ChickenBones: A Journal

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HBCUs practice a pedagogy of success, instilling in their students an intellectual

toughness that, in the words of a well-known spiritual, invests them with the

determination not to “let nobody turn me ’round.” The number of future

PhDs HBCUs produce is testimony to their success.  

 Dolan Hubbard                                                                                                                                                                              Cecil  Brown

 

 

Ongoing Struggles in Black Academia

Dolan Hubbard , "The Color of Our Classroom"

Cecil Brown, "What black studies lacks"  

Floyd Hayes,  "Jefferson & Political Philosophy: Notes of Encouragement to Two JHU Students"

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The Color of Our Classroom, the Color of Our Future

Historically black colleges are key to producing African American faculty

By Dolan Hubbard

 

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) constitute only 3 percent of U.S. colleges and universities, yet they enroll 28 percent of all African American students in higher education and educate 40 percent of the black Americans who earn doctorates or first professional degrees. Just fifteen HBCUs accounted for half of the institutions that ranked highest in graduating African Americans who obtained a PhD in 2003–04 (http://webcaspar.nsf.gov/). These statistics show just how important the black colleges are for producing African American PhDs and training black leaders. But these colleges are struggling to survive, and the loss of HBCUs could mean the disappearance of African American professors from U.S. classrooms.

My own institution, Morgan State University, consistently ranks in the top 10 percent of the nation’s HBCUs, of which there are slightly more than one hundred. Designated by the state of Maryland as a public urban university, Morgan was established in Baltimore in 1867, attained university status in 1975, and today has 7,000 students. Its mission is to address the needs associated with the urban community and to educate a relatively broad segment of Baltimore’s increasingly diverse population. Part of that mission includes offering programs that increase the number of minority students with graduate degrees in areas of demonstrated need. Morgan State leads all other Maryland campuses in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to African Americans and accounts for a relatively high percentage of the degrees received by African American graduates in English and other key fields. Historically, Morgan has been a national leader in educating African Americans who subsequently receive doctoral degrees from U.S. universities.

Imagine Freedom

Morgan State has been blessed over the years to have had a strong coterie of faculty who have instilled a legacy of excellence in students from diverse backgrounds. For their students, these teachers have made Morgan a safe harbor and a site where students can imagine freedom. Under the tutelage of their instructors, the sons and daughters of domestic workers, doctors, stevedores, steelworkers, teachers, and small business owners have become pillars of the community. Members of this largely black faculty—most with doctorates from the nation’s elite universities—have helped to put their students’ experiences into historical context, thereby enabling those who have been two, three, or four generations removed from slavery to understand the forces shaping their lives.

Generations of Morgan students learned that there are no limits to the imagination and no reason they should not pursue any line of intellectual inquiry. Of course, much of this intellectual inquiry is refracted through the lens of the African experience in the New World, a lens that sees America’s failure to live up to the promise of august national documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. To teach American history within the context of the Atlantic formation without discussing racism would be a failure of nerve.

Minority students, particularly African Americans, have been subject historically to persistent prejudice and discrimination. Their credentials, and even their humanity, have been called into question. The nurturing environment at Morgan, however, has encouraged students to indulge in flights of critical fancy or, as former Morgan student Zora Neale Hurston wrote in her 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, to “go to de horizon.”

In the exchanges that take place in an HBCU classroom, students are free of the almost incessant pressure to interpret, understand, or represent the true nature of “the souls of black folk.” This freedom is evident when students discuss works that some deem racially charged, such as The Tempest, Huckleberry Finn, Heart of Darkness, or Go Down Moses. It is this space that HBCUs open, a space available almost nowhere else, that allows for the wings of the imagination to unfurl to their full breadth. It permits the exercise of freedom, where students learn that they have the capacity to legislate by means of the imagination.

Too many black students’ ability to master subject matter and imitate models of success has been affected by limits placed on their imagination. I was one of about a dozen black students to attend Catawba College, a small, church-affiliated college in Salisbury, North Carolina, during the initial phase of integration in the late 1960s. I was the only black student in the MA program in English at the University of Denver in the mid-1970s, and I was one of three black students in the PhD program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the early 1980s. The unifying thread, as I look back, is my loneliness in what, at times, was an inhospitable environment.

This loneliness and the attendant isolation that I and others like me have felt speaks to the importance of mentoring and affirmation. (I hasten to add that I tell my students that mentors come in all hefts and hues). Without mentors who can jump barriers, and without African American faculty in the system, young African American students are much more likely to fail. Unfortunately, those who survive this rigorous terrain sometimes fall into the trap of believing the hype: they say to themselves and others who come after them that, against the odds, I made it, and so can you—without coming to grips with a system that does not promote their success.

As I listened to the papers of African American students at a recent conference organized by the Phi Upsilon Chapter of the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society, I could not help but wonder: regardless of where they earned their bachelor’s degrees, are African American students who enter graduate schools, especially the most competitive ones, encouraged to pursue their first academic love? Or are they gently steered in the direction of post-1970s area studies such as African American literature, women’s studies, African diaspora literature, or postcolonial literature and away from foundational areas in English studies such as medieval literature, Shakespeare, or the Romantics? Against the odds, some, nevertheless, emerge from a PhD program and confidently say, “Reader, I married British literature.”

Of course, academic specializations in ethnic area studies were not available to graduate students before the civil rights movement. Students are now free to pursue these options. Although it is right to applaud the opening up of these areas and the important work that has helped to redraw the boundaries of the academic universe, it is worth remembering that students should be allowed the freedom to choose their own paths. Too often, assumptions about race curb the development of students of color and leave them without the guidance of mentors who are sensitive to these issues.

Social Equality

The current debate about who should have access to higher education is framed in such way as to presume that merit and access are mutually exclusive principles, thereby shutting down a meaningful discussion of access and equity. This reasoning stands in opposition to W.E.B. Du Bois’s vision of smashing “the color line” in a world where the black subject is excluded from history. The weight given to merit reflects the anxiety white Americans may feel at the prospect of integration and the failure of America to come to grips with the emergence of a truly multicultural society. Exclusion is antithetical to democracy, if by democracy we mean practicing social equality.

Democracy demands that the academy address the obvious underproduction of African American PhDs. African American graduate students should be encouraged to walk freely in all sections of the academic garden. Freer access might just make the difference in whether a student emerges from graduate school with a sense of self-fulfillment instead of a feeling of mere survivorship. More African American graduate students should have the opportunity to experience the joy that comes from the development of the scholarly imagination.

But who will speak in defense of African American students once they enter graduate school? Will they be encouraged to pursue areas of intellectual inquiry that match their passions? Will they continue the weary tradition of being “firsts” in their departments and have to overcome obstacles just to earn their degrees, or will they be primed to direct all their energies into becoming authorities in their fields? We want our students to be the best they can be, so it’s no wonder that those of us mentoring HBCU students routinely direct them into programs that have established track records of supporting and graduating African American students. We steer them toward departments that promote the success of African American students, not those that simply send anxiety-ridden new graduate students in the direction of the two or three black faculty members and consider their responsibility fulfilled.

Democratizing the academy means opening what Du Bois called the “doors of opportunity” and making it a receptive place for African American students. A competitive environment and a nurturing one need not be mutually exclusive. We must work to remove the perception that the academy is a private preserve in which African Americans are all too often spoken of but rarely spoken to or with. African Americans are frequently out of the loop in regard to meaningful academic discourse; many of them discover upon their arrival in the academy that they are tolerated in an atmosphere of benign neglect. This neglect may serve to create feelings of inadequacy and ambivalence on their part and may prevent their departments from benefiting from their presence. These black students can help us to see our field anew, no matter what specialty they choose. Their success is the success of all members of the department as well as the university.

Black Scholars

Are we scholars who are black or blacks who are scholars? As African American students wrestle with this question, those outside the academy see them as having made it, while those on the inside sometimes perceive them as necessary but unwelcome interlopers. The fortification that occurs in HBCUs often helps to nourish the young scholars who take this journey and prepares them for the times ahead when the legitimacy of their own imaginations may be challenged.

According to the 2004 Fall Staff Survey of the National Center for Education Statistics, 57.9 percent of the full-time faculty at HBCUs in fall 2003 were African American; only 4 percent of the full-time faculty at all other U.S. institutions were African American. Although some people view the nation’s HBCUs as a pale simulacrum of their traditionally white counterparts, they in fact contribute to a culture of excellence and fulfill an important function.

Despite the nearly forty-year push to integrate the academy following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., HBCUs remain the colleges of choice for many of the nation’s black students. They see them as sites where they can imagine freedom, places where they are affirmed. Black students need to see someone who looks like them and who can speak with authority, and without restrictions, on the great issues that confront the human community. White students need to know that academic citizenship is not a property right and that the world in which they will reach their majority will be a mostly black and brown one.

HBCUs practice a pedagogy of success, instilling in their students an intellectual toughness that, in the words of a well-known spiritual, invests them with the determination not to “let nobody turn me ’round.” The number of future PhDs HBCUs produce is testimony to their success. Graduate departments looking for more minority PhD recipients need look no further than the nation’s HBCUs for the scholars who will make it in their programs. And we can all take lessons from HBCUs when it comes to inspiring undergraduates of color to become the faculty members of the next decade.

Dolan Hubbard is professor of English and chair of the Department of English and Language Arts at Morgan State University. He teaches courses on slave narrative, the African American novel, and W.E.B. Du Bois. His publications include The Sermon and the African American Literary Imagination and The Souls of Black Folk: One Hundred Years Later. He is a member of the editorial board of The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. His e-mail address is dolan.hubbard@verizon.net.

Source: AAUP

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What black studies lacks
Phenomenon is either a nod to our common heritage or a rip-off
By Cecil Brown


Sunday, November 5, 2006

The problem with black studies programs is that there are too few black professors teaching in them.

A few weeks ago, a group of academics met at the Oakland Marriott hotel for the annual American Studies Association convention. These professors taught American studies all over the world – including in Japan, China, Russia, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. In addition to being recognized for bringing more international scholars to American studies, Emory Elliott, a professor at UC Riverside, was chosen as president of the organization because he has a reputation of being able to attract African American scholars.

"I grew up in a racially mixed neighborhood in Baltimore," he said when I talked to him later by telephone. "I wasn't supposed to go to college. I was known in the neighborhood as the white kid." Each year, Elliott goes to traditional black college such as Morehouse and Spelman, recruiting students for his doctorate program.

At the convention, I met in the lounge with a group of black scholars and professors: Doug Daniels and Clyde Woods, both of UC Santa Barbara; Rashida Braggs of Stanford University; James Miller of George Washington University, and Werner Sollors of Harvard, the only member of the group who is white. Miller was having a conversation with Sollors about the lack of black scholars at the convention, in academia, and, even, African American studies.

"The fact of the matter is that African American studies emerged at a historical time when thousands and thousands of working-class blacks hit the predominantly white institutions back in the '70s and caused moral panic in the country," Miller said. "There was an urgent need to accommodate to the demands of the folks coming in."

Sollors agreed.

"When you talk about African American studies," Miller went on, "you are not always talking about African American scholars." He glanced at us and laughed. "I'd say that there are more white scholars in African American studies than there are African Americans." He took a swig of his beer. "You can see this as a good thing, as a sign of progress -- a sign that the mainstream has really appropriated African American studies as a common heritage -- or you can see it as a rip-off!"

We all laughed. Assistant Professor Kalenda Eaton of the University of Nebraska voted for rip-off. She said she had attended many sessions at the conference, but had seen only a few black presenters. For example, when she went to the session called "Afro/Asian Art and Activism in the 1960s and Post-60s Era," she expected to see black participants, but although the room was packed, there were no blacks on the panel and only one or two in the audience. She was disappointed.

Out of 300 sessions in three days, about 60 were about black topics. Of the 1,300 presenters, only about 30, or 2.3 percent, were African American.

In walking through the book display at the conference, I saw many books published by university presses. Many of these books had black faces on the cover, but when I turned them over, there was invariably the white face of the author.

I caught up with Emory Elliott at the reception and asked about the lack of black professors teaching in the African American studies programs across the country. He admitted the failure of the association to solve this problem, but he explained that there were not enough blacks with the training to take over these opportunities to teach African American culture.

"We were the victim of our own success," he said. "When black professors began to come into the university system, they were sent to American studies, because American studies was interdisciplinary. But when black studies became its own program, the black professors moved out of American studies, leaving it to white men."

That evening at a reception, I asked Kalenda Eaton what she thought of the white scholars and their interest in black studies. Although she has been to many conventions where black studies is a hot issue, Eaton said she believes that what is missing from most white scholars is "the genuine feeling" for scholarship.

"Most of the white scholars are not arrogant," she said, "But too many of them are.

"The most troubling thing," she said, "is when they are surrounded by white colleagues who give them support so that they don't have to be accountable to any black person, or even to see one. Whites don't openly challenge them. Whites write the books so they don't have to pay any mind to what blacks have to say. They don't have to be confronted by blacks."

Although black scholars won't say it in public, she told me, many of them say in private conversations what they really think: that too many white scholars are interested in black studies "because of the opportunity."

"For the past 10 or 15 years, (black culture) has been a hot topic," she said. You always find whites theorizing about us, and finding us to be fascinating."

And, despite the best efforts of committed white professors such as Sollors and Elliott, the problem of too few black professors in black studies programs persists.

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Cecil Brown began his education at A & T College, Greensboro. He has a B.A. from Columbia University in Comparative Literature, a M. A. in English from the University of Chicago, a Ph.D. from U C Berkeley in Narrative, African-American Literature, and Folklore. He is the author of I, Stagolee, a novel, Stagolee Shot Billy, and Dude, Where's My Black Studies Department?

Source: San Francisco Gate http://www.sfgate.com

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Recent Incidents of Students in 'Blackface' Arise in Texas and Maryland -- Students at Texas A&M University, University of Texas at Austin, and John Hopkins University have recently participated in behavior that is degrading and offensive to students of color.  Euro Web

NAACP CONDEMNS RECENT ACTS OF RACISM ON COLLEGIATE CAMPUSES

Recent Incidents of Students in 'Blackface' Arise in Texas and Maryland

 

November 28, 2006

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People condemns recent events on university campuses that have exposed the problem of continuing racism at higher learning institutions across the country.

Students at Texas A&M University, University of Texas at Austin, and John Hopkins University have recently participated in behavior that is degrading and offensive to students of color. 

The behavior is reminiscent of similar incidents at Auburn University, Stetson University, the University of Mississippi and Oklahoma State University in the past five years. The Association is calling on universities across the country to adopt a zero tolerance policy towards students that participate in racially charged behavior or speech on campus.

"All students, regardless of their race or ethnic background, should be able to study and learn in environments that are free from racial attack," said Stefanie L. Brown, National Director of the NAACP Youth and College Division. "These recent incidents highlight the need to end campus racism, preserve affirmative action policies in higher education and desegregated public schools. A lack of diversity in the classroom can lead to a lack of diverse ideas on campus and poor socialization skills leading to inappropriate behavior." 

Last week a videotape was released on the Internet website YouTube, which highlighted three Texas A & M students portraying slave-to-master relationships while wearing blackface make-up. All three students have since resigned from the university, and one student issued an apology.

At the University of Texas at Austin, students participated in annual event known as the "ghetto party" where they wore blackface make up and portrayed stereotypical African American behavior. Images from the event surfaced on the popular collegiate website known as "The Facebook," where students can post and make comments about pictures. Students from University of Texas at Austin and Texas A & M University posted comments and jokes showing their acceptance of the photos   including the usage of traditionally racist words.

The Sigma Chi fraternity at the Johns Hopkins University hosted a party called "Halloween in the Hood" that drew complaints and was found to be racially hostile. African American students also voiced concerns about a skeleton hung from the ceiling that many felt was a symbol of lynching. The fraternity has been suspended and students responsible for the party have issued apologies.

"The time has come for universities to take a stand against any racist activities," said Dallas S. Jones, Southwestern Region Youth and College Field Director, which encompasses Texas. "Since these incidents have occurred the NAACP has received reports of similar racist conduct on these campuses. This is simply unacceptable in the twenty-first century."

"We will launch investigations into these incidents now because students on these campuses feel this type of behavior has gone on far too long," Brown added.

In response to recent events the NAACP Youth and College Division will introduce the Campaign to End Campus Racism. The program will be designed to provide students with a mechanism to report and address racist actions by other students while working with university administrators to develop policies that will discourage racist behaviors. The NAACP will kick-off the campaign in early 2007.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization.  Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors

Source: http://www.eurweb.com/printable.cfm?id=29956

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Jefferson & Political Philosophy

Notes of Encouragement to Two JHU Students

 

Dear C . . .,

As are many who would read the messages sent to you, I am outraged.  I am fiercely resentful that in the year 2006, this nation continues to produce individuals and groups who experience such a deep hatred for Black people.  Yet, I know that white supremacy and anti-Black racism are America's longest hatreds.  What is so unsettling is that since the 1950's, each generation of whites has sought to deny or reduce the significance of anti-Black hatred.  I recall that it was Ronald Reagan who declared in the early 1980's that racism was over in America.

What monumental hypocrisy!  It was this hypocrisy that allowed white supremacy and anti-Black racism to gain greater power in the bubbling cauldron of right-wing conservatism.

White supremacy and anti-Black racism are the set of ideas and practices that contributed fundamentally to the creation of the American republic.

These twin evils are deeply embedded in every aspect of American history, culture, social relations, politics, and institutional practices.  The American project--the first new modern nation—was built on the foundation of annihilating wars against Native people, enslaving captured Africans, confiscating Indian/Latino land, and exploiting Asian labor.  This was no democracy!  (Please see the attached correspondence with a former student about Thomas Jefferson.)  Whites did not ask these peoples for their consent.  These oppressed peoples did not experience the American dream; rather, many of them have lived in a long American nightmare. 

As BSU chair, you now are forced to see not an optimistic delusion of some hoped for America, but the real United States of America.  

However, as you face down this authoritarian specter, I sincerely hope that you will continue to be courageous, assertive, intelligent, and competent.

As your ancestors did, you will need to find the inner resources necessary to confront, resist, and go beyond white supremacy and anti-Black racism.  This is the case, even if we might agree with law professor Derrick Bell, who has declared that white supremacy and anti-Black racism are permanent features of the American way.

Although I no longer am confident that education can or will destroy white supremacy and anti-Black racism in North America, I do suggest that we need to gain substantial knowledge of these twin evils.

Therefore, I suggest that you and others read this important book: Joe Feagin. 2000. Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations. New York: Routledge.


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The Heavyeight of White Supremacist "Scholarship"

 

G . . .,

What a pleasure to receive and read your message! You are thought provoking, as always. Your comments and questions about Thomas Jefferson encourage me to probe my own thinking about him in the context of American political history and the history of American political thought.

For me, Jefferson was/is a complex figure in American political history. He must have been a man of contradictions in his own time; it seems that he was conflicted over a number of issues, especially the problem of the enslavement of captured Africans. But he is not alone in this matter.  Many, if not most, of the founders of the American polity were slave-owners, even the revered George Washington (see the recent study by Henry Wiencek, An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America).  They were white supremacists (perhaps with the exception of Alexander Hamilton), who set in motion a white supremacist, slave-trading, and slave-owning political economya racist and capitalist state (see Theodore Allen, The Invention of the White Race, 2 Vols.; David Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness). America's history itself is complex and complicated; it remains largely incomplete and dominated, corrupted, and distorted by a largely white supremacist interpretation. Indeed, I consider American history to be "accepted fictionalized narratives"!  So it is with the received interpretation of Thomas Jefferson.

The slave and the slave-owner, as with the colonized and the colonizer, see the world differently. They view social reality from completely opposite frames of reference (see Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth). Therefore, as a descendant of slaves, I cannot hold the creators of the American way in high regard.  Although they may have founded a nation based upon lofty political valuesliberty, freedom, justice, pursuit of happiness, popular political representation, etc.from the beginning, white America devalued all those values with the practices of genocide against Native Americans and enslaving captured Africans.  Indeed, blacks were supposed to remain slaves forever (see the US Supreme Court's decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford [1857]). Historically, whites have written America as a white nation, as Toni Morrison argues in her important little book, Playing in the Dark.  Therefore, as a descendant of slaves, I remain intellectually and personally opposed to the dominant interpretation of American political history and the history of American political thought.

Not only did Jefferson own slaves, he fathered children with one of his own slaves, Sally Hemings (see Annette Gordon-Reed, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy).  In the power-domination-exploitation context of enslavement, did she have the option of saying "no" to Jefferson?  (Could Ms. Butler have said "no" to Strom Thurman? Mrs. Essie Mae Washington, a "black" woman, recently has announced that late South Carolina Senator Thurman was her father.)  How are we to view these figures, those who oppressed and exploited black people and also fathered children with their women?  Let me say it clearly, these white men raped black women with impunity!  They and their descendants would deny this rape, and even deny that they even fathered those children, as the white Jefferson descendants have sought to do for decades.  These white male rapists of captured African slaves were among America's first "deadbeat dads"!

Jefferson's comments about black people in Notes on the State of Virginia are despicable. He was a son of the western European Enlightenment, whose philosophes were themselves white supremacists and antiblack racists (see Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze, ed., Race and the Enlightenment: A Reader).  They considered nonwhites, especially blacks, to be inferior. Europeans used religion, rationalism, technology, and violence to declare themselves superior to all other humans.  Indeed, they relegated black people to the subhuman category (see Charles Mills, The Racial Contract; Mills, Blackness Visible: Essays on Philosophy and Race).  These were the ideas that Thomas Jefferson and other white American elites employed in creating American political culture.

Now, what did the blacks have to say about their condition in America?  Why is this issue submerged under the heavy weight of white supremacist "scholarship"?  In your American political philosophy courses, why are only a handful of black voices heard or studied?  Why are their articulate voices silenced?  White political philosophy, like most of white political science, has sought to ignore this voice of opposition in order to suggest that there was no opposition!  As a matter of fact, white political science discusses the founding of America and the creation of its constitution without any mention of genocide against Native Americans and the enslavement of captured Africans.  Why isn't an extensive analysis of this latter subject found in the opening chapters of introductory political-science texts?  What about free blacks in northern colonies? Why aren't they mentioned?  Who was Crispus Attucks, and what role did he play in the war against England in the 1770s?  Why aren't these and related subjects examined along with the Declaration of Independence? 

I dare say that even in your American political philosophy course, there might be a discussion of 4 or 5 black political thinkers, at best. Perhaps!  At worst, most of these courses include no black voice.  Why do conventional political philosophy professors ignore this profound voice of black opposition?  Presently, I am reading through many of the speeches that black people gave during and after the Holocaust of Black Enslavement. 

Why aren't you reading them, too, in your American political philosophy course?  Philip Foner and Robert J. Branham have edited the numerous speeches of black women and men in Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900.  This book contains 925 pages; obviously, black people had something important to say!

*   *   *   *   *

G . . , I admire your willingness to think outside of the conventional confines of political-science propaganda.  The challenge is to think critically and analytically about white political science and what it teaches.  Behind or beneath all of the "accepted fictionalized narratives," which constitute American political history and the history of American political thought lies some truth about the American way.  There will never be peace in this nation until white people come to grips with America's decadent history, its nihilist culture, of Native American genocide and captured African enslavement, as the founding practices of the new nation.  It is not a glorious history!  White America denies the evils of genocide, colonialism, enslavement, and white supremacy.  Hence, whites can't come to grips with the plain truth that America is, and always has been, a white racist society that was set in motion by, and for the benefit of, elite and not so elite whites (see Joe Feagin, Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations).  American democracy is one of many illusions.  If this nation is to live up to its lofty first principles, it is time, really past time, to think through the many veils of American illusion.

 Floyd W. Hayes, III, Ph.D., is a senior lecture in the Department of Political Science and Coordinator of Programs and Undergraduate Studies in the Center for Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University.  His teaching and research interests focus on Black politics and political philosophy, urban politics, and public policy.  He is the author of numerous articles in scholarly journals and the editor of A Turbulent Voyage: Readings in African American Studies.  Presently, he is working on a book, entitled Domination and Ressentiment: The Desperate Vision of Richard Wright. He has an article in the recently published, Black Power in the Belly of the Beast

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Subconscious connection between blacks, apes may reinforce subtle bias

 

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

University Park, Pa. -- Many U.S. citizens may not hold openly racist beliefs today, but they still may subconsciously link African-Americans with apes because people still use words and metaphors that subtly reinforce a less-than-human bias and endorse violence against blacks, according to a new study.

"Historical racist images and books dehumanizing African-Americans in the 19th and early 20th century relied heavily on the Negro-ape metaphor, which was used to stereotype blacks as lazy, dim and aggressive," said lead author Phillip Atiba Goff, assistant professor of psychology at Penn State. "Such dehumanization and animal imagery have been used for centuries to justify violence against many oppressed groups.

"The images have disappeared from popular culture and from most people's memory," he added. "However, after completing six studies, we found strong evidence that black-ape linkages still influence people subconsciously and impact their judgment particularly in the case of African-American suspects and defendants."

The study's findings are published in the paper, "Not Yet Human: Implicit Knowledge, Historical Dehumanization and Contemporary Consequences," in a recent issue (February) of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association.

Goff and fellow researchers Jennifer Eberhardt, associate professor of psychology at Stanford University; Matthew C. Jackson and Melissa J. Williams, graduate students at Penn State and Berkeley, respectively, conducted six studies of college-age students. They found that participants - even those with no stated prejudices or knowledge of the historical images - were quicker to associate blacks with apes than they were to associate whites with apes.

In the first three studies, researchers subliminally flashed black or wblackhite male faces on a screen for a fraction of a second to "prime" the participants, who could identify blurry ape drawings much faster after they were primed with black faces than with white faces.

The connection was made only with African-American faces; the third study failed to find an ape association with other non-white groups, such as Asians.

The fourth study showed that the implicit linkage can be subconscious for participants. In the fifth study, the researchers subliminally primed 115 white men with words associated with either apes (such as "monkey," "chimp," "gorilla") or big cats (such as "lion," "tiger," "cheetah"). Apes and big cats are associated with violence and Africa.

The subjects then watched a two-minute video clip, depicting several police officers violently beating a man of undetermined race. A photo of either a white or a black man was shown at the beginning of the clip to indicate who was being beaten, with a description conveying that, although described by his family as "a loving husband and father," the suspect had a serious criminal record and may have been high on drugs at the time of his arrest.

The students were then asked to rate how justified the beating was. Participants who believed the suspect was white were no more likely to condone the beating when they were primed with either ape or big cat words. But those who thought the suspect was black were more likely to justify the beating if they had been primed with ape words than with big cat words.

The sixth study showed that in hundreds of news stories from 1979 to 1999 in the Philadelphia Inquirer, African-Americans convicted of capital crimes were about four times more likely than whites convicted of capital crimes to be described with ape-relevant language, such as "barbaric," "beast," "brute," "savage" and "wild."

"While the explicit images of blacks as apes have disappeared from the U.S. media, the images still may continue in coded language," the researchers said in the study. "Perhaps subtle metaphors that go largely unnoticed in the media continue to have great effect - and even be linked to life-and-death decisions."


As recently as the early 1990s, California state police euphemistically referred to cases involving young black men as N.H.I. - No Humans Involved, according to the study. A police officer involved in the 1991 Rodney King beating had just come from a domestic dispute with a black couple and referred to it as "something right out of (the movie) Gorillas in the Mist."

" If you look at some political cartoons of Condoleezza Rice, Barack Obama and Colin Powell, you see that they are represented in ape-like caricature," noted Goff. "It is not explicit depiction and therefore not seen as offensive.

"But not seeing blacks as humans leads to implicit - or subconscious - bias, leading to support of stereotyping and other forms of discrimination again African-Americans," he said. "Old-fashioned prejudice involves deliberate action and beliefs. By studying implicit knowledge and how it functions, we can study the mechanisms in hopes of remedying dehumanization's savage consequences."

Source: Penn State Faculty/Staff (ALL) Newswire - 03.06.08 / http://live.psu.edu/story/29221?nw=4

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Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations

By Ira Berlin

Berlin (Many Thousands Gone) offers a fresh reading of American history through the prism of the great migrations that made and remade African and African American life. The first was the forcible deportation of Africans to North America in the 17th and 18th centuries, followed by their forced transfer into the American interior during the 19th century. Then came the migration of the mid-20th century as African-Americans fled the South for the urban North, and the arrival of continental Africans and people of African descent from the Caribbean during the latter part of the 20th century. Berlin sees migration and the reshaping of communities to their new environments as central to the African-American experience. Movement is a matter of numbers, and Berlin provides them in detail kept fully readable by his attention to the cultural products of the shifts. In particular, he follows the church as it moves, the music as it takes on new themes, and kinship as it broadens. Berlin's careful scholarship is evidenced in his rich notes; the ordinary reader will be pleased by the fluidity and clarity of his prose.—Publishers Weekly

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No University Is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom

By Cary Nelson

No University Is an Island offers a comprehensive account of the social, political, and cultural forces undermining academic freedom. At once witty and devastating, it confronts these threats with exceptional frankness, then offers a prescription for higher education's renewal. In an insider's account of how the primary organization for faculty members nationwide has fought the culture wars, Cary Nelson, the current President of the American Association of University Professors, unveils struggles over governance and unionization and the increasing corporatization of higher education. Peppered throughout with previously unreported, and sometimes incendiary, higher education anecdotes, Nelson is at his flame-throwing best. The book calls on higher education's advocates of both the Left and the Right to temper conviction with tolerance and focus on higher education's real injustices. Nelson demands we stop denying teachers, student workers, and other employees a living wage and basic rights. He urges unions to take up the larger cause of justice. And he challenges his own and other academic organizations to embrace greater democracy. Q&A with Cary Nelson

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Negro Comrades of the Crown

African Americans and the British Empire Fight the U.S. Before Emancipation

By Gerald Horne

Dr. Gerald Horne, professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, said, the American revolt of 1776 against British rule “was basically a successful revolt of racist settlers. It was akin to Rhodesia, in 1965, assuming that Ian Smith and his cabal had triumphed. It was akin to the revolt of the French settlers in Algeria, in the 1950s and 1960s, assuming those French settlers had triumphed.” Dr. Horne explores the racist roots on the American Revolution in his new book, Negroes of the Crown. “It was very difficult to construct a progressive republic in North America after what was basically a racist revolt,” said Horne. “The revolt was motivated in no small part by the fact that abolitionism was growing in London…. This is one of the many reasons more Africans by an order of magnitude fought against the rebels in 1776, than fought alongside them.”In this path-breaking book, Horne rewrites the history of slave resistance by placing it for the first time in the context of military and diplomatic wrangling between Britain and the United States.

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.”

Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits.

Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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