by Dr Boyce Watkins
What’s unfortunate for many black people I know who went to white universities is that they don’t even realize how brainwashed they actually are. Their views of blackness tend to be both assimilationist highly consistent with those of the white liberal establishment. So, rather than being prepared to compete with the rest of the world, they are actually left whining over the fact that white people won’t get them jobs, cheering when a black person gets on a white television network, or thinking that blackness is represented by African American sections of NBC News.
The problem for many of us is that we are never given a chance to learn about black excellence: The mere idea that you are capable of being great and creating opportunity without having to beg anybody for anything. We can build businesses, schools, media outlets and whatever we like. But this building is slowed by affirmative action babies who spend most of their gifts looking for jobs rather than figuring out how to create them.
Dear Ivy League Black Man: I know you’re upset that the white guy down the hall got the promotion you deserved, but the truth is that he’s playing the game on his home court. Your house in the suburbs, fancy suits, and luxury car are also connected to a ton of student loan debt, horrific isolation and declining health due to the persistent sting of racial microaggressions that you love to bitch about with your corporate friends during Happy Hour.
I’m not dissing you, because I used to be one of you myself. I went to very good schools, and probably have more education than you. I even turned down Columbia University for my PhD. But the truth is that I never experienced true liberation until I learned how to stop being a white man in black skin and starting to learn how to be myself.
Part of the reason you can’t be yourself is because you DON’T KNOW YOURSELF. Much of what you were taught about yourself came through the lens and vocal chords of your oppressor. You were taught that the best thing you could do as a black person was catch up with white people. You probably learned more black history on Facebook than you did in college, and you often find yourself trying to fit into a liberal or conservative box, neither of which was built with people like you in mind for any role other than that of a political lawn jockey.
I’m sorry, but none of this represents who you truly are. In fact, getting the opportunity to be the “special” negro (you know, that one black woman in a department that is 100% white) actually weakens you, steals you away from those who you love, and might even lead you to wonder why other black people aren’t as special as you are.
The challenge for the corporate negro is that he believes himself to be a beacon of hope for a community that just can’t get it together. He doesn’t understand why other black people don’t simply “play the game” and go to Harvard like he did. Despite the abuse, stress and mental illness created from enduring a hostile environment for a number of years, he wonders why there aren’t hoards of other black people ready to join him in the pits of socio-political hell.
The truth is that the corporate negro is victimized as much as the kid who stays in the hood, largely because there is almost nothing he is given access to in his career that leads to true and sustainable wealth, power, education or enlightenment. Instead of becoming the great man he is meant to be, he might be turned into a cheap imitation of Bill Clinton.
Educated black people are not usually the same as productive black people. Productive black people are builders, thinkers, organizers and those who gather with like-minded citizens to develop, own and build institutions that can sustain the masses. If you aren’t in the category of those seeking to build something that helps other black people, then you might simply be a negro with a job.