The Purpose of Education for Black People
By N Oji Mzilikazi
(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 21, Number 21)
October 13, 2011
The western educational system was designed to serve the majority population; ensure white hegemony, their enjoyment of privilege and hierarchy reproduction. They built their nationalism and world views of themselves though historically biased and reworked narratives. Contributions of non-white ethnic minorities were relegated to footnote status and overlooked by mainstream histories.
Consider that archaeological records out of Egypt have exposed obelisks and walls where the names of kings, queens and others had been erased to obliterate all traces of their existence. In our time we’ve seen reports polished, embellished and dictated by the powers that be (Iraq and weapons of mass destruction) or slanted to make an administration look good.
Historical records are therefore more than just documentation of actual events. They can also be coloured by scribes in service of the king and his politics, embellishments, and the opinions of the intellectuals and media of the era.
Victims of the record of the dominant culture must out of necessity examine things rather closely, engage in critical thinking and stay singularly focused on empowering themselves educationally and economically.
When the Pope divided the world between Spain and Portugal, the English felt that as sons of God, they deserved a share in Adam’s will. Bent on obtaining their inheritance, and fuelled by anti-Catholicism, they waged war against the Spanish Empire in the Americas.
They attacked and plundered their treasure ports and treasure ships leaving the New World for Spain. Pirates the likes of John Hawkins, Francis Drake, and Walter Raleigh (who were also slave traders) were considered by the British as great men serving queen and country, knighted and bequeathed the title of “Sir.” To the Spanish they were brigands and thieves to be put to death.
Captain Henry Morgan was arrested on piracy charges and shipped to England to stand trial. Not only was he released by King Charles II, but was knighted and made Deputy Governor of Jamaica.
When Somalis decided to take up piracy, there was no romanticism of the trade or recall of those days of yore. They were an evil to be wiped out. In May 2011, a Spanish court sentenced two Somalis to 439 years in jail each for the 2009 hijacking of a Spanish fishing boat in the Indian Ocean.
History is not politically neutral. When the British had the legal mandate over Palestine, Jewish militants who wanted to establish a Jewish state engaged in acts of terrorism against them. When the state of Israel became a reality those anti-British terrorists were elevated to national heroes.
Menachem Begin was responsible for the act of terrorism that killed 91 Britons, Jews and Arabs at the British headquarters at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Begin was a terrorist who went on to become the prime minister of Israel.
Yitzhak Shamir was the leader of the extremist and terrorist group LEHI (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel.) He was also another terrorist who went on to become a prime minister of Israel.
June 7, 2001, Alliance MP Rob Anders blocked honorary Canadian citizenship for former South African President Nelson Mandela, a recipient of more than 200 international awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. He considered him a terrorist.
The white world was up in arms when Robert Mugabe decided to appropriate land from white farmers in Zimbabwe and gave them to Blacks. They called for sanctions against him and the like. Mugabe cited the theft of Black-owned land that European imperialism and colonialism facilitated across Africa as the reason for such draconian measures. They didn’t want to hear that.
After hundreds of years of occupation, thousands of Palestinians were displaced and their land expropriated to facilitate the State of Israel. Jewish theological claim to the land took precedence over any kind of constitutional, civic, legal laws. More Palestinian homes and land were appropriated when Israel decided to build its Berlin Wall. How different was Mugabe’s action in Zimbabwe to that of Israel in Palestine?
Blacks in America have been voting for white presidential candidates all their lives. When Oprah endorsed Barrack Obama in 2008, she was flooded with a barrage of hateful and abusive letters, comments, and emails. Columnists both in Canada and America went on the attack, some opining she should be taken off the air.
Oprah’s audience has always been around 98% white. White folks were the primary beneficiary of her largesse and giveaways. Her daring to manifest a little Black Power was enough to bring recessive racist genes to the fore.
The Black historical experience in the west has been one of discrimination, chattel slavery, obliterating identity, culture and religion; everything that reinforced traditions, gave voice, infused worth and was psychologically sustaining.
Our education thus has to be also centered on making us whole, languaging ourselves, acquiring power, controlling our destiny and bringing respect to the race. We can’t trust anyone else with the task.
It’s not an understatement to say that everyone has had a piece of us. People of African descent at home and abroad bear multitudinous psychological, educational and economical scars from the execution of centuries of inhumane and unbridled exploitation, torturous suffering, racism, discrimination and hatred by others.
We know the history, worldview and world of the authors of our scars better than they know us and our world. We live in theirs, are educated in it, but are not of it or accepted in it. We can speak their language and flawlessly at that. We know how they feel about us and having been at their beck and call, intimately know their ways.
Stupidly, we continue to be accommodating and hold hope for them to change. We’ll do all sorts of crazy things just to be liked, to be their friends or to be in their company. We’ll engage in self-mutilation and self-deception. Interpret their racial put downs, acts of negativity and that which undermines us as something other than, rather than drop two mother so-and-so on them or call them on it
When we cross swords with those in power or authority, we never want to come across as angry, disagreeable, or ignorant. So we display intelligence, demonstrate nice and often acquiesce to things that disadvantage us. Let a brother or sister step on our toes and immediately we get serious, have voice, and are ready to unleash biblical retribution.
We just aren’t prepared to be forgiving to them as we are to others, and it has to do with our miseducation, even when we are holders of certificates of higher learning.
No one can ride a person’s back unless it’s bent. Our failure to demonstrate testicular fortitude and vaginal elasticity outside of the bedroom contributes to continued racial disrespect, others believing they can run up on us anytime and with any kind of stupidity, and get away with acts of racism and discrimination.
The lack of liberation education accounts for our continued paralysis, being enablers of self-defeating behaviours, supporters of mediocrity and complacency, having entrenched laissez-faire attitudes, and opting for a hustling “smart man” economics, religious and “smart man” political culture rather than building institutions and stronger communities.
The field of engagement has changed drastically. Global concerns in regards to the economy and environment have relegated “Black” issues, and we as a people to the back-burner. Municipal, provincial and federal authorities don’t want to hear from us or care about any racial discourse. The courts have never been our friend. We are on our own here. Up you mighty race you can!