April 22, 2001 From: Winford James

Put it in a Book…

One of the emails making the rounds these days has as its subject ‘A View from a White Man’s Eyes’ and it says, among other things, the following: ‘We can continue to reap from the Blacks without the effort of physical slavery. Look at the current methods of containment that they use on themselves: IGNORANCE, GREED, SELFISHNESS. Their IGNORANCE is the primary weapon of containment. A great man once said, “The best way to hide something from black people is to put in a book.’ …We will continue to contain them as long as they refuse to read, continue to buy anything they want, and keep thinking that they are “helping” their communities by paying dues to organisations which do little other than hold lavish conventions in our hotels. By the way, don’t worry about any of them reading this letter. Remember, THEY DON’T READ!!’

To put it mildly, it is an interesting letter. It heaps insults on black people. It stereotypes black people as being illiterate and ignorant. It depicts the socio-economic condition of blacks as slavery, whether physical or economic and psychological; and it foregrounds this condition as one of the continuing containment of willing slaves, whom it caricatures as ignorant, greedy, and selfish. In particular, the present-day black slaves are ignorant of the white man’s methods and devices of containing them while continuing to enrich himself, and this ignorance is so gross that the white man writes down his schemes with transparent disdain and the slaves are not aware of them because they do not read.

To read is therefore to cease to be ignorant, and to cease to be ignorant is to end both the white man’s economic exploitation and the black man’s accommodation of it.

The author of the mischief is not given, and so the reader has to imagine whose perspective it is written from. It could be that of a white person full of contempt for the long-running occupation by black ethnicities of the economic peripheries, margins, and nadirs, and continuing with the highly lucrative programme of black containment. Or it could be that of a black person full of desperation over the long-running occupation by white ethnicities of the economic cores, apices, and zeniths, and trying, via reverse psychology, for a shattering of the too-large black fossil of illiteracy-based ignorance.

But whomever the perspective belongs to (wouldn’t it have been neater to say ‘whosever the perspective’?), it puts the spotlight on the extent to which black illiteracy (and there is serious white illiteracy as well) is a serious impediment to black occupation of the economic apices.

Just as there is a direct correlation between ethnic political power and ethnic economic wealth/self-esteem, so there is a direct correlation between ethnic educational power and ethnic economic wealth/self-esteem. Blacks, especially our children, have to read, have to like to read, and have to understand what they read and construe it for their advancement as an ethnic group in an unchanging world of assertive ethnicities.

No effort should be spared and no cost shaved in the pursuit of this goal. If literacy is the ability to read and exploit experience for maximum personal enjoyment, and if it is available to persons, then it must be the goal of all black parents, teachers, guardians, policymakers, and sympathisers. We have got to teach our children not only to call out English words on the page, but to understand the meaning of messages encoded in those words organised into phrases, idioms, formulae, sentences, narratives, expositions, arguments, and all the different types of genres and discourses that there are.

We have got to teach our children how to read the mathematical language of science. We have got teach them to think reflectively and to reason in the abstract. We have got to teach them to how to develop theses and substantiate them with evidence and logic. We have got to teach them to relinquish their inherited and conditioned psychological servitude to skin and hair colour, as well as to thought-crippling superstitions that pass for knowledge for the direction of life.

And then they will not find books a challenge or a hurdle or an embarrassment. Let whomever put their schemes in books. Our black children will go to them with purpose and confidence, secure in the knowledge that books hold keys to both unlock their potential for self-enrichment and lock up the impulse of other men, whether of other ethnicities or their own, to make themselves rich on their ignorance and educational weaknesses.

But what do I mean by ‘blacks’ and ‘black ethnicities’?

Previous Page

^^ Back to top