Friday, May 20, 2011

West-Obama Narrative: Shows all Wrong with Black Academy and African Studies

I have always wondered what was the importance and utility of Africana Studies Departments around the Nation, as well the utility of a doctorate in such a field. Over recent weeks I have come to the personal conclusion that there value in the grand scope of collective community betterment is miniscule. This has been personified in recent weeks through the unmerited recapitulation of what some may call the West-Obama narrative.

First, this is not a question of intellect or lack thereof, for I do note the brilliance in many current public relations scholars including but not limited to Cornell West, Eric Dyson, or a Melissa Harris-Perry. But what is more than oblivious is the overt need of such persons to be heard and seen, all scholarship aside.

Now it may just be my locution that is misplaced – one that sees intellectuals as being scientist and researchers first over the pedantic. Although I too am considered to be an intellectual by many, most see me as a scientist first, as my research abides by scientific methods although my academic training is in psychology and statistics. However, I see such rigor lacking in the work of many that proclaim the banner of Africana Studies.

In past regardless of discipline, if one expertise was history, religion, sociology, chemistry or biology, their natural science or philosophy was justification enough to document their intellectual prowess in their said field even when it entailed the study of Africans and their descendants.

The discourse attributed between the confederates of both sides of the West-Obama discussion reflects all that is wrong with the cannon of Africana studies intellectualism. It is an aspersion that one the one side portrays a dismaying senescence and on the other, an “inchoate mutterings” to use the words of Howard Thurman. They miss the need of oration for the sake of science singular for the mundaneness of sound bites and public relations.

Strange it is to me, that when I am called to NIH by a Nora Volkov (Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse) for example for my expertise in infectious disease, I never see representatives of Africana studies. Strange it is that John Hope Franklin, Howard Thurman, W.E.B Dubois or Benjamin E. Mays never claimed the banner of Africana or Black studies. Frantz Fanon was a Psychiatrist, Dubois a Historian and economist, Charles Drew, a Chemist, yet all considered them scientist of their discipline first who served their race through their science.

Even our greatest minds, who did not attend universities, were developed in a discipline like John Henrik Clarke, Fredrick Douglass and Booker T. Washington. Now, there are some scientists that do such that happen to be of African descent who place their discipline of study to better their race without using race as a jumping point. Economist Roland G. Fryer Jr is one example.

I know some would assert I am or may be jealous, but truth be told, I couldn’t tell you about any of the work most in Africana or black studies do. And it has nothing to do with where they work. I mean I was on faculty and conducted research at Emory University for 14 years, and from where was department head in the department of Community and Preventative Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine. But they are not the folk I look up to and no where close to a Chekih Anta Diop, who was a physicist, chemist and paleontologist as well as historian.

I respect the intellectualism of any scholar, but I will use my science to solve problems and proffer discussion to solve problems as opposed to speak for the purpose of being heard or to propound that I am blacker than another person. For the simple truth remains that such does nothing to tackle food inflation, the 21 percent of children living in poverty in America, the inordinate disparity of disease and incarceration in our community or that somewhere in the world someone starves to death every 3.6 seconds, and 75 percent of those are children under the age of five.

Yes, I may be wrong but I was taught scholarship and intellectualism was to serve the needs of the people, not the self. So I advise all considering doctorate degrees to avoid a PHD in black studies, we need more in math, chemistry and physics, for we are top heave in pedantic who expound expertise in the study of the color black.


msladydeborah said...


I am in agreement with your conclusion on this post. We really need more problem solvers than debaters.

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