Favorite quote: "Whenever an oppressed black man shouts for equality he is called a racist. This was said of Marcus Garvey in his day. Imagine that! We are so inferior that if we demand equality of opportunity and power that is outrageously racist. Black people who speak up for their rights must beware of this devise of false accusations. It is intended to place you on the defensive and if possible embarrass you into silence. How can we be both oppressed and embarrassed? Is it that our major concern is not to hurt the feelings of the oppressor?" -- Walter Rodney.
Woodson says that "When you control a man's thinking you do not have to control his actions. You do not have to tell him to stand here or go yonder. He will find his "proper place and stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary" (Woodson 5.) In saying this, Woodson shows that once a person has been mis-educated by his oppressors, he will then live out this "education" to his detriment and the detriment of the entire race. Once a person has been educated thus, they are "compelled to move among his own people whom he has been taught to despise." (Woodson 5). The reason that educated black people have this attitude towards other blacks is that in school they are "taught to admire the Hebrew, the Greek, the Latin and the Teuton and to despise the African" (Woodson 7). When it comes to the study of language, blacks are taught English, Spanish, French, and other European languages, but "To the African languages as such no attention was given except in the case of the preparation of traders, missionaries, and public functionaries to exploit the natives." (Woodson 18). In the teaching of science, literature, fine arts, medicine, and history, the black race is excluded. What this creates is, according to Woodson, the idea that black people have done little to contribute to society. Once miseducated, that individual would begin to see little of value in his race.
What type of traits does an individual who is mis-educated have? For example, Woodson writes " Mis-educated by the oppressors of the race, such Negroes expect that Negro business will fail" (Woodson 31). Another example is the "evidences of the failure of higher education among Negroes is their estrangement from the masses, the very people upon whom they must eventually count for carrying out a program of progress" (Woodson 39). A mis-educated individual also neglects their political education as well. Woodson writes “Any people who will vote the same way for three generations without thereby obtaining results ought to be ignored and disenfranchised.” (Woodson 124) A person who is mis-educated has allowed his oppressor to interpret his religion. “By following the religion of his traducers, the Negroes do not show any more common sense than a people would in permitting criminals to enact the laws and establish the procedure of the courts by which they are to be tried.” (Woodson 101) Finally, a mis-educated person is unable to earn a living, and is instead dependent upon whites for employment. “The Negroes of today are unable to employ one another, and the Whites are inclined to call on Negroes only when workers of their own race have been taken care of. For the solution to this problem the mis-educated Negro has no remedy whatsoever.” (Woodson 31)
This is an intolerable situation, but Woodson offers a solution to the problem: An African based learning curriculum. Woodson writes, “The program for the uplift of the Negro in this country must be based upon a scientific study of the Negro from within to develop in him the power to do for himself what his oppressors will never do for him.” (Woodson 99) While the contributions of other races have made to society should not be ignored, special attention should be given to those groups who have been ignored. “We should not underrate the contributions on Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome; but we should give equally as much attention to the internal African kingdoms, the Songhay empire, and Ethiopia, which through Egypt decidedly influenced the civilization of the Mediterranean world.” (Woodson 104) We cannot ignore the contributions made by people of African descent to the progress of the world. As parents, we must take it upon ourselves to educate our children, to be proud of their heritage and build knowledge of self. To quote the honorable Marcus Garvey, “If Negroes knew more of their glorious history, they would be more inclined to respect themselves”.
In summary, The Miseducation of the Negro is truly a must read book for any person of African descent who considers themselves to be “conscious”. Even though it was written over 80 years ago, the book is a timeless classic with an abundance of relevant information for the 21st Century. Next month, I’ll be reviewing The Elite Way by Tariq Nasheed
Bitter Medicine Blogs is a companion site to the Bitter Medicine podcast where we keep it real about matters that affect Africans in the Diaspora.