Op-Ed: The Mis-Education of Henry Louis Gates, Jr

Op-Ed: The Mis-Education of Henry Louis Gates, Jr

By Abdul Arif Muhammad, Esq.

In an April 23, 2010 Op-Ed piece for The New York Times entitled “Ending the Slavery Blame-Game,” Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. argues that a moral, historic, political and economic equivalency exists between the culpability and responsibility of some Africans who participated in the transatlantic slave trade with the nations of Europe and the American colonies .  This article perverts history and violates what Dr. W.E.B. DuBois called “scientific truth.”  The article was intellectually disingenuous from the stand point of history and scholarship.  

Carter G Woodson

The article is a perfect example of the “educated Negro” who has been taught to find his “proper place” at the back door, as stated by Dr. Carter G. Woodson in his book, The Mis-Education of the Negro.  Professor Gates demonstrates through this article that he has accepted his proper place at the back door, showing he is in the category of an “educated Negro” that has, in fact, been mis-educated.  It is not surprising then that when Professor Gates was mishandled by white policemen in Massachusetts, he felt it necessary to inform the police that he was a Harvard professor.  This is the mind of black inferiority masquerading as an “educated Negro” who has in fact forgotten who he is in the mind of White America.

 Sadly, the “educated Negro” state of mind has been a historic problem in the struggle of the masses of Black people for true liberation because there has always been a segment within the black community who are the buffers and apologists for the evil of White America against its black citizens.   This phenomenon has been discussed in several scholarly works including The Black Bourgeoisie, by Dr. E. Franklin Frazier; The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, by Dr. Harold Cruse; The Souls of Black Folks, by Dr. W.E.B. DuBois and of course,  The Mis-Education of the Negro, by Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Professor Gates’ arguments are far below the standard of what one should expect from the Director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.  Dr. DuBois was the first Black man to receive a Ph.D degree from Harvard University in 1895.  The irony of Professor Gates’ article is that Dr. DuBois’ doctoral dissertation was entitled, The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to The United States of America, 1638-1870.  It was first published in 1896 as one of the Harvard historical studies.  This study properly placed the culpability and responsibility for slavery on Europe and the American colonies.  Whatever the role some Africans may have played, Dr. DuBois did not seem to view it as requiring research and scholarly attribution.

Henry Louis Gates

Professor Gate‘s claim that the idea of reparations is “compensation for our ancestor’s unpaid labor and bondage,” clearly shows the extent of his mis-education.  Reparations is a cry for justice borne from the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade, over three centuries of chattel slavery where our ancestors according to Dr. DuBois were “worked to death,” and the injustices suffered by the masses of black people even down to this present day.  The issue of reparations is not solely based upon compensation because money alone will not solve the 400 year destruction of an entire people, who were robbed of the knowledge of themselves, the knowledge of their heritage, robbed of their names, language, and religion.  The cumulative effect of slavery was that Black people were destroyed in their ability to think and do for themselves.

 Reparations have to be determined based upon the extent of the injury inflicted, and the cost must be calculated to actually repair the damage done from slavery, Jim Crow segregation, lynching, raping of women, destruction of the institution of the black family, assassination of black leaders, shortened life expectancy from disease, poor health care, drug abuse, gang violence, black on black homicide, police brutality, racial profiling and mob attacks.  Professor Gates’ view that the call for reparations may be symbolic and impractical is profoundly egregious and shows his profound lack of understanding of the scientific truth of black suffering during slavery and since emancipation.    

Kwame Nkrumah

Professor Gates’ claims that Africans played a “significant role” in the slave trade and that it was “lucrative for European buyers and African sellers alike” is astounding.  His view that equal culpability for the slave trade and slavery “should truly belong to white people and black people on both sides of the Atlantic” is a historic perversion of the worst kind.   Professor Gates obviously did not consider how Africa was devastated by slave trade from the 1500s to the 1800s; then, how she was systematically underdeveloped by European colonization from 1885 through the Second World War (1947).  It was not until Ghana, the first independent African nation, was established in 1957 by Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, that Africa began her journey to repair over five centuries of European rape and pillage of her human and material resources.  Africa remains in that struggle today.  An excellent source for scholarship on this point is the book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Dr. Walter Rodney

 The co-conspirators, conceivers, planners, architects and designers of the transatlantic slave trade were the European nations.  The American colonies and the colonized West Indies sustained and nurtured the slave trade due to the wealth it generated.  This wealth fueled the industrial revolution in Europe and America, and ultimately made the United States a world power.  Where is the evidence of historical records to prove otherwise?  Another excellent source of scholarship on this point is the book, Capitalism and Slavery by Dr. Eric Williams.  Africans did not know the mind of the European nations in planning the destruction of a people.  Africans did not know that the Church sadly issued “papal bulls” from the pope sanctioning slavery of Africans because they were heathens, and needed to be civilized and Christianized.  Africans were not aware of the peculiar institution of chattel slavery and its destructive effects that evolved over centuries in the American colonies.  It is ludicrous to infer that visits to Europe by some Africans gave them knowledge of the holocaust of slavery.

 Professor Gates writes that slavery is one of the greatest evils in the history of civilization.  On this point he is absolutely correct.  Slavery was a crime against humanity and an entire people.   America has a very narrow window to escape the consequences of her deeds; unfortunately she has not yet shown she has the spiritual, moral or political will to repair the damage.   If there was a criminal prosecution Europe and her American co-conspirators would be charged with crimes against humanity for the murder and slaughter of untold millions of African people.  At best, those Africans who delivered their own brethren into the hands of their oppressors could be charged with the lesser criminal offense of being an accessory before the fact of false imprisonment.  In other words they were complicit in an aspect of an entirely different crime from the greater crime of Europe and her American co-conspirators.

 But the real point here is why is Professor Gates attempting to blunt and reduce the culpability of Europe and America in the horror of slavery?  He seems to have developed a pattern of this behavior.  On July 20, 1992 Professor Gates published an Op-Ed article in the New York Times to rebut the Nation of Islam’s book The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, Vol. 1.  In this article Professor Gates attempts to minimize the role of Jewish merchants, traders, financiers and slave owners in slavery.  Can we fully comprehend the contradiction and hypocrisy of describing the behavior of the perpetrator of the crime as minimal, yet the victim played a “significant role” in the crime?  It is bewildering.  Is Professor Gates proving that he is a hired “educated Negro” by the rich and powerful to be an apologist against the legitimate cries for justice by a suffering people?

Finally, Professor Gates’ claim that President Obama’s genetic heritage of African and American parentage makes him “uniquely positioned to solve the reparations debate.” This statement does a tremendous disservice to President Obama.  The question of reparations is largely a legislative issue that is the responsibility of the Congress to address.  Should there ever be a Reparations Bill passed by Congress, only then would President Obama play the crucial role of signing the Bill into law.  Moreover, no one person, even our President, can be the sole arbiter and reconciler on the issue of 400 years of black suffering.  He could play a significant role in the discussion but the advancement of the issue of reparations is the responsibility of the more than 40 million black people who are the descendants of slaves.

 I conclude by offering to Professor Gates the words of Dr. W.E.B. DuBois regarding the culpability of England and America for slavery, found in Sec. 96 Lessons For Americans in The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to The United States of America, 1638-1870.. 

“It was the plain duty of the colonies to crush the trade and the system in its infancy: they preferred to enrich themselves on its profits. It was the plain duty of a Revolution based upon “Liberty” to take steps toward the abolition of slavery: it preferred promises to straightforward action. It was the plain duty of the Constitutional Convention, in founding a new nation, to compromise with a threatening social evil only in case its settlement would thereby be postponed to a more favorable time: this was not the case in the slavery and the slave-trade compromises … and yet with this real, existent, growing evil before their eyes, a bargain largely of dollars and cents was allowed to open the highway that led straight to the Civil War… 

It behooves the United States, therefore, in the interest both of scientific truth and of future social reform, carefully to study such chapters of her history as that of the suppression of the slave-trade. The most obvious question which this study suggests is : How far in a State can a recognized moral wrong safely be compromised? And although this chapter of history can give us no definite answer suited to the ever-varying aspects of political life, yet it would seem to warn any nation from allowing, through carelessness and moral cowardice, any social evil to grow. No persons would have seen the Civil War with more surprise and horror than the Revolutionists of 1776; yet from the small and apparently dying institution of their day arose the walled and castled Slave-Power. From this we may conclude that it behooves nations as well as men to do things at the very moment when they ought to be done.”

W.E.B. DuBois

Dr. DuBois who over a span of seven decades as academic, scholar, sociologist, author, editor, civil rights activist and Pan-Africanist  was truly an educated black man. As the Director of the institute at Harvard which bears his name it is my hope that this may provide some future guidance to Professor Gates that he might escape the syndrome of the “educated Negro” who has been Mis-Educated.

 original story: http://jessemuhammad.blogs.finalcall.com/2010/04/op-ed-mis-education-of-henry-louis.html

 (Abdul Arif Muhammad is an attorney, historian, researcher, writer, lecturer and former Editor-in-Chief of The Final Call newspaper. He is currently developing a series of essays entitled “A More Perfect Union.” Contact him at arifmuhammad@armatlaw.com)

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The future of the internet: an interview with Hip Hop journalist Davey D

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orginal article-Aug 26 2006

This interview between two old friends, JR and Davey D, alerting us to a looming corporate-government threat to our freedom of information and communication on the internet is taken from the Aug. 23 edition of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, and we are spreading the word through this list until our website, http://www.sfbayview.com, is back online. A popular website that drew 2 million hits a month, it’s been badly hacked and is now under reconstruction.

Check back in a week or so for a new, better than ever, more informative, inspirational and exciting http://www.sfbayview.com. Meanwhile, we’ll send out a few of the stories and features from this week’s Bay View and invite you to spread them widely.

The future of the internet: an interview with Hip Hop journalist Davey D

by Minister of Information JR

I remember when I first met Hip Hop journalist Davey D in the mid-90s, and he was talking about how big the internet was going to be; 11 years later he has one of the biggest Hip Hop websites on the internet, http://www.daveyd.com. He has always been on the front line of trying to arm the people he has influence over to become computer literate and learn how to use the new technology and use it to our political and economic advantage.

In this current episode of the haves versus the havenots, AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are working with sellouts like Congressman Bobby Rush and others in Congress to jack up the price of internet service, which will ultimately result in less people using it.

This is a fight that we ask everybody reading this to inform themselves about as well as get involved with, because it will affect you and your family. Check out Davey D as he informs us about the Net Neutrality Act …

MOI JR: What is the Net Neutrality Act?

Davey D: Let me explain what net neutrality is. For people that are listening, it gets a little complicated, so it might seem boring, but it is real important because it is going to change the way that we communicate with one another. Right now if you go on the internet … the internet has been a real god-send for a lot of people. Whether youre trying to get news across, or whether youre trying to get your radio show, the Block Report, across to people, or whether youre just an artist trying to get music from one point to the other, the net allows for you to do that freely, meaning that youre just one click away. So in other words, if you have your Block Report, your Block Report can be as big as ABC or CNN, because the only thing that everybody has to do is know the address so that they can click to it.

And so thats been a big problem for the big media conglomerates and a lot of people in power. So lets say that you find out some dirt on a politician, you can go put it on your report, and all that you have to do is get the address to everybody, and they can access that. If they just click on it, they could get the information.

If youre an artist, and you dont have all the money that 50 Cent has, you could come out and do your tape, put the music on the web, and all you got to do is get the address so you can bump from 50 Cents site down to yours; its just one click away.

So now what you got is these big media outlets, in particular AT&T and Comcast theyre the leaders. This Congressman, who you should know, Bobby Rush, from the Congressional Black Caucus and a few of these other people have been leading the charge to change the scene.

So now what they want is they want to make it so if you go to a site, and you dont pay a certain amount of money, then the site will be slow. So lets go back to the example that we used with your Block Report versus CNN. Right now, its even. If I click CNN, Ill see CNNs site. If I click your site, I go to the Block Report. I can get the information freely.

Now theyre going to say, We want the CNN site to load up quicker and were going to have to charge you $10, $12, $13 extra dollars a month or maybe even more to have people easily get your site. So when I go to click on your site, it might take forever for it to download. If I go to click on CNN, its right there quick, fast, in a hurry.

So hopefully that makes sense to people. So they want to basically divide up the internet, so that people who dont have money, people who have a radical or different point of view, people who are competition for major record labels and industry, that their internet connection to the public will be real slow and everybody elses will be real fast. Thats the best way to kind of describe it.

MOI JR: Who are some of the key players, and how has the fight been going up until this point?

Davey D: Well, what they did in Congress was that they had a thing called the Cope Act, and the Cope Act was basically like the Community Opportunity Program something I forget the whole acronym but it was called the Cope Act. This is what Congressman Bobby Rush pushed forth.

Now his angle was that he was trying to tell people, look, if you vote for this act and we get it passed through Congress, this is going to allow peoples cable bills to drop down lower. And he also said that the money that people will have to pay is going to go for research so that the companies like AT&T, Comcast and these other service providers could come up with high speed internet.

So now on the surface, people are like, My cable bill is going down, and theyre going to use the money so that we could have a faster connection. So he might come to you as an artist and say, Man, just pay this extra money, and you could get the speed so that it is almost a hundred times faster.

It sounds good on the surface, but here is what he is not telling you. The first thing is that he got $1 million from AT&T. That should tell you something right there. The million dollars was so that he could run programs out of his own little building that he has in Chicago.

The second thing is, is that the technology is already there. About two or three years ago, I cut a deal where I was going to work with some people in South Africa actually the government over there to provide them content, and when we were talking about making the deal, we thought that we would have to Fedex all of our information. And they told us about how fast their technology was, and they said back then this was about 2003-2004 they said that the technology that they had was close to a hundred times faster than it was here in the U.S.

So in other words, if I wanted to download a movie in South Africa, I would do it instantaneously at the snap of a finger; music you can download entire albums real quick. So the speed is there. So if youre trying to get information to the masses of people, you could do it instantaneously.

Now at the time, they were saying that the U.S. was making it very difficult to get that sort of technology into the United States, that they were trying to find a way to monetize it. So they were working with Danny Glover, Michael Jackson, Will Smith, and all of these other people to get content, so that it could go to South Africa and they can take advantage of their technology. In Beruit, where I was at for a week, their technology was much faster than ours. In France, their DSL connections are about 50 times faster than it is in the U.S., and they pay only $6 a month.

So the technology is there and it doesnt need to be discovered; all theyre going to do is just open up the gate. And theyre just trying to bamboozle people by telling them, Pay some extra money and were doing research. The only research that theyre doing is just going to pick up a phone and call up somebody and say, OK, lets bring the technology in. So those are two things that we need to really keep in mind.

Right now, the main players are AT&T, Comcast, Verizon; you should really look twice when you see Verizon doing all these commercials about downloading music. Theyre trying to cultivate a habit for people so that you start to associate Verizon with music. And what will eventually happen once the Net Neutrality thing goes through, then theyll come back and be the ultimate music site. And then all of these independent artists who theyre not in favor of, who they dont have a relationship with, who cant pay whatever money, they might not be able to get on the Verizon site.

AT&T has already opened up a music portal, and theyve been advertising it as the ultimate place to get all of your musical needs. So, in other words, these companies that just provide phone service are now starting to move inside the entertainment arena in anticipation of being able to have these high-speed connections that nobody else will.

MOI JR: How do you think that that is going to affect the digital divide on Black, Brown, and low income communities?

Davey D: Youre going to see that immediately, because whats happening is that people in our community are catching the most heat. In Chicago, they just found out all of this information about Commander Jon Burge who was torturing people. Ok, now they might do a headline on the paper, but theyre not going to tell you the behind the scenes story; theyre not going to interview everybody who is there etc. etc. And people need to know about the information so that they can either come up with new strategies, find out who they need to talk to, or at least keep their eye on the case.

Well now, if you have the internet either inaccessible or somebody like you as a journalist want to provide some information or some insight, you cant communicate to one another. Thats basically what this boils down to.

Theyre trying to find ways to make sure that people who dont have a voice never get a voice. And the internet was providing that, and people were stepping up their game, starting to do their own radio stations online, do their own magazines, do their own websites, their own distribution, and all the sort of stuff that they were doing online, and it was bringing people to a point of parity with the big boys.

Now they want to change that and basically shut it off. So anything that we need to have exposed is going to be very difficult to do, because of the change that they want to bring to the internet. Some people might say that now well just go back to the traditional ways, which is, Ill go print my own newspaper or Ill start my own television station, or Ill do whatever. But what is happening with the price of energy going up and some of these new labor laws and these new copyright things that are getting ready to come down the pipe, that is going to be even more expensive than going online.

MOI JR: How can people keep up with the Net Neutrality Act. I know that you have http://www.daveyd.com, but how else can people keep up with some of the information in regards to this Act?

Davey D: The main site that you go to is savethenet.com or savethenet.org; thats the main one. Now just to show you how devious the people on the other side are, what they did was they used similar language to talk about this situation. So they have a campaign called Hands Off the Internet, and they have a nice little cartoon to make it seem like theyre down with the people.

So when you watch their cartoon, its like, Yeah, we dont want nobody messing with the internet, and thats why were saying Hands Off the Internet. Support that. If you see that cartoon or hear that title, Hands Off the Internet, thats AT&T trying to pull wool over your eyes and act like theyre your best friend, when really theyre trying to stifle you in the end.

The other thing that you need to know is that theyve been spending up to a million dollars a day talking to people in Congress, lobbying your Senators, so like when I called Dianne Feinsteins office, she still doesnt have an opinion. This thing has been in front of her for six months, and she still doesnt have an opinion, which means that she might be on the fence in terms of taking money from AT&T or Comcast or Verizon. So those are the people that you need to stay away from.

Savetheinternet.org or savetheinternet.com are the two places that you should go to, and they could give you all the breakdown on it.

Email Minister of Information JR at blockreportradio@sfbayview.com and listen to the Block Report at http://www.myspace.com/blockreportradio. Keep up with Davey D at www.daveyd.com.

POCC Block Report Radio is teaming up wit’ Flashpoints Radio to bring the people a live dialogue between some of the Bay Area’s biggest media makers  and commentators to talk about the Net Neutrality Act and how it will affect Black and Brown people, the recent hacking into the SF Bay View website and corrupting files, and independent media and its role
in shaping our world.

The guests will be Kiilu Nyasha, Black Panther radio producer, Davey D, Hip Hop journalist who runs the website Daveyd.com, and Terone Ward, the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper’s webmaster.

You can join us live in the studio on Wednesday, August 30th, at New College, 780 Valencia between 18th and 19th, in San Francisco at 5pm. The studio has seats for 40. Let’s fill ’em up. Admission is Free…

If you’re not in the Bay Area or can’t be in the studio, listen to the show at 5pm Wednesday on KPFA 94.1 FM or http://www.kpfa.org. To listen later, the show will be archived at http://www.flashpoints.net.

For more info, email JR at blockreportradio@yahoo.com.

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