As grandma used to say, “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another.” Or, as Chris Rock’s character said in the movie “Boomerang,” “First the Fat Boys break up….now this.”Mass shootings, rampant police misconduct, Trump’s xenophobic rants, and now Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia have Black folk in an uproar. Rightly so.
Just two days ago while reviewing the University of Texas Affirmative Action case, Scalia referred to some who believe that Black students don’t fare well at competitive predominately white universities.
In response to his racist innuendos, the judge attracted angry reactions from Black college students, professionals, the Congressional Black Caucus, and others around the country.
Determined to prove themselves academically proficient, Black folk are posting their educational and professional achievements all over social media. A self-congratulatory reaction perhaps, but certainly understandable. Every now and then, we do need to let white supremacists know just who the fu–k we are and what we’ve accomplished despite their systemic attempts to restrict and limit us. It feels good to stick our chests out in pride and defiance and say to the world, “Look at me, I’m educated, accomplished and I earned everything I have.”
It is this last point I battle with. White supremacists attempt to dehumanize and devalue us constantly. In this context, it seems natural to prove our humanity and worth. But we also can’t further empower racist idiots by allowing them to believe for a minute that:
- What they believe is synonymous with truth.
- We actually give a damn about their stereotypes and other racist propaganda.
We Black folk are under no obligation to “proove” our humanity or value to ignorant whites. The effort itself is demeaning and draining.
Empowered human beings do not waste time trying to earn others’ validation or recognition. Nor do such individuals spend time proving their intelligence, competence or exemplary character traits to those who will NEVER accept or appreciate them. Empowered human beings conduct themselves in empowered ways and DO the things expected of confident and competent human beings.
I for one, refuse to engage in the “I am qualified” game with racists. First of all, the game is unfair because the burden of proof falls only on Black people (I’ve worked with quite a few white students and professionals over the years whose qualifications I questioned).
Secondly, this game is a colossal waste of time and energy. I find it far more empowering and helpful to do the work required of empowered people rather than “proving” my value to those who despise me.
That said, Black students in college should strive for excellence academically and politically, and see your seats in collegiate classes not as invitation for social playtime but as preparation for weilding power and authority to advance our people; parents, take your roles seriously and provide the love, mentorship and structure needed to shape our next generation; Organizers and leaders must continue the monumental work of raising consciousness, exposing contradictions, and organizing our people to protect and liberate ourselves.
Fu-k what some racist – in a klansman’s robe or supreme court justice robe- thinks or says about us.
Instead of remaining in a weak reactive position, perhaps we should raise legitimate questions about white qualification and competence based on evaluations of their actual work/performance. I’ll begin with a few names:
- George W. Bush
- Dick Chaney
- Oliver North
- Ronald Reagan
- Donald Trump
- Brian Williams
- Mayor Rob Ford
- Rachel Dolezal
- Richard Nixon
- General David Petraeus
Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment.
Agyei earned his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.