I’ve written some pieces I’m willing to share here on this topic. Fundamentally, if Black folk are to ever have any peace of mind whatsoever, we have to prioritize and achieve world-class mastery in math, science and culture. Each of these pursuits is dynamic – and it’s not about the judgment, it’s about the journey.
Imperatives are clear – and the only thing that will really matter to subsequent generations is the work that we put in. If you do the math across the board – quantify highly-skilled black folk in various walks of life + fiscal independence + cultural fidelity (and that can look many, many ways) = rudiments of strong families, communities and a civilization identifiable by CONTIGUOUS activities and values.
I’m not moralizing here. I’m not suggesting a form of cultural elitism. I’m suggesting that we master ourselves for the sake of developing entities, organizations and collectives capable of viable inter-dependence with the rest of the world. This is not entirely about white folks – and I don’t center them in my frameworks. It is about the historical marker of this time and this space.
Black culture does not have to prove itself to anyone. It is attacked, but it does not have to respond…it exists as a dynamic, fungible panorama – and it will be here and it will morph and it will make money and create jobs and do all the things it has always done. Hip-hop is our SIXTH walk down the musical path of elders foregoing opportunities to invest in youth music. This is not new – but intergenerational alienation from viable fiscal opportunities creates new dilemmas and new fissures in our communities that are unsustainable.
There are many companies whose bottom lines are contingent on black culture…remember when FOX (under Rupert Murdoch) got back in the TV game…it was with black-oriented television shows. The same was true of the WB and UPN for a moment. It remains true of The Source Magazine and Phil Knight’s shoe company and AndOne and all the others. There can be no doubt that if .35 cents of every mega-church dollar was dedicated to building an infrastructure for OUR CULTURE, we would be MILES ahead of where we are today.
When it comes down to it, I will not defend our culture from ignant-ass white folks or black folks. If Al Goldstein and Larry Flynt and Hugh Hefner have not brought about the demise of American culture with their pimp game, it ain’t gonna happen.
Our culture provides the glue to memory and the gas for an inspired future – and it positions us in a dynamic present…one based on interdependence and relationships with other groups (be they spiritual, regional, national, financial, etc.) At the bottom of the culture, however, is excellence in the realms of math and science.
We can talk about racism until we’re blue in the face, but until a generation of us achieve a critical mass of excellence in these two areas, it’s a wrap. Our place on the global stage cannot be at the back of the bus. If it is to be at the head, we have to know more and perform better (on average) than others. We can’t negotiate that. We can’t legislate it. We can’t kill for it or die for it (not wholly). We can snatch up free things – like library cards and MIT’s curriculum and online dictionaries and science labs and access to museums and aquariums and planetariums. We have to master our material world while living our dynamic culture…and for me that means keeping Biggie as close as I keep Sam Cooke as close as I keep Anna Julia Cooper as close as I keep Paul Robeson as close as I keep Kwame Toure as close as I keep Thutmosis III.
I have no time nor the inclination to defend our greatness. Our legacy is a tool to educate our youth, honor our elders and inspire my peers. It is not something to be discussed with enemies. Enemies are merely identified as such and dealt with accordingly. From my vantage point, discussions with white folks about cultural depravity must begin within their cultural traditions. By the time we’re done, everyone is exhausted…if they want to talk about rock n’roll lyrics or rock-porn videos or Hollywood violence or Roman Catholic predations on children or the recent spate of blond teachers molesting young boys or any manner of sickness, I’m down – but the conversation will NEVER make its way around to my people. I don’t get down like that. Straight offense-defense.
This is the place for that level of conversation and it is most appropriate that we redefine our legacy in terms of questions we need to answer for ourselves – questions that are generated by OUR OWN spiritual and material condition.