The "Anti-Intellectulism" Of Black America

It's amazing to see people making this argument right at the moment when Barack Obama--one of the most cerebral presidential candidates in recent memory--is making such a strong bid for the White House. Furthermore, Obama is doing this with utterly unprecedented support in the black community. And yet, here we have Harold J. Logan spewing generalities to whoever come may over at theroot.

no one who has spent any significant amount of time with African-American teenagers over the past 20 years can fail to have observed that far too many of our children see the behaviors that lead to success in school as fundamentally foreign to their conception of authentic blackness.

Uh, you talking to me? Is he talking to me?? Well given that 20 years ago, I was exactly 12 and on the precipice of my teen years, I think he is talking to me. Seriously, this is the sort of claim tossed out by people who are just tired of thinking. In Logan's defense, he argues that America at large is increasingly anti-intellectual (not sure I even buy that). But to buttress his main point, he offers, literally, NO proof that shows black people today are in the grips of neandrathalism. Logan just leans on a John Mcwhorter book written some eight years ago. Meanwhile there is considerable evidence that the "acting white" explanation, as a meaningful agent in the achievement gap, is either mythical or greatly misunderstood.

Surely there can be no argument that the educational gap between black and white, and between all of us and the rest of the civilized world, is yawning. But leaping from that contention to the idea of a black anti-intellectual culture confuses credentialism with curiosity. Sorry, but I feel this intently. I was an awful student. My two parents weren't much better. But in my house, literature was the national past-time. When I wasn't thumbing through Greg Tate, Chancellor Williams or David Walker, I was transcribing the Chuck D's latest, trying to decipher what was being said. Hip-hop in those days was a great pop intellectual movement--no one who truly understands De La Soul or Nas would ever say that the black kids who pledged themselves to hip-hop, were anti-intellectual.

I can't speak for most of today's acts, but I'm leery of people who cut on BET and then go write essays about the stupidity of black folks. Teenagers generally don't write for op-ed pages, publish studies, or write for the theroot, and thus are easy targets. Furthermore, there is something ironic about accusing black people of essentially worshiping stupidity, when the plaintiff, himself, has not subjected his own claims to any intellectual rigor. Physician heal thyself. You want black kids to raise their game? Set an example by raising yours first.