This post is not directed at anyone specific, nor is it meant to offend anyone who differs in opinion.
I tend to do a lot of thinking on my train commute to and from work. Today, my mind was focused on all the controversy over a new lying down game called planking. This week, I have read a lot of commentary–all controversial–about how planking is racist and celebrates the enslavement of blacks. It’s all over the black blogosphere. Everyone is suddenly an expert on the epistemology of planking. And suddenly everyone, who is anyone, is saying NO ONE is educated. Don’t get me wrong, I am always in favor of adding historical context to a cultural trend. If there’s one thing I know about black culture, is that everything we do has a historical connection to our African heritage. I even understand why people provide book passages to back up their claims.
What concerns me though, is that this silly and insignificant trend of people lying face down on their stomachs has garnered so much attention, that everyone, who is anyone, is rushing to Amazon.com, or to their African Studies college course book to educate (quote-unquote) Black people.
Everyday, the first thing I do at work is look up current news and studies on African-Americans. Everyday, I choose two or three news pieces that catch my attention and post them on Facebook. I do this so that my circle of Black peers can know about things that are affecting our community daily, in hopes that the information will strike a conversation and “educate.” Yet, my post go unread, or uncommitted on (this does not bother me, i only mention it to prove my next point). But when someone posts their opinion about planking everyone gets so wound up and engaged.
I think the conversation warrants discussion, but if we want to truly EDUCATE ourselves, we need to start pushing these conversations much further than we do. We have the platform of social-networking sites, so let’s use them to talk about what really matters.
If we want to educate our community, lets talk passionately about public policies that have been in effective for decades, and continue to keep our neighborhoods from flourishing. Let’s talk about why our communities are saturated with food deserts that only provide processed foods for our youth, yet some states are considering launching a campaign to have the government mandate fast-food restaurants accept food stamps. Let’s talk about the new study currently out that says Chicago used ethically murky tactics to sell homes to low-income families, which may have contributed to the housing crash (we all know Chicago has a history of having unethical housing policies that ostracized urban blacks). Better yet, let’s engage in conversations about this country’s educational policies, and how our black children are performing below average than any other group. And how Atlanta is currently undergoing the nation’s largest school scandal for its superintendent’s allegedly tampering with test scores, and intimating teachers to pass their students. And here’s anther topic: Healthcare. Need I say more? Besides the fact that blacks are at disproportionate rates for about all chronic illnesses, which mean healthcare policies should be on all our radars.
Now, I am not going to act like I am the expert on the aforementioned topics. But, I will say that these are the things I think about daily. These are the subject matters that make me want to research and draw historical connections to our enslaved past. These are the issues that I KNOW will affect our youth, therefore WE must be educated ourselves.
Why can’t we get as passionate about topics that are causing direct harm to us now and to our future, just as we get passionate about a trend termed “planking?” I’m not saying don’t post your books or Webster definitions. I’m just saying if we are going to EDUCATE, then we need to push these discussions to larger issues. Issues that remain constant conversations in the White House. Issues that have kept us unhealthy, uneducated and financially unstable. Let’s push the conversation beyond defining the historical context of a “word.” Let’s push the conversation in a direction that will truly education, inform, and enlightening ourselves and our youth.