(NNPA) - One of the most disturbing victories for the proponents of White supremacy is their success in indoctrinating a sizable number of Black people with the psychologically toxic belief that striving to acquire knowledge through academic excellence is "trying to be White."
What their targets have done is to swallow the insidious White supremacist myth that whiteness and excellence are synonymous.
At the beginning of a new school year, it is most appropriate to remind Black students and their parents and guardians that one of the most effective ways to combat such a toxic attack is for them to internalize observations about the critical importance of acquiring knowledge from some of our most intelligent, most brilliant, most visionary, most effective and most dedicated ancestors, including the following in alphabetical order:
Mary McLeod Bethune, Educator/Civil Rights Activist
"If our people are to fight their way out of bondage we must arm them with the sword and the shield and the buckler of pride - belief in themselves and their possibilities, based upon a sure knowledge of the achievements of the past. That knowledge and that pride we must give them "if it breaks every back in the kingdom."
Martin Luther King, Jr., Clergyman/ Civil Rights Activist
"Education without social action is a one-sided value because it has no true power potential. Social action without education is a weak expression of pure energy. Deeds uninformed by educated thought can take false directions. When we go into action and confront our adversaries, we must be as armed with knowledge as they are. Our policies should have the strength of deep analysis beneath them to be able to challenge the clever sophistries of our opponents."
Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, Educator/Civil Rights Activist
"I hope we will make it clear to ourselves and to our children - that whether we believe in integration, separation or nationalism, there is no substitute for a trained mind. For the future belongs, always has and always will belong, to the man who knows and the man who has skills."
David Walker, Journalist/Anti-Slavery Activist
"I pray that the Lord may undeceive my ignorant brethren, and permit them to throw away pretensions, and seek after the substance of learning. I would crawl on my hands and knees through mud and mire, to the feet of a learned man, where I would sit and humbly supplicate him to instill into me that which neither devils nor tyrants could remove, only my life-for colored people to acquire learning in this country makes tyrants quake and tremble on their sandy foundations."
Carter G. Woodson, Historian/Founder, Negro History Week
"To educate the Negro we must find out exactly what his background is, what he is today, what his possibilities are, and how to begin with him as he is and make him a better individual of the kind that he is. Instead of cramming the Negro's mind with what others have shown that they can do, we should develop his latent powers that he my perform in society a part of which others are not capable."
Malcolm X, Master Teacher/Human Rights Activist
"Education is an important element in the struggle for Human Rights. It is the means to help our children and our people rediscover their identity and thereby increase their self-respect. Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today... We must unite our efforts and spread our program of self-improvement through education to every Afro-American community in America. We must establish all over the country schools of our own to train our children to become scientists and mathematicians. We intend to use the tools of education to help raise our people to an unprecedented level of excellence and self-respect through their own efforts."
Journalist/Lecturer A. Peter Bailey, a former associate editor of Ebony, is currently editor of Vital Issues: The Journal of African American Speeches. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.