Dr Boyce Watkins: The rise of black immaturity


by Dr Boyce Watkins

I heard a comment from someone the other day that caused me some concern. On my Facebook page, I mentioned that "If we were to take education as seriously as we take entertainment, we would be unstoppable."

Someone on my page then "corrected me" by saying that we've "got to make learning entertaining" in order for our people to pay attention. In other words, if critical knowledge is not mixed with entertainment, then black people as a whole are incapable of absorbing it.

This comment took me aback for a couple of reasons, but let me first start with this disclaimer. I strongly believe that making learning fun is a great way to push important ideas to the masses. This is why I've appeared countless times on shows like "The Breakfast Club" and have also worked to integrate economics, money and black power into pop culture. I did this for my college students over a 24 year period, and I won't ever stop.

My problem with the man's comment, however, is that we must think carefully about what we're saying about the social, political and intellectual maturity of black people when we swear that the only way to get a black person to value learning is by making it light-hearted and fun. As my father used to tell me, "Everything ain't about fun and games. A man has to know when to get serious."

It would be a horrible thing to admit that our people are only capable of paying attention to life-saving knowledge when you mix it with a rap video or a bunch of dance moves. Are we saying that we are so immature that we can't concentrate on anything other than how to do the Electric Slide?

I told the brother on my Facebook page (respectfully, of course) that to say that black people can only learn when education has been morphed into entertainment is like an overweight person saying that the only way they can eat vegetables is if you make them taste like candy. This is not something you would say about a disciplined adult, it's something you would say about a CHILD.

Here's a fact about communities that build real power. In order to obtain true strength in a competitive and racist world, some of us must have the discipline to sit down and PAY ATTENTION. This means paying attention without the bells and whistles, without the music, without the buffoonery. It means seeking to understand the world because that's what grown-ups are supposed to do to protect the people they love.

The breadth of our consciousness must remain connected to something other than whether or not Beyonce is going to have another baby, getting drinks at the club or what happened on Scandal and Empire last night. Why wouldn't you want to understand how to build a business when the racism on your job is killing you? Why wouldn't you want to learn how to invest when you're spending everyday complaining about your (quite solvable) money problems? Why wouldn't you put your child into a tutoring program if you know full well that misguided black children are at risk of incarceration, unemployment or death? Why would you not want to attend a PTA meeting when you know that black boys who fail in school are at high risk of growing up and being raped in prison?

In order for us to move forward, we must grow the hell up. Black people, unfortunately, have been fed and mass marketed false media culture that makes us the #1 consumers of all things unhealthy, including brain dead television, fast food, wasteful consumer spending (to look fly of course), social media and the worship of toxic, dysfunctional, violent, misogynistic, drug-addicted, financially irresponsible celebrities. If you ever want to know why the world doesn't take us seriously, it might be because we don't take ourselves seriously either.

We've let White Supremacists train us to believe that we are a bunch of teenagers.

This is not to say that there aren't millions of people who are doing the right thing, fighting to educate their kids and putting their families in a position to succeed. However, when everyone says that black people can't learn unless you mix the learning with entertainment, they are basically saying that you are too immature to ever be a competitive force in this world and certainly not mature enough to provide for yourself.

Let's kill this ridiculous mentality and do the work to build our future. If not, our children will be worse off than we are because their parents sat around doing nothing. We are better than that, I know it. I'm not going to give up and neither should you.

Please take care and have an awesome day.

Dr Boyce Watkins


Comments (3)
No. 1-3

Excellent article! While Black women are a formidable group where education achievement is concerned, what of Black men? Why are we not concerned about the academic advancement of our males? I am very proud of the fact that both my husband and l have grad and post-grad degrees. But there is much more work to be done in our communities across the board. Today’s trend toward the entertaining black is a modern take on the shucking and jiving negro depiction of yesteryear. Same blinders - different methods!


I love this article but "If we were to take education as seriously as we take entertainment, we would be unstoppable." According to statistics, we do take education seriously. Black women are supposedly the most educated group.


Hi Dr. Boyce Watkins. I completely agree with you. I think the key word that needs to be added to learning is Engagement. Black people greatly benefits from engaging facilitation with clear practicality and direction. Entertainment is what people say, but what is the key thing that Entertainment does? It engages us by occupying and attracting our interest and attention.

Ask Boyce