Over at The Black Commentator There is an article entitled"Acting White: Afican American Students and Education" This is a good read and I encourage all perusers of this blog to take a look. Dr. Rhymes suggests that a possible reason for the lack of achievement of AA students, even in the absence of poverty is a phenomenon refered to as "Involuntary Minority" status.
nvoluntary minorities are those who did not immigrate to a country by choice. They became minorities through enslavement, colonization or conquest, a status that continues to shape how they are treated by the dominant group and how they perceive and respond to that treatment. Involuntary minorities developed their identity in opposition to the majority group that had oppressed them. As a result, they are often suspicious of societal institutions run by the dominant group, including the schools, believing that the curriculum threatens and denigrates their heritage.
Voluntary minorities, on the other hand, are those who have chosen to immigrate in hopes of a better future. These minorities see education as a path to success in their new country. They are willing to embrace the new language and new ways, no matter how dissimilar to their own, in order to reap the benefits of an American education.
This phenomenon is the brainchild of one John Ogbu who has done 30 years of research on the subject. To bolster his argument Ogbu points out the Baraku of Japan
Ogbu points to the Buraku people of Japan as a comparison. They are ethnically identical to other Japanese. During Japan's feudal ages, the emperor designated the Buraku to be the laborers, the lowest class. They were freed from this designation in 1871; a few years after American blacks were freed from slavery.
To this day, the Buraku lag behind their Japanese counterparts in academic achievement. Yet when they immigrate to other countries, where they are seen simply as Japanese and not Buraku, the gap gradually disappears. Their school achievement rises.
Now I am not even going to begin to dispute the findings of Dr. Ogbu. However should we accept the conclusion then there are a few things that are worth examining. In the cases of the Baraku and Koreans in Japan, each group prospered and achieved once they left the country of their once masters and exploiters. This would strongly hint that individuals such as Marcus Garvey, Martin Delany, the early Nation of Islam were right in suggesting that Blacks would not meet thier potential unless they looked to Africa or some other geographic location to set up shop separate from the white man. That would also imply that the Civil Rights movement was largely..well..wrong. If the Baraku and Koreans who physically resemble Japanese can still have problems, then clearly African Americans are going to have an even harder time here in the US.
But let's look at Dr. Rhymes other assertion that he has not seen the so called "being smart is acting white" phenomenon.
Dr. Rhymes claimes:
have heard a lot of static concerning African Americans and their supposed disregard for education. “Our black kids look down on education” say many of the black pundits, “they tease the black kids who are doing well school and say they are acting white.” I’ve heard this repeated over and over again by African-American personalities and celebrities (none of which, by the way, have any extensive, classroom teaching experience). Let me also add, that in all my years as an educator and youth program specialist, I have never heard any student equating scholastic achievement with whiteness.
Well I don't expect that he would. most discussions of this type are not held with adults but between children and thier peers. Here's an exchange between a 9 year old and his peers on a recent field trip with other black students:
Scott is just 9. Scott is very friendly and tried to talk with the kids. Some of the responses were:
Nigga, what is you talkin' 'bout?
How da hell you know dat? You'se a lyin' muchfucka. I'm goin' inta 5th an' we ain't had that, so quit makin' shit up.
Naw muhfucka I aint goneta no gotdamned science center this summer. We gone on a fiel' trip and dat muhfucka borin' as hell, nigga.
Nigga you aint shit.
Nigga Ima give you fiddy cent fo' yo' glove. Whatchu mean, you ain't go'n sell it? Whatchu mean, yo' uncle gave it to you? Shit he ain't yo' daddy, bitch. Act like I an't got no uncle, nigga!
Nigga you thank you so damn smart. Nigga!
Dang nigga you soun' jus' like yo muhfuckin' uncle. Where ya'll from nigga, Africa? Black Africa muhfucka niggas!
Nigga, nigga, nigga!
So cleary Dr. Rhymes is in need of expanding his sphere of experience. Fact is that most of us "educated" blacks do not come into contact with people who hold education in disdain just as most poor people never run in the same circle as the rich.
Top be clear, I never heard my peers talk about scholarship in a negative light. But my peers were not the type to do so. I knew people who did have such attitudes and they were not in my classes or a part of my social circle. This goes back to my critique of Tim Wise who assumes to know what black people think or say simply because some blacks inform him of things.
But let's get to another point he tries to make. Dr. Rhymes is trying to Shed light on the the "why's and hows" and faults the "pundits' ,a current indirect means of saying "Bill Cosby," for not offering the whys. BUt in reality Dr. Rhymes offers just as little as Bill Cosby does in terms of solutions. His claims are no different than the usual Black establlishment mantra to beg the system (they call it making demands, but exactly what consequences are in the offing?) to treat black children better and wth more respect. We've seen what that has done.
In the end, despite vieled swipes at Cosby, which for some reason the Black Commentator has taken to, Dr. Rhymes ends up agreeing with Bill Cosby:
Although Ogbu’s studies offer some compelling reasons for the gap between African-Americans and whites in education, he also cautioned that we should not allow our righteous zeal to fight discrimination (and to break down barriers in education and in the opportunity structure), to cause us to ignore the personal behavior and attitudes that are conducive to academic success.
That at the end of the day that was Cosby's point. We've been and continue to get on the case of those who oppress us, but we act like thier is nothing we are doing to contribute to our own oppression.