Saturday, September 6, 2008

Charity Should Begin at Home, Part 1: "Study: Universities prefer foreign black students"

Common sense and a healthy instinct for self-preservation dictate that charity begins at home. And it does. For everybody except African-Americans. We're too busy sharing what we don't even have, and putting other people's interests before our own. Before I get too far into this topic, let me make it clear that I am not advocating resentment against any other group of people. It is perfectly natural (and fair) for people to look out for their own interests. I'm simply pointing out a trend that is not in our long-term interests; and the fact that we need to do a better job of self-preservation.

Let me also make it clear that when I refer to "African-Americans" in this post, I'm exclusively referring to the people who are descended from those Africans who were held in slavery here in the United States. In the context of this post, I'm referring exclusively to the people whose struggle and dead martyrs paved the way to progress during the Civil Rights Movement. Before somebody says "us too," I'll note that there were others who participated. Like Panamanian-born Kenneth Clark (who conducted the doll study involved in the Brown v. Board of Education case). However, the overwhelming majority of the people who created, supported and died in this struggle were African-Americans.

We engage in self-oppression when we refuse to look out for our own interests. This is a large part of why African-Americans continue to suffer as a group. Our self-defeating behavior is part of the reason why other ethnic groups, including foreign Blacks, have been able to advance while we fall further behind. The only thing that remains constant is our position at the bottom of almost every measurable social index.

The core problem is our general refusal to properly understand our unique history, our unique struggle, and our unique situation within this country. Many African-Americans refuse to understand that other so-called people of color (including many of our foreign Black cousins) are actually RIVALS for many of the resources and opportunities that our people's struggle created. We want to believe that we are in "coalitions" with other people.

Umm. . . No. What has happened is that other ethnic groups have harnessed our energy and resources in support of their agendas. When African-Americans participate in coalitions, we allow others to capitalize off of our unique history and the unique debt that is owed to us. Resources that should go to us as restitution for the specific harms that have been done to us in this country are siphoned off by other groups. The African-American Civil Rights Movement created resources that should have been used as restitution for the centuries of slavery, followed by the century of official Jim Crow segregation that our people have suffered right here. Instead, these resources have been converted into vague "diversity" programs that benefit everybody else.

There's a story entitled, "Study: Universities prefer foreign black students" from the March 7, 2007 issue of The Daily Princetonian. Here's the link:

The story describes the current situation. Here's the money quote:

"Blacks at Ivy League schools are over three times more likely to be immigrants than blacks in America's general population, a study published in February's American Journal of Education and coauthored by Princeton researchers suggests. Within the United States, first and second-generation black immigrants make up 13 percent of the total black population. In contrast, data from the National Longitudinal Study of Freshmen found that international black students---either first or second-generation---made up 23 percent of blacks attending public universities and 41 percent of those attending Ivy League schools." (emphasis added)

This is just the beginning stage of this trend line. I could compare it to the point in the 1960s when the Moynihan Report came out warning about the rise of single-parent Black families. We ignore this situation at our own peril. Many of us depend on set-aside programs to either pay for, or to get into, much of higher education. If these resources created by our civil rights martyrs continue to be systematically diverted to other people, then we're in a lot of trouble as a group. Any future depends upon access to higher education.

What will we do when the percentage of immigrant-origin Blacks among Black college students reaches 51%? Or 75%? Or 90%?

It looks like we'll do something similar to what we do in terms of Latino immigration. We stand and watch while legal and illegal Latino immigrants work at construction jobs in Black residential areas. Soon, we'll be watching our foreign Black cousins and their children go off to college while we remain behind in our slums.

Here's another money quote from the story,"What to do with the conclusions of the study depends on admission officers' definition of affirmative action, Massey said. 'If the purpose of affirmative action is to redress past wrongs and redress former slaves and people victimized by a century of Jim Crow, then you want to favor native blacks perhaps,' he said. 'If the purpose is to reflect the diversity of American society, then you want to favor immigrant blacks.'"

This ties into why I have extremely ambivalent feelings about Black immigrants who are pushy about claiming the label "African-American" for themselves. Other people re-defining our category to suit their needs helps to obscure situations like the one described in the article. After all, how does one measure or track this situation if immigrant-origin Blacks are claiming to be "African-Americans"? I also start to wonder if some of them are so quick to claim this label when there's nothing to be gained from calling oneself "African-American." Do they call themselves "African-American" just to reap the benefits of our struggle? Or do they do this out of a real sense of solidarity with us?

I've met a number of Black immigrants who stand in sincere solidarity with us. I've met a number who do not. I've also run across those who only claim any connection to us when there is something to be gained.

The story ends with a quote from an African student stating that he doesn't feel that Africans are overrepresented at Princeton. He goes on to add that, in economic terms, African children are disadvantaged compared to African-American children. I see nothing wrong with him saying this. He's just looking our for his best interests. I would be saying similar things if I was of immigrant origin.

When are we going to start looking out for our best interests? When are we going to use whatever influence we have with any of these college admissions officers to ensure that African-Americans get at least a proportionate slice of the resources that our martyrs created? Let me be clear: I'm not interested in blocking anybody else's advancement. I just want to make sure that my own group gets our slice. I've got some phone calls to make. I hope you make some calls too.


Hagar's Daughter said...

Hi Khadija,

The first time I was called "American" first and "black" second (American black) was by a co-worker who immigrated from Nigeria. I was offended in the sense that he said it as a put down and to distinguish himself from me. He always says he doesn't have a history of slavery and he expects to be treated like a man. WTH!

American blacks had better wake up.

Great post and I'm including you on my blogroll. I'm excited about your blog. Rev Lisa informed me.

Peace to you,

Amenta said...

Khadija! Glad you have your own space, very nice and as a practioner of Tai Chi Chuan I love the title Muslim Bushido.
Concerning this post. I fully understand where you are coming from. It was a concern of mine and I brought it up as a topic here on a local radio station. This issue of course it not fully coming from an outside group usurping our power when it comes to university admissions, but the universities creating "unwritten" policies to accept "Black" students in this order as was informed to me by an admissions representative here in Atlanta concerning Emory University. When all things are equal, meaning SAT scores, grades, and other qualities, admissions reps are told to 1)accept the African student, 2)Carribean student (if no African has applied) and lastly if the Caribbean student is not available select the African American student. This is a serious problem! I cannot get a true answers concerning why this is being instituted.
On another note, historically Black people in the West, I am speaking of some South American, & Caribbean people and people of Caribbean descent have been in the fight for Civil Rights. We cannot forget about Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael) of Trinidad and Tobago, Min. Louis Farrakhan parents from Jamaica/St. Kitts, Marcus Mosiah Garvey of Jamaica, El Hajj Malik El Shabazz mother from St. Vincent, and not quite in the Civil Right movement but was a powerful voice for Black people was Shirley Chislom of Barbados. I know of no one from Africa actually putting their bodies on the line for Black people during the pre Civil Rights movement and in the thick of it like some of the above people from the Caribbean.

Khadija said...

Hagar's Daughter,

{frenzied waving}

Hello there! Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm excited about the blog, too (and just a bit nervous).

I am very thankful for Rev. Lisa and Focused Purpose sending the cyber-flow my way. May God bless them both.

Yes, you are correct. "American blacks had better wake up." And with a quickness. I'm convinced that this is our "Moynihan Moment" with this issue. Right now is probably our LAST, BEST chance of stopping this trend before it's too far gone (like the single-parent household trend).

We don't have any effective leadership about issues like this! Our so-called leaders are comatose at the wheel for a variety of reasons, some of which I'll mention in my response below to Ensayn1.

This problems isn't even directly about the foreign Black students. I don't blame them for seizing available opportunities---that's what sensible people are supposed to do!

It's about us passively sitting around watching other people eat the lunch that our martyrs gave their lives to prepare. While we go hungry.

Peace and blessings,

Khadija said...


{more frenzied waving}

Thanks so much for stopping by! Thanks for the compliment regarding the blog title. I like it too! I miss my Hapkido instructors and the dojang I used to attend. [Here's a shout out to Master Ma!] Due to work-related time constraints, I had to let the classes go.

At this point, I'm not even so much concerned about what non-African-Americans are doing. To me, this issue isn't directly about others. It's about us and our programmed self-defeating behavior patterns!

It's about:

1-Our apathetic attitude about education in general.

2-Said apathy leads to us NOT being competitive academically in general. Not that this is the only (or even always the primary) concern for these universities. These Ivy League joints typically admit anywhere from 10-15% of their students as "legacy admissions." Legacy admissions encourage the alumni to keep sending in their hefty donations to these colleges.

Ensayn1, you already know what this means. For those who don't know, a "legacy admission" means that the student was given admission preference because their relative is an alumni of that university. Think about individuals like George W. Bush. So, let's not pretend that college admission is solely (or even always primarily) about "qualifications."

3-Our passive behavior in general. It's about us passively sitting back while others take food off our plates.

4-Quiet as it's kept, the West Indian-origin Civil Rights Movement/Black Power leaders you mentioned are another result of African-Americans being a passive, sheep-like people.

Do you notice that the leaders you mentioned were all in COMMAND & CONTROL positions within OUR movement? When was the last time you heard of West Indians placing an African-American in COMMAND & CONTROL of anything of theirs that they care about?

We allow outsiders & partial outsiders to rule over us & our movements. Nobody else allows us to rule over them. There is NO reciprocity when the door doesn't swing in both directions.

This presents a more subtle problem. How likely is it that an immigrant-origin Black leader is going to have a problem with the scenario we're discussing? Especially if HIS relatives are among the categories of people getting over?

However, at the end of the day, it's not about "them." It's about us. The time is NOW for all of us to do whatever we can to ensure that our people have access to higher education. Before that means of escape from poverty is forever closed to us.

Peace and blessings,

PVW said...

Greetings, Khadija!

I have added you to my blog roll.

This is an interesting point, and to build up on what Ensayn was saying, some ideas came to mind.

The activists Ensayn spoke of, their ancestors moved here in a period when black immigrants had no choice but to assimilate--their numbers were so small, they got lumped in with the rest.

With the changes in the immigration and nationality act in the 1960s resulting in more people of color coming in from all over the world, the rise of the student visa (a Cold war 1950s/1960s era strategy to draw the elite of the developing world to American values), the dynamic changed.

Not only were more people coming in from elsewhere, but they were encouraged to see themselves (officially at least) as fulfilling the category of "African American," even though they were not.

The census records and affirmative action questionaires didn't require them to state whether they were native born black.

The perspective of some was that once they got here, they experienced the same difficulties of being black as native born blacks.

Indeed, that was the issue for many. They saw themselves as being "African," "West Indian," etc., but felt resentment at being treated like "American blacks," since that was not their heritage and the average white person couldn't tell the difference.

But being non-American was not necessarily a problem in, as you said, claiming the benefits of blackness, especially when "the powers that be" enabled them to do so.

As for the children of those immigrants, many of whom are born here, or have been raised here, in their minds, they are American. But does that mean they think and act with awareness of what it means to be African American?

Thus, the Barack Obama quandary, that many African American pundits pointed out early on. Not only is he the son of an African who came here as part of the student visa thing, to get an education and go back home (when many of those who came did not go back), but his American born parent is white.

I can't help but wonder whether the powers that be, for example, admissions committees, were interested in creating a population of middle class African Americans to counterpoise against those "pesky, radical African American blacks."

Granted, that has been the effect of the post-civil rights era, assimilation over confrontation, but I can't help but note the possibilities which must have been seen in the influx of foreign-born blacks.

Khadija said...

Pioneer Valley Woman!

{more frenzied waving}

Hello there! I'm so happy you stopped by. And, thank you for the link love. I truly appreciate it. Some thoughts in response to your comment:

As I said earlier, my issue here is NOT with the foreign students. They are doing what sensible people are supposed to do. My issue is with African-Americans' passive, self-defeating behaviors.

I also don't have any problem with those previously "foreign" Black folks who (over a generation) naturally morph into being part of "us."

It's hard to speak in a precise way about subjective, personal phenomena. But as I've said when similar issues have come up, there are a good number of people that I would have previously perceived as "cousins" that legitimately & naturally have become part of us.

There ARE Black folks with immigrant heritage who I feel are legitimately part of "us." And I have no problem with said persons identifying themselves as African-Americans. Minister Farrakhan and Malcolm X are famous examples. PVW, you are a (slightly) less famous example of this.

[I am NOT suggesting that you need/want any "validation" from me or anybody else. I am also NOT suggesting that my perception of anything or anyone really matters in any way. I'm just talking about my inherently subjective perception of various people as it relates to this issue.]

As with any other category of humans, there are various subcategories in terms of how our "cousins" interact with us.

Some stand in complete and sincere solidarity with us while remaining "foreign" inside their heads. Some have contempt for us while remaining "foreign" inside their heads. Some pretend to stand in solidarity with us in order to help themselves to our resources.

Some genuinely become part of us while still retaining respect and appreciation for their heritage.

There are a lot of overlapping and intertwined reactions & interactions. None of this is cut & dried in terms of personal perceptions & behaviors.

The opening up of immigration of people of color to the US was another side benefit that other people reaped as a result of the Civil Rights Movement. Up until the 1960s, White folks were VERY clear about only allowing a microscopic trickle of non-Whites into this country.

Until recent years have shown us the folly of this position, many African-Americans (and our misleadership class) supported non-White immigration and cried copious tears about the "plight" of illegal immigrants.

The end result is that there are previously Black congressional districts in places like Los Angeles that have large & increasing Latino populations. NO Latino districts have large & increasing African-American population.

I've read reports that African-Americans might lose 6-7 congressional seats after the 2010 census because of this population shift! None of our so-called leaders are talking about this. I'll talk about in detail when I get around to writing Part 2 of this post.

You also have made an excellent point about how the Cold War ideological struggle between Uncle Sam and his cousin Ivan impacted US immigration policies. I believe that the existence of the Cold War was the primary reason why Uncle Sam made any concessions to the Civil Rights Movement.

Looking at Uncle Sam's current behavior, we can all see how he behaves when he feels that he doesn't have any competition.

As you noted, Sam was trying to win the affection of the elites within various emerging non-White countries. And pictures of Sam beating & mistreating his local slaves just weren't a good look in this effort.

I also think that Uncle Sam has a psychological habit of feeling more comfortable with those Blacks that he doesn't share a direct negative history with. Sam's cousin in France, Jean-Pierre has a similar mental quirk. From what I've read, Jean-Pierre prefers African-Americans relative to those Black folks that he has had a negative, colonial relationship with.

I don't know whether or not White folks are trying to create a more palatable (to them) class of elite Black folks. It's possible.

At this point, I'm not so much concerned with what "others" are doing. All of this is only possible because we sit back and let it happen.

Peace and blessings,

PVW said...

Greetings, again!

Please don't think in any way that I was imagining that you have been critical of me in any way. I realize fully well that these are all conversations that we are having for the purpose of fine-tuning our ideas.

You noted:

I believe that the existence of the Cold War was the primary reason why Uncle Sam made any concessions to the Civil Rights Movement.

My reply:

Putting on my academic hat--Mary Dudziak has written about this, making this exact argument. She has found the records and the documentation.


Khadija said...

Welcome, Pioneer Valley Woman!

Oh, no. I never thought that you would think I was being critical of you or anybody else in particular. We've talked about this issue before in various contexts on other blogs. I think we both have a fairly good idea of where each of us is coming from with our views.

My concern is that I don't want anyone in the audience who is unfamiliar with my viewpoints to misinterpret what I'm saying as "hating on" anybody. My chagrin is reserved for the African-American (mis)leadership class; and our own passive mentality.

Thanks for raising the level of discourse with the article cite. I look forward to checking it out. {Ya gotta love academics---they know the details!LOL!}

Peace and blessings,

Khadija said...


The book cited by Pioneer Valley Woman is worth checking out (I just placed my order on

Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy, by Mary L. Dudziak.

From the review of the book by Michael E. Lomax in the June 22, 2003, edition of The Journal of African American History:

"Dudziak contends that civil rights reform was, in part, a product of the Cold War. In an era when the US attempted to reshape the postwar world in its own image, newspapers throughout the world reported stories about discrimination against non-white foreign dignitaries, as well as US African Americans...

...The conflict between American political ideology and American practice resulted in foreign relations problems with nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The Soviet Union capitalized upon this conflict and used the status of US race relations in its anti-American propaganda...

...Dudziak draws on a variety of primary and secondary sources, as well as from newly available State Department and presidential archival resources...

...While [other issues] merit further explanation, Dudziak has written an intelligent and informative book that is sure to become indispensable to both civil rights and Cold War historiography."

I can't resist: If my assumption is correct, and this author is White---Why are others so much more thorough in documenting and exploring the nuances of OUR HISTORY? Could this be a combination of a passive mentality plus us looking at the Civil Rights Movement solely with sepia-toned nostalgia? {sigh}

Peace and blessings,

PVW said...


I can't resist: If my assumption is correct, and this author is White---Why are others so much more thorough in documenting and exploring the nuances of OUR HISTORY? Could this be a combination of a passive mentality plus us looking at the Civil Rights Movement solely with sepia-toned nostalgia? {sigh}

My reply:

I think it is pretty complicated. Dudziak and a few other scholars like her, I can think of several, are legal historians who work in areas that relate directly to African American history.

For example, she and Ariela Gross (both of whom teach in law schools) have a law background (J.D.) plus a Ph.D.: an understanding of legal doctrine plus the historical research skills.

These are white women writing about us, and they are winning all kinds of prizes to do so. Before, it was an old boy's network, but the white girls have been breaking in like gangbusters.

It is pretty much an all-white group, and those who are African American and who do work in legal history involving African Americans, don't do the type of in-depth archival work that Dudziak does--they have the law background, but not the historical training in doing archival work.

Moreover, it requires some serious money to be able to do this, and many black folks might not pursue this approach--get a law degree then do a Ph.D.? Then go into academia? No thanks, I got loans to pay, I don't have the time, etc.

But some are finding interesting, creative ways to do it that don't mean years of starving away in a law school. For example, some are going to law school, getting the good jobs, then taking off for graduate programs for a few years then getting academic jobs--they then do their academic work not as starving students, but as well-paid law professors.

As for African American studies, a colleague who once worked in Afro-Am Studies departments, some are very much are into the "hagiography" of the civil rights movement, as you described it, "sepia-toned" glasses--no critical assessment and no ideas for future directions: "Where do we go from here?" They have the armchair theories, but not the serious scholarly research which will get them serious acclaim and so forth, as Dudziak has gotten in the academy.

PVW said...

For example, check out Prof. Dudziak's legal history blog: 113 entries on race.

Khadija said...

Pioneer Valley Woman,

{shaking my head in disgust}

I can't stand mediocrity, much less incompetence.

I have believed for a while that far too many African-American scholars have an uncompromising commitment to mediocrity.

The situation that you're describing in terms of why we're not doing the same caliber of work regarding our own history as Ms. Dudziak is a disgrace. And a disservice to our people. It helps to feed into why we're still using outdated & obsolete models of community mobilization.

This is another reason why I am appalled by rise of faux hip-hop scholarship. I am appalled by the time that is wasted teaching "courses" glamorizing & validating gutter culture such as Video Vixen 101 and Gangsta Literature 203.

I can rant endlessly about how so-called street lit is crowding out real Black literature (the same way invasive weeds crowd out flowers). But the rise of street lit, faux hip-hop "scholarship," and the lack of serious research into our history by Black scholars are all symptoms of a deeper, underlying problem.

I'll say it point blank: Far too many African-Americans (across all educational & economic classes) are passive, LAZY, and addicted to the "get over/get by" technique. Too many of us (in whatever field of endeavor we are involved in) do just enough to get by. And no more.

For the most part, there is NO commitment to excellence. Instead, there are stagnant streams of thought. Hmmph.

Peace and blessings,

Amenta said...

Khadija, In truth I agree with your premise that Black American born people have allowed themselves to fall into a comatose state. And, yet to build on what PVW said many of the children and grand children of the Caribbean immigrant laydown beside the children and grand children of the African Americans in this same comatose state. The issue is how to light a fire under the U.S. born Black person? Maybe the time for a fire is too late because "not all people want to get to the promised land..."

Khadija said...


To paraphrase Focused Purpose's wise statement over at her house: God respects people's free will, and I do too. I have (reluctantly) accepted that not everybody wants to get to the promised land. So be it. They are free to die in the wilderness.

And they will die economically (across all economic & educational classes). In some cases they will die physically (either from lifestyle-related ailments such as diabetes, etc.; or from the Rwanda/Congo-type physical violence that is escalating in Black residential areas).

I'm only concerned with those people who WANT to get to the promised land, but are operating under some misperceptions. This type of person will perk up as soon as they understand the reality and gravity of their situation.

The Dunbar Village Atrocity and its aftermath snapped me out of the trance I had been in since college. I made some quick course corrections. I believe that there are many others who will also correct their course if certain things are brought to their attention. These are the people I'm working to salvage.

I haven't completed my study of scripture, but I'm beginning to believe that there's a divine pattern to this sort of disintegration. When one looks at the dead nations & peoples mentioned in scripture, there seems to be a pattern to their destruction. The pattern has 3 steps:

1-First, the nation of people are DISPLACED.
2-Then they are REPLACED.
3-Finally, they are ERASED from the Earth; and exist only in stories of dead nations used to warn the living.

This pattern applies on a lot of levels in many different contexts.

Because AAs don't protect what little we have, we are being displaced. We are being displaced by foreign-origin Black students on college campuses. We are being displaced by Latinos politically. This process is still in progress & in a state of flux. There are things we can do to stop and/or delay the completion of this step.

If we don't slow or stop the completion of the displacement stage, we will be totally replaced by these other people in these different settings.

Finally, we'll be erased from these different settings.

Free will operates at each stage. For example, AA scholars can keep on doing faux hip-hop "scholarship" if they want to. I doubt that they'll get tenure doing this stuff. I also doubt that foreign-origin Black students (in any large numbers) are willing to waste their time by taking classes in that mess.

As the Black college student population transitions to being majority foreign-origin, that means that the future Black professors will become majority foreign-origin. At which point, the remaining AA hip-hop scholars will be out the door. Without any base of support among either the now-majority foreign-origin Black students or professors on their campus.

Free will operates. These AA hip-hop scholars are free to take the opportunity (while they're still on the payroll) to lift the quality of their work & develop into legitimate scholars. And thereby better secure their employability. It's their choice.

AAs aren't the only ones who have foolishly fallen into this pattern. Much of White America has done the same thing. For example, most Whites have lost sight of the fact that it was organized labor that lifted many of them out of the poor & working classes. The existence of strong unions created the 40 hour work week, paid vacation, and other working conditions that they take for granted.

They forgot about this fact and began to see organized labor as something that had no relevance to their lives, and a "special interest." They forgot that a strong labor movement created the political pressures that (for a time) kept many of the jobs here in the US.

Instead, they chose to mentally identify with the business owner class. The college educated children of these 1960s-1970s-1980s blue collar workers were among the first to forget that union-won wages enabled their parents to send them to college.

And now even their white-collar jobs are being sent overseas. And the blue-collar "Reagan Democrat" White folks have discovered that illegal Mexican immigrants are beginning to displace THEM on their jobs. Oh well.

Heedlessness and indolence are among the "ruinous traits" identified by Muslim scholars. People are free to indulge in them at their own peril. People are also free to abandon these traits for their own salvation. My concern is for people who are willing to abandon ruinous traits to save their lives. The rest can keep on keepin' on in their foolishness.

Peace and blessings,
{Hmmm...I see that one of the perks of hosting a blog is that I don't have to feel guily about a long-winded response. *Smile*}

PVW said...

Interesting observations in your last post, Khadija!

Thinking about the various ethnic studies type programs I have known about over the years, the most successful black studies and women's studies programs/departments have been able to integrate themselves across the university curriculum--departments, etc., meaning that they get people from across the university, cross-list classes, collaborate, offer graduate certificate programs for students in other departments, and thus ensure their relevance and survival. One of the most successful black studies programs I can think of does not only that, but they do some serious research!

Now the old-style departments are like bunkers, where a few older brothas hunker down, rarely come out of the department, and don't collaborate with others, don't do the serious chasing of research and scholarly agendas. They are stuck in 1969. They are the ones who are vulnerable.

A bit of academic politics: when a department becomes irrelevant, the administration lets the old heads retire and then don't hire new people. It is the first steop towards shutting it down. Once in a while I hear of programs becoming vulnerable this way.

This serious research in the department I'm thinking of: vibrancy--getting serious funding to organize some pretty serious projects--doing local black history, organizing seminars for teachers, having internationally known scholars come in to work, organizing study abroad programs.

They bring money and reknown to the university, so no one wants to get rid of them. Going into the archives and pulling stuff up; finding stuff from the local community to ensure they are in the archives; making documentaries and then showing them to the local community so they remember their history. Organizing museum exhibits, guest speaker series, etc.

This has been a multiracial group--if you do good work, you are in. In this program, one of the assistant directors who was full of energy and practically running things, was doing so on behalf of the old school brother. He was a white man who came into the department as a graduate student and never left. He worked his butt off to ensure that he was integral to the institution; at the same time, he did good work for the department itself. Once his mentor, the director, stepped down from the directorship (of his own free will), he took that experience and then became director of another campus program that was doing similar work.

In the midst of all this good work, there were some folks who complained, why are these white folks doing this work? We should be running things. But when you look at the programs where the black folks were running things, they were not even doing half of what the other type of program was doing.

Going to the point about white folks forgetting their history, it was easy for them to get hoodwinked. They were told that the bad unions were making things bad for them with their demands. The bad unions were making it hard for Mr. CEO to pay them reasonable wages because the bad unions made things more expensive. The bad unions were making them send the jobs overseas. The regulations they supported were inefficient and bad. The free market will lift all boats--you will rise too with the free market. If things are bad with you, it is your fault, no one else's. The government can not and should not help you.

We have certainly seen the effects of this thinking--the current housing crisis. Forget about how the greedy CEO's manipulated. Forget about how government policies enabled it. You lost your house, well, it has nothing to do with us, it's your fault.

This has been the effect of Reagan; this is when the ideology became most prominent--it has become the conventional wisdom.

And it doesn't look like anyone will be able to pry these folks loose from it, because they buy smoke in mirrors, are easily hoodwinked by the non-issues, and need to believe so badly, they can't see what is going on before their eyes.

Khadija said...

Pioneer Valley Woman,

Thanks for breaking it down & describing in detail what survival in academia looks like (doing hard, vibrant, legitimate WORK), and what dying out in academia looks like (getting by/getting over). This is good to know.

We never know who silently reading these blogs. The information you shared might encourage some aspiring Black scholar to change course and better secure their own future in academia. Thank you.

Some educated Black folks like to think that it's just the Sheniquas & the Ray-Rays that are obsolete. Truth be told, most of us are obsolete. Striving for excellence is a good thing in itself. More importantly, striving for excellence increases the odds of a person being perceived as ESSENTIAL & NECESSARY on their job.

Because we don't have businesses of our own, a disproportionate number of the Black middle and professional classes work for the government in some capacity. *Newsflash* Gov'mint jobs are becoming as vulnerable as corporate sector jobs.

Unfortunately, most of my Black colleagues refuse to take heed and develop additional income streams. They seem really desperate to believe that they're safe with their "good jobs." They want to believe that they're beyond the point of having to hustle.

They also refuse to do more than get over/get by at work. Which means that they haven't positioned themselves as people who should be among the last to be laid off when the mess hits the fan. Oh well, I've been warning them.

I find your description of how academia operates quite fascinating: So, the colleges are quietly allowing the obsolete/get by/get over old heads hunker down in their Black studies departments until they retire. And then quietly shut down the programs by not replacing the old heads once they leave.

It's a shrewd strategy. It's also a graceful way of denying permanent residence to the faux hip-hop scholars (who probably assumed that the dying Black studies departments would always an available place for them to roost).

Since nobody's actively killing these programs, it reduces opportunities for crying & whining about their demise. Very shrewd.

I don't blame the universities. I would do the exact same thing with a non-productive, non-performing department. It's ridiculous to waste resources on non-productive things.

You said the following about White folks forgetting their history, "And it doesn't look like anyone will be able to pry these folks loose from it, because they buy smoke in mirrors, are easily hoodwinked by the non-issues, and need to believe so badly they can't see what is going on before their eyes."

That's exactly right. These are the sorts of behaviors of people who don't want to get to the promised land. They really don't want their problems solved because that would require change on their part.

This is part of why I tossed the clip from the movie "Network" up there in another post. Many of the problems have been the same for the past 30+ years. Collectively, the American people (most of us included) have refused to change course.

I was too young at the time to understand any of the issues involved, but I've been thinking back on Pres. Carter lately. He warned everybody many years ago about energy dependency and the need to change course & change our lifestyles. I vaguely remember the speech where he was wearing a sweater and talking about conserving energy.

Looking back on that now as an adult, I see that the American people as a whole (including Black folks) rejected that message. And now various chickens are coming home to roost (global warming, oil wars, peak oil, rising energy prices, etc.).

The same way the US displaced and replaced the UK as the dominant world economy during the last century, the US is being displaced. Many people originally thought that it was Japan that would accomplish this feat. But now it's looking like China will do it before the end of this century.

Meanwhile, most White Americans will be repeating the same tired Reagan-era mantras. And most African-Americans will be repeating the same tired Dr. King-era rhetoric about "the dream." "Saving the Dream." "Reclaiming the Dream."

When. . . Oh Lord, when will we finally retire the use of the phrase "the Dream"?

Peace and blessings,

PVW said...

Greetings, again!

I'm quite glad to participate in this conversation, because although this might seem to be a question of what is happening in a rarefied world--academia, the principles of how these places operate are the same across the board.

This is a capitalist society, and although certain institutions, like the government and education, in the past, could act as though they were above and beyond all that, those days are over.

Everybody has to hustle, and the academics who can't do the hustle--research and write, can find themselves teaching but without stability. So they have to make themselves indispensable. Most vulnerable are those attached to a mentor whose project they work on but where they have no real stake in it. If the mentor can protect them when the winds change, all goes well. If not, forget it.

The bottom line principle rules.

Moreover, if this sort of conversation might be encouragement to someone who is thinking about the legacy of black folks in this country and think academia might be a way to contribute to keeping the legacy alive, I'm quite glad to shed some light!

But yes, we forget these rules in this "New World Order" (remember Bush I?), we perish, regardless of what background--white, black, etc.

Remember when 15 or so years ago, there was this big discussion of the "service economy," indications that the U.S. was moving away from manufacturing and going towards the provision of services?

Well, what the talking heads did not say is that all services are not the same. Think of the Rust Belt, places like those in Illinois where Obama did his community organizing.

The manufacturing jobs left and all that was left was the service economy of Wal-Mart and other such low-wage jobs.

The real service economy where people are thriving takes place where people have highly valued skills they can sell to aid in managing institutions which are frequently developing an international scope, whether it is direct management (business--self employment or not) or in the adjuncts to the businesses--other fields of endeavor.

The service economy too, health care services.

Back to the academic thing and those departments. If they are not slated for being shut down, they are merged into other departments, and those like Afro-Am Studies, many of the faculty come in from other disciplines. So when they disband, they go to their home discipline, of history, English, etc.

If they are not shut down, they sure don't get many resources. They will teach a few courses that will draw lots of students (another racket of core requirements, forcing students to take classes in a wide variety of fields, and Af-Am studies is one type of course which can fulfill those), but they will not experience much room for growth.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to see you with your own blog (smile), I often see your comments at Rev Lisa's blog.

Only got a second, but this post definitely gave me something to think about. I live in a state with a small Black population and many of the Black who are here are foreign born and yet my experience has been there is no coalition building between American and foreign born Blacks at all.

I am not sure what American Blacks can do to better ensure our slice of the pie so to speak and start looking out for self. I wonder if much of the problem lies in the fact we are quick to embrace others who look like us yet its not reciprocated? Instead we still think we are all Black without realizing the subtle and not so subtle diffrences that seperate us such as class, diffrent country of origin and so-on. In some ways we are still entrenched in a type of thinking that 40-50 years ago was needed.

Khadija said...

Pioneer Valley Woman,

You've provided the 1st official "Reader's Money Quote"! {raised fist salute} It bears frequent & loud repetition. You said,

"This is a capitalist society and although certain institutions, like the government and education, in the past, could act as though they were above and beyond all that, those days are over. Everybody has to hustle..."

This is critical! As you've noted, the operating principles you're describing apply across the board.

Peace and blessings,

Khadija said...

Black Girl in Maine,

{excited waving}

Hello there! Thanks so much for stopping by. And thank you for your kind words. I truly appreciate it.

Rev. Lisa has (as usual) done an excellent essay about screening allies on her blog. [For those readers who are unfamiliar with Rev. Lisa's blog, it's called Black Women Blow the Trumpet. The link is in the blogroll on the sidebar.] Lisa's essay is dated June 12, 2008 and it's entitled "Black Women and the Vetting Process for Our Allies."

We can learn to do a better job of making alliances if we think through the points that she's raised in her essay.

In the meantime, there are things we can do to protect our slice of the pie in this context: MAKE SOME PHONE CALLS! If we make an effort, many of us will discover that we "know somebody" who knows somebody else who is in a position to talk to some of these college admissions people. WORK YOUR EXTENDED CONTACTS TO GET TO SOME AA PERSON WORKING IN ACADEMIA!

After working your contacts to get to somebody, send that person a copy of the Princeton article. Then follow up with a phone call to that person to express your concerns about the long-range implications of the study.

Any AA person in academia with 2 brain cells to rub together will also be concerned about this trend line. They're better positioned to either: (1) quietly run with the ball at their own institution, or (2) suggest ways of influencing their own institution.

In my humble opinion, this needs to be a QUIET, 1-ON-1 effort. A loud, mass campaign will only ruffle feathers and alert those who would oppose our efforts to get our slice of the pie.

Peace and blessings,

PVW said...

Some other ideas:

Black parents have to begin thinking strategically about college admissions, the way many middle class white parents do.

They begin talking with their teenagers about college, not in their senior year, or even their junior year, but beginning in the freshman year.

They encourage them to create an identity through extracurricular activities that make them interesting to college admissions committees.

They get training in taking the SATs early on, and some even find consultants to help in creating the ideal admissions package.

They use all the chips they have to benefit: legacy admissions (especially when the parents are donors) and geographical diversity.

What is the latter? Elite schools like to bring in students from different parts of the country. So in the Northeast, they like getting in a few people from the South. In the South, they like getting in a few students from the North.

An example, the daughter of a colleague just got into an elite private Southern school, on both a merit scholarship and a sports scholarship...Pretty much a free ride....

Khadija said...

Pioneer Valley Woman,

Thanks for the ideas. I'm thinking about drafting a flier or brochure to get this sort of information out. Your tips will be very helpful for this. I figure if all sorts of crazy-sounding people & groups can leave stacks of free handouts at the grocery stores, etc., why can't I join the fun?

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Unknown said...

The 'coalition' that you guys seek is not one sided. In fact, in my own personal dealings with AA (I am British Caribbean) have not been overwhelmingly positive in terms of political/cultural discussions as it pertains to the "black diaspora"...for the exactly what is displayed in the comments above - AA arrogance and a startling lack of knowledge about the black diaspora from any other perspective than a black American one.

This idea that no one has suffered more than the AA person is BS. And the sooner you guys realize that we are all in it together - the better. All around the world black people are oppressed, killed, discriminated against - you name it. Yet only from AA do I see complaints about 'foreign blacks' and the insinuation that the struggle somehow missed us. It didn't, WE WERE IN THE SLAVE SHIPS AS WELL! And we are still fighting it, so it would be nice to have some solidarity from the people who - despite the horrendous conditions) are actually the trail blazers for black people in terms of visibility, commercial success, inclusion in popular culture etc.

In terms of what someone mentioned r.e Africans looking down on AA...yes, this happens to west Indians in the UK as well. But here is the thing, there is a difference between culture and colour - a person from Nigeria only has their skin colour in common with you. I think you would be much harder pressed to find someone of Jamaican, Basian, Brazilian etc. heritage who displays this (not that I am suggesting there are not any, there are always exceptions after all).

Khadija said...


NO, we're not "in it together." Your nasty, arrogant AND dishonest attitude is one of many reasons why we're not "in it together." The same way foreign outsiders don't care about AAs' struggles in the U.S., I don't care about your problems outside the U.S.

And I really don't care--at all--about foreign Black ingrates' problems IN the U.S. Because AAs and our murdered AA civil rights martyrs are the ones who made it possible and safe for you to come here in the first place. When foreign Blacks come here, too many of them forget that they are uninvited guests in OUR country that OUR ancestors built. Frankly, the presence of foreign Blacks in the U.S. brings NO benefit to the AA collective. And that's all I'm really interested in--looking out for the best interests of my own ethnic group. You know, the way every other ethnic group looks out for their own best interests.

I published your comment because it gave me an opportunity to reiterate some things I've said all along, such as this observation I made multiple time at this blog and at my other blog:


For me, the starting point of any squabble with non-White, non-European immigrants is the fact that my people’s Civil Rights Movement led to, and influenced, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Prior to African-Americans’ Civil Rights Movement, White Americans were quite clear about keeping non-Europeans out of this country. The bulk of these Black-skinned bigots the reader is whining about wouldn’t even have been allowed into our country if it wasn’t for our people’s civil rights movement. This is one of several things we need to remind these people about when they get out of pocket."

I'm delighted to see that--in the years since I originally wrote this blog post--African-American Black folks are finally learning to set boundaries with ALL outsiders, including foreign Blacks. You know, the way every other ethnic group sets boundaries with outsiders. I thank God that AAs are finally waking up.

Good day.