In all, I found The Mis-Education of the Negro by Dr. Carter G. Woodson to be a struggle to read for a variety of reasons, namely 2019 eyes on a 1933 book. With that being said, I’m focusing my review or analysis or whatever I should call these types of posts on things that could have been written yesterday, 86 years later.
Firstly, his frustrations on what is (not) taught in school reminds me of my own frustrations. Woodson stated that “Every man has two educations, that which is given to him and that which he teaches himself.” In considering how absent from curriculum black people are, he claims that white educators do not include their histories and stories in the curriculum for “fear of the race question being brought too early.” Through such excuse-making, even African kingdoms are not covered, yet we learn of Mediterranean cultures, for example, but not how that culture was heavily influenced by various African nations. However, to change that or any number of educational malpractice, then “White supremacy would be lost in the negro school.”
This idea of mis-education extends even to adulthood. When Woodson says, “It is not the Negroes fault; it is the fault of what they have been taught,” I thought of my own role and the frustrations I have with black educators who have problematic beliefs about black children. In thinking of what Woodson wrote, I realize that I really cannot and should not be more critical of black and brown educators than white educators on this front. We are all swimming in the same racist water, and to not drown in internalized racism is nearly impossible because the sunken place is a helluva drug.
In one section wherein he discussed the arguments on what to call black people (Negro or African or etc), he mentioned that the fear of being called a Negro came down to buying into the negative stereotypes that had been placed on black people. So, this discussion at the time, to him, was fueled by internalized racism. While reading, I oscillated between thinking Woodson believed in uplift-suasion (as Kendhi names it) and that he did not. But in places like this or when he discusses how black people want the “pleasure of the master class that will never tolerate him as equal,” I think maybe he knows that uplift-suasion is futile. Ultimately, then as in now, black doctors, lawyers, musicians, actors, and all manner of successful black folk have endured discrimination despite their uplift.
I will end on this most poignant question and thought of Woodson’s: “Can you expect teachers to revolutionize the social order for the good of the community? Indeed, we must expect this very thing. The educational system of a country is worthless unless it accomplishes this very task.”