There are things in life that have always baffled me and caused me to question mankind’s morale compass but never humanity as a whole. As a former educator (well I still educate) and Marine Corp veteran I have witnessed individual commit actions that I would never do, however their action or inactions have never caused me to look at humanity as evil. As a rule of thumb I always look at the core of each human being as good, yet born into a world of evil. This does not just go for the actions of human being but also the passing of judgement and creating prejudices based on perception of their fellow man as well as how they treat those who do not look like them or share the same economic, religious, or political viewpoints. These are all viewpoints that have played major factors in the separation of humanity as a whole. However, there is a viewpoint that seems to be ignored and thrown on the back burner. Prejudices and judgments from a social viewpoint is what I am referring to. The prejudices and judgement from the social viewpoint is perhaps more impactful because it alienates and creates a class system which throughout history has played key factors in the destruction of powerful civilizations from within. Yet this is not the basis of my blog today. What is the basis?
I can remember as a recruit in Marine Corp boot camp and as a Marine in the fleet, individuals who could not seem to get it together on a constant basis were referred to as “that 10 percent.” Meaning that it was an expectation that there would be those who would not be able to maneuver through the treacherous landmine of being becoming a Marine. Perhaps more appalling is that these individuals would not be able to maintain the title of a Marine if they slipped through the cracks. To put this in context, becoming and being a Marine is no small task. Of all the branches of the all forces throughout the world, the initiation into our ranks is very difficult. However once a Marine, the prestige and honor is priceless. Which for the rest of the 90 percent, the sacrifice, dedication, and esprit de corps is well worth all of the hardships which are certain to arise. The 90 percent understand even though the journey was hard, it was also fair, just, and equally demanding. Religious, economic, political, or social position did not come into play throughout the journey. Even though young men and women came from all different parts of the United States, what you put in is what you got out. However this is not the basis of my blog, yet it stands as guiding rod to show how another philosophy, which still manifests itself today, is causing destruction and division from within in the United States.
Shortly after the Civil War African Americans made gains in areas of politics, some economics, and social statuses during period known as the Reconstruction Era. As a matter of fact many of the African Americans were literate by 1900. However, when these gains began to take away employment opportunities and political offices which had always been set aside for White Americans, the blatant and vicious brutality increased with intensity at a level which was higher than during slavery. Whatever gains had been made were quickly stripped away and a period of social, economic, political, and racist injustice against the newly freed African Americans began. This period became known as the Black Nadir. As a result many African Americans were forced to take menial jobs despite being more educated or more knowledgeable than their white counter parts. This did and has continued to be an issue in society. However, this mini history lesson is not the basis of my blog.
Ok, I will get to the point. Earlier I noted that by the 1900’s the majority of the African Americans were literate. Also during the Reconstruction Period there were gains which were made in politics both on the local and state level, however this did little to sway the perception of many White Americans in both the north and south. Thus the basis of my blog and an area of concern which I do feel has a negative effect on the nation.
In the late 1890 northern philanthropists saw the need to help out in the south by establishing black colleges to train black teachers and elites. These black teachers and elites were referred to as the “talented tenth.” Later W.E.B Dubious would even go as far, and I would like to think in hopes of eliminating the hopelessness which was embedded in the African American communities, to say that at least 1out of 10 African Americans would be leaders in their communities. Here in lies the basis of my blog. With most of the African American in the south being literate, why would northern philanthropists establish college and universities only for the black elites and teachers? There were between 6-7 million African Americans in the south during the 1900’s, majority of them literate African Americans, one would naturally assume that this opportunity would be extended to all who wished to learn. My last issue is the idea that only 1 out of 10 African Americans were considered worthy or qualified enough to lead our communities. So what were the other 9 to do? Were they to wait on a savior? Wait on the next Messiah to come and lead our people out of bondage? Perhaps what perplexes me the most is that this rhetoric was embraced by one of the great men of our time during a time when this rhetoric should have been detested. I refuse to think that those numbers were accurate then and I am quite certain that they are not accurate now. Yet, during the time leading up to Harlem Renaissance until the Civil Rights Movements, African Americans found themselves operating under this sub consciously accepted rhetoric. Fast forward to today and you can see the rejection from this type of rhetoric is as at an all-time high.
As an African American male it is refreshing to see the number of college ready individuals who are knocking the college doors down to further their education. The number of technical ready individuals who are knocking the technical school doors down to become proficient in their trade. In both cases many of these individuals coming from difficult social and economic backgrounds to become first generation college students. And last it does my heart joy to see those who participates in sporting activities, which were once reserved for those who were thought to be just athletes, become the leading instrument for the cause of freedom of speech. It reminds me of the activism of many of the black athletes during my father’s day. When it was dangerous both physical and financially to do so. So I continue to salute you and give thanks and words of encouragement to all of those who are striving to flip the idea of “the talented tenth.” Because we are all capable of leading in some capacity and when there is more than one leader, the chance of accomplishing a cause becomes much easier.
Scott Johnson Hall
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