Many of us in the Black community attended elementary schools where we received periodic grades of unsatisfactory, satisfactory, good or excellent.
This is where much of our present-day confusion began. In these eurocentric neo-colonial schools we attended where the goal of most administrators, faculty and staff is to maintain the status quo of the society regardless of how deleterious it may be to the individual and collective well-being of Blacks, as students we are rewarded for our ability to conform to this standard. If we receive marks of “excellent” on report cards and progress reports, it is largely a reflection of how well we are able to demonstrate a respect and allegiance to eurocentric neo-colonialism promoted by these institutions. This recognition is compounded by the reactions students often receive from well-meaning family as they are touted as “smart” for demonstrating how well they can uncritically internalize information forced upon them by those committed to our collective oppression.
From these foundational schooling experiences in our formative years, it is a logical conclusion that many of us would grow up to use a similar criteria for what we classify as “Black Excellence.” These elementary schools were training grounds for us to become eurocentric neo-colonial negroes for which we were rewarded with marks of excellence, and as adults many of us view those that have achieved this status as veritable examples of Black Excellence.
Black people are certainly not monolithic. We are reminded of the differentiation among us when we observe an age-old cleavage within our community exposed vis-a-vis socio-political economic orientation. Essentially, many of us desire to build and maintain the american nation (where Blacks will never have our full humanity respected), while others among us desire to build a nation of our own grounded in traditional African cultural values and norms appropriately applied to the 21st century.
In both cases nation-building is the goal, but the detail of whose nation is being built is far too often overlooked. It is as if a very large percentage of the Black population do not believe that we can be successful at building a nation of our own because we have bought into the mythological omniscience of europeans, asians and arabs that dictates that these racial groups would never allow us to achieve this goal. Many are ignorant to the fact that we do not require their permission for nation building. In response many of us resign ourselves to the goal of generating income and developing so-called intergenerational wealth as colonized individuals in land controlled by colonizers and forfeiting the goal of a much needed sovereignty. At the same time, many of us in the Black community with the courage and audacity to nation-build for ourselves never move in this socio-political economic direction only because they have never been exposed to the type of historical accounts and tangible exemplars from our history that embodied this goal – the idea never even occurs to them.
The same schools that reward us as youth with “Excellent” grades intentionally deny us exposure to exemplars that would encourage us to nation-build for ourselves so that we will never nation-build for ourselves, or at least a critical mass of us would not. As long as we grow up to recognize those among us that share our phenotypical makeup, as examples of excellence based upon their ability to assimilate into american society and be recognized and rewarded by our oppressors for never truly challenging the status quo or advocating for true systemic change over minor reforms, we will never actually achieve anything. The root of some of our collective confusion can be found in the schools many of us attend and how they shape our opinions of success – this must be challenged effectively in order that we be able to exist as whole human beings. The litmus test for authentic Black Excellence should instead be how our actions contribute to an ability to nation-build for ourselves which will facilitate Black survival
About the author
Akil Parker is an adjunct professor at Cheyney University and LaSalle University teaching in their education departments. He also owns and operates, All This Math, LLC which offers math tutoring and educational consulting services.Contact Akil Parker