School (administrators in an intellectual) Daze: A slice of “Black College Life”; worse than film or fiction.

“Lawsuit: Howard University Exec Used N-Word to Grade Employees”… Washington CityPaper 5/6/13


             Alas, it is the ultimate role-reversal: real life crazier than a reality shows “spoof” of real life. This could be bad for the “Black” reality show industry; with acts like these, those “love & hip-hop semi-real preacher’s house wives of minstrelality” will need to up their game; they may be forced to open a segment by just swinging and swearing at each other for 30 minutes (I really hope I haven’t given them any ideas). Sometimes I read these types of news articles and wonder: Is this an act of some fiction writer’s twisted creative humor? But sadly, it is true. The recent success of the film Django was one way of helping to ease the “N” word out of its true historical context, and comfortably into the minds and mouths of many in this nation who are not African-American.  I am not dropping the blame here completely at the feet of the Black actors in the film; although they do have some responsibility to uphold and affirm their cultural dignity; but in the end they are nothing more than “hired help”, with no power to control the overall direction of the project (I may be giving them too much, or perhaps too little credit here). Somehow I believe (again this may again be my “hopeful reaching”) that given more positive and culturally affirming roles to play, these actors (and their Black Audience) would choose better (as in respectful of who they are) films. The Django film project, now frightfully available in DVD format; and receiving much Black patron acclaim is not a cause here, but it is a very real and dangerous effect. It has provided a sense of exoneration for its creator, and thus the “film rights” to Black authenticity. This license to offend an entire people helped to give currency to a word that if presented in its proper historical context is nothing less than offensive and degrading. But to the “victor” goes the power to name, and own the identity of the vanquished; they can in a very real way, name the oppressed whatever they choose to name them. Words are not mere symbols of ideas they are in fact creators, carriers and enforcers of our sense of identity; they are themselves “ideals and “ideas”. But the true victory is not simply engaging in “name-calling”; after all, people out of power can do that. The real power is to convince the derogatorily named people to embrace and claim that derogatory label as their own. Controlling a person’s image (the how and what they call each other) of themselves removes the difficult task of setting and managing their boundaries; their aspirations; and yes, their very hopes and dreams.  As some great thinkers like Frederick Douglass, Carter G. Woodson, Malcolm X, Frantz Fanon and Albert Memmi have all so intelligently documented it is not enough that the enslaved (both mental and physical) feel inferior; they need to truly “feel” their inferiority; they must in fact be taught to internalize and fully absorb that feeling of inferiority; they are compelled to interpret and express a psycho-linguistic sense of inferiority as something of their own creation, as part of their cultural identity; to in fact raise a derogatory label to the level of a term of endearment. The irony here, the very idea that should represent the purpose and meaning for an Historically Black College and/ or University (HBCU ); that is, to counter the cultural denigration of Black people, and affirm their pride and dignity; becomes itself, a prime  perpetrator of its own form of racial degradation. This type of language has no place in any type of unofficial or official usage in any educational setting. Including places we have designated as institution of “higher learning” (I wonder what would be the response if this type of phraseology was used by a school administrator at a Princeton, Ohio State or Harvard?)The particular beauty of an HBCU is that these institutions have a history and mission of knowledge acquisition combined with a sense of mission to serve those in our society who are least able to politically resist being called names. HBCU’s should serve as Beacons of undeniable cultural pride and purpose to doing something great for those who for whatever reason, wanted, but were not able to take advantage of a college education. School administrators engaging in this type of language, particularly and especially in an official context; betrays the calling and rational for these institutions; and yet…“Lawsuit: Howard University Exec Used N-Word to Grade Employees”…..