“….A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master – to do as he is told. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Now,” he said, “if you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontent and unhappy.” – (The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas)
Within the above quote, Frederick Douglas recounts the moment his slave master admonished his wife for teaching him (Frederick Douglas) the alphabet. According to Frederick Douglas, his enslaver was fearful that an education would make him unfit to be a slave. After witnessing this exchange Douglas was certain that the words his master spoke were true. He now understood that Whites greatest power over Blacks was their ability to keep them blinded through their ignorance. From this moment on, Douglas became obsessed with learning to read and write. But since his mistress now forbade him to learn, Douglas had to devise clever ways to get around the social barriers that made it unlawful for him to learn.
This quote is relevant today, because we now live in an era where the White power structure once again has erected new barriers that prohibit Black children from learning. Groups like Moms For Liberty have lobbied for, and Republican leaders like Florida’s Governor Desantis, have passed laws outlawing Critical Race Theory and banning books by Black authors that address race issues in America. The deprivation of a quality education for Black children remains a prominent agenda of White supremacy in America.
If Blacks living in America today hope to overcome the education barriers of our era, then we must adopt the resolve of Frederick Douglas. We must adopt the mentality that any where we are at can be transformed into a classroom and we must use every conceivable opportunity and resource at our disposal to educate ourselves and our children. As a race, we cannot allow our ability to learn to be limited by our group’s inability to receive a quality education inside of the White power structures public schoolhouse.
I once heard a story about this ancient philosopher. It is said one day one of his students came to him requesting additional education. The philosopher looked as his pupil and said, “You want to know what else I have to teach you?” The pupil replied, “Yes!” The philosopher told his pupil, “Follow me.” The two men walked to the coastline and the philosopher enter the water where it was waste deep and gestured for his pupil to follow. When they both were submerged waste deep in the water the philosopher said, “Now I will show you what else I have to teach you.” The philosopher grabs his pupil’s head and pushes it down into the water. The two struggle as the philosopher continues to hold the pupil’s head beneath the water. Finally, the philosopher relents and the pupil comes up from the water gasping for breath. The philosopher looks at him and says, “This is what I have to teach you. You should want knowledge the same way you wanted air.”
Ensuring that Black children in America are receiving a quality education is something that we have taken for granted. But when we are deprived of it, or it under threat to be taken away. We quickly realize just how important it is to our overall survival as a race of people. This should naturally produce resistance within us and create a power struggle where we fight now begin the fight for power, we now understand why it important for us alone to control our own education the same way the drowning man understands why he needs to fight for control over his right to breathe independently.
Lord Serious Hakim Allah
Lord Serious is an author, artist, activist, blogger, and representative of the Nation of Gods and Earths and the Director of Umoja Nation. His latest children book “Squirrels, Beavers, And Everyone Else” is scheduled to be released in March as an eBook on LuLu, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and most major distributors where ebooks are sold. Work Release (The Mixtape), Vol. 1 is available on his social media pages @ Lord Serious Speaks. Lord Serious is the co-author of the “10 TOES DOWN” drug rehabilitation program and interactive facilitator of this program and the “My Next Step” program at Lawrenceville Correctional Center.