THE BIG DIVIDE
By Phillip Jackson
Wednesday, June 30, 2010.
The lack of response to globalization by Black America is frightening and troubling. While much of the world has adapted to the new-world economy and new-world standards of existence, most of Black America is still operating much the same way it did in the 1950s and 1960s. But now, throughout Black communities in America, there is a whisper campaign by Black people who don't know each other and Black people who live in different parts of the country, saying to each other, "We are in trouble!" We know it and the rest of the world knows it! Black America, as we know it, is in danger of not surviving globalization.
In the 21st century, there are only two kinds of people. Not Black or White, or rich or poor, or foreign or national. The two kinds of people in the world today are those who are educated and those who are not. Although education has become the new currency of exchange in the 21st century, the old American educational paradigm stopped working decades ago for Black Americans. Simply sending Black children to American schools without a clear purpose or goal has contributed to the demise of the Black community. Black America watched formerly third-world countries catapult over America to become educational super powers while America rested on its old, stale educational laurels and fell way behind much of the world in educational performance. And because Black America unthinkingly depended on the American education system to educate its children, we have fallen way behind.
The horrific educational, social, health, economic and criminal justice indicators in much of Black America predict a meltdown of gargantuan proportions in the near future for the Black community. But still, the thing that is most remarkable and unbelievable is the lack of response by Black Americans to this impending doom! Without numerous positive changes, practical well-thought-out ideas, massive mobilization and immediate action, the fate of many Black Americans is sealed. We will not be able to prosper in the cities of America or possibly in any city in the world where the new currency for existence is access to global information, higher-order critical thinking and advanced technological skills. There used to be a time when it was better to be poor in America than rich in other countries. Now it might be better to be poor in some other countries than to be poor in America.
Black people in America must immediately disengage from the diversions of mind-deadening entertainment, useless sports, hyper-sexuality, excessive social celebrations, pointless conversations and debates, meaningless media and the civil rights issue de jour approach to managing our problems. We must focus on the most important issue in our communities -- making education the highest priority. We must create a culture of literacy and learning that replaces intellectual apathy and resistance to educational progress. Somehow, we must re-inspire our children to want to learn and to love to learn. But having educated children is not enough. We must have educated families and educated communities. Every Black man, woman and child must become part of this new community of learners.
Black America must take education out of the schools and universities and root it in our homes, our workplaces, our communities, our churches and even in our streets and prisons. The purpose of education as defined by the Equipped for the Future initiative, a federally sponsored effort to develop a framework for accountability in adult education, is to help people actualize their roles in society as parent/family members, citizen/community members and workers in the economy. If the education system that serves us is not meeting these objectives, it is a disservice to our children and our communities.
The ability of a people to survive in changing times is not magic, nor is it by chance. Success depends on that people being able to change to survive in a new environment! And new environments demand new skills for survival. Equipped for the Future tells us that without certain basic skills, survival will be extremely difficult for Black people, or any people, in the 21st century. These essential skills are the ability to read with understanding; convey ideas in writing; speak so that others can understand; observe critically; listen actively; solve problems and make decisions appropriately; plan and put those plans into action effectively; use math to solve problems and to communicate; cooperate with others; guide others; advocate and influence; resolve conflict and negotiate; take responsibility for life-long learning; learn through research; reflect and evaluate; and use information and communication technology. These are the skills necessary to survive in the 21st century.
Black people in America must immediately disengage from the diversions of mind-deadening entertainment, useless sports, hyper-sexuality, excessive social celebrations, pointless conversations and debates, meaningless media and the civil rights issue de jour approach to managing our problems."
The solution to the issue of Black America's poor response to globalization is to 1) Deconstruct value systems that have caused Black people to arrive at the precipice of non-existence; 2) Construct value systems that will rebuild the Black family as a purveyor of positive values, cultures, mores and education, and re-establish the Black family as the primary and most important social unit of our culture and society; 3) Embrace education as the highest value in the Black community; 4) Effectively manage the negative cultural influences that hugely impact the thinking and actions of Black boys; and 5) Understand that for the rest of existence, change is a required part of the living process. The faster Black America is able to put this plan into action, adopt these new principles and manage change, the more likely we will survive.
Today, many Black people seem to be having "cosmic flashbacks" to our time in slavery, which was the first crude effort at globalization that helped to set the stage for today's globalization. For years, Black America was buffered from modern globalization by political boundaries and economic barriers. Now globalization has come to our country, our cities, our communities, onto our blocks and into our homes, schools and workplaces. Globalization has happened, whether Black America is ready for it or not. We still have time to make the necessary changes that will guarantee that Black people will survive into the 21st century and that we will thrive in this global economy. But there is not much time. With globalization, Black America has entered into the "Educate or Die" era. In this era, there are only two questions worth answering: "Will we change? Can we survive?" How we emerge from this era is up to us.
Phillip Jackson is the executive director of The Black Star Project