I have sometimes heard people say, “Isn’t education just education? There is no Black or White education… it’s all about what works.”
By the same token, I have heard people say, “Literature is just literature. It’s not Black or White.”
Some even go as far as to say labeling education or literature by race or culture is “racist”. (Sidenote: Culture is what is important here. “Race” is a social concept based on phenotype.)
So, let’s talk about culture. Which cultural group is predominantly central to modern education and literature? The answer is obvious: Anglo-Saxon culture.
This is not accusatory, it’s just a fact. If you take an English, History, or Math class, you will learn about Shakespeare, the Greeks and Romans, and Pythagoras. You will be less likely to learn about August Wilson (a great African American playwright), the ancient empire of Mali, and Imhotep (the first known physician – an African). If you are a Black student, you see Europeans being great throughout history. Yet, your “history” is limited to a handful of heroes and heroines spanning from Harriet Tubman to President Barack Obama.
Let’s talk about literature. One can attain a PhD in literature without reading more than a few Black authors. How many literature students are required to read from the African Writers’ Series or the Norton Anthology of African American Literature outside of those specializing in Africana Studies?
If you are a Black student, should you not read more literature reflective of history and cultures of the African Diaspora? Would that not grant you a greater understanding of your modern plight?
Would a well-balanced education with account of Africana contributions to all disciplines not grant you greater knowledge to solve modern Africana problems?
With these questions in mind, please enjoy this wonderful video by Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie on the danger of a single story.