Like a Tsurezuregusa for a philosophy grad student.
Lemony Snicket (via onlinecounsellingcollege)
I never understood the “talented tenth.” Oh, I understood the theory as DuBois laid it out, but I’m still trying to figure out how people took it to the extremes they did.
The desire to assimilate and separate one’s self from the “other”. I know a grip of black people who pride themselves on being well read, well spoken, well traveled, etc. in order to establish a clear cut difference in themselves and black folk who don’t have GED’s and such.
Yeah, but that’s not at all what DuBois meant by the Talented Tenth, It wasn’t an assimilationist ideal, not in so far as I read it, but a recognition that only one in ten African-American men (and there’s a BIG problem with cutting out Black women here) could ever ascend to a place where they could “lead” the Black race. It was a recognition that, in order to be truly great, the African-American people (and here, I’m omitting the sexism from DuBois’ words) needed a classical education that would enable them to generate an educational tradition specifically for African-Americans with the aim of cultivating all African-Americans.
From my reading of DuBois, the Talented Tenth weren’t supposed to be an elite meritocracy: they were supposed to act in service of the African-American. To this end, the purpose of the Talented Tenth was to enable all African-Americans to become more than the technically skilled individuals that Booker T. Washington desired, but to become a race of cultivated intellectuals whose achievements would rival those of the white men of his day. The Talented Tenth were intended by DuBois to furnish the African-American people with a cadre of educators who understood what it was to be African-American, understood what it meant to be Black in a white man’s world, and would inspire in the whole of the African-American community the desire to become great.
Now, DuBois did argue initially in The Talented Tenth that this group would come from the “elite” of the African-American people, by which he meant those of a particular socio-economic class. So if these people are taking intellectual or economic achievement as a sign of difference from the “common” African-Amemerican, then this narrative of the “Talented Tenth” is a deviation from DuBois’ intentions for it: rather than become those who would help cultivate an intellectual tradition from within the African-American experience, these African-Americans took their ascent to a particular socio-economic status as the end-point, the goal towards which all other African-Americans should reach. I suppose I could hazard a theory as to why and how this happened…
What’s interesting about this derailing is that it ignores the later expansion on the concept by DuBois, wherein he acknowledged that the “Talented Tenth” could arise from any class of African-American given the resources, the time, and the proper cultivation. This is a point elaborated on by James Joy in Transcending the Talented Tenth (which is a good look at the concept) and DuBois himself in Dusk of Dawn, and it is something that Cornel West articulates as part of his notion of the “public intellectual,” but West’s version is extremely essentialist, more so than DuBois probably would have advocated. To this end, the “Talented Tenth,” would be those African-Americans who possessed a cultivated character, and not merely material wealth or academic excellence.
In light of all this, I’d say those African-Americans actually missed the point of the narrative: it isn’t to attain academic achievement and economic status and then leave the community behind. It is to gain these things and return to the community so that the skills and talents cultivated out in the world can help to expand the world of the African-American community.
One of the problems with the idea that America needs a “Conversation On Race” is that it presumes that “America” has something intelligent to say about race. All you need do is look at how American history is taught in this country to realize that that is basically impossible.
I have had conversations with very well-educated people who, with a straight face, have told me that there are Black Confederates. If you ask a very well educated person how the GI Bill exacerbated the wealth gap, or how New Deal housing policy helped create the ghetto they very likely will not know. And they do not know, not because they are ignorant, stupid, or immoral, they do not know because they are part of country that has decided that “not knowing” is in its interest. There’s no room for any sort of serious conversation when the basic facts of history are not accessible. It would be like me demanding a conversation on Vichy France—en Français.
interracial is beautiful but its mostly glorified and seen as progressive when its a white person involved.
I did it.
I have spoken with all but three of the faculty in my department and a majority of my colleagues and I got them to agree to come to the table to have the conversation about racism and sexism, and the way in which it has damaged the environment in my department. The remaining three, I am going to try to get to this week or next week. Following that, all that will remain is the logistical work of getting a room, getting a moderator, and setting a date. That being said, I’m curious as to how many will show up once I have set an actual time and date.