awareness of the importance of culture. But, how do you strengthen a culture?

The late great Dr. Edward Robinson argues that people cannot have personal esteem unless they have race esteem. This important race esteem is based upon a solid cultural foundation whereby the individual feels good about his or her group membership. Dr. John Henrik Clarke puts it another way when he says that “what a people do for themselves depends upon what they think about themselves.”

We can’t achieve race esteem by just having individual racial PRIDE. It’s one thing to have racial pride. I think intuitively we all have it inside of us. Whether we act on our pride to better our communities, is a different thing altogether.

The “how and what” we do for our race, the expression of our racial pride is ultimately in the proverbial pudding, if you will.You can just look around our communities and compare, contrast and evaluate the net result of our racial pride. Especially,when compared to other groups, like the Chinese, Asians, East Indians and others who exhibit a clear and unapologetic pride in their group membership.

Our problem is that individual racial pride has not yet resulted in a collective sense of self-worth. Put another way, “I’m Black and I’m proud has not become… We’re black and we’re proud.

I argue that what we are missing are institutions and systems (i.e. schools) that have the ability to create and help sustain our culture, whichin turn helps to shape our thinking and the thinking of those that view and make decisions about us. We need places and spaces where our children not only learn how to read, write and compute… but to think. This “thinking” needs to be based on a perspective that is reflective of their culture and their history. We need schools to help our community heal and to strengthen our culture, equipped with adults possessing their own strong self-worth that are sensitive and interested in their student’s culture and race.