What does it take to embarrass the black community? 89% of our Black children are functionally illiterate and over 90% are unable to do basic math 1 . In 2014, the biggest robbery of all times is taking place right in front of our very eyes. It’s the robbery of the lives of our black children. We are being hoodwinked into thinking that since we are no longer in chains and being forced to pick cotton in the fields, we are no longer slaves. How contraire. There’s a pipeline from elementary school straight to prison. By my definition, I consider prisons to be the housing of modern day slaves. Everything that’s wrong with the black community is rooted in the ugly fact that our children are unable to read. It manifests and rears its ugly head in a number of different ways, such as welfare, teen pregnancy, unemployment, and prison. We are not giving our children any ammunition to fight this war that’s ensuing. We send our children day after day, into a morgue, masquerading around as a school. How can you call these faulty institutions schools when 90% of our children that inhabit them, can’t read?
We march, yell, cry, and do everything else under the sun, except teaching our children how to read. Even our slave ancestors that didn’t have any education fought to learn how to read because they knew instinctively that this was the answer to their freedom. In every slave narrative that I’ve read, the moment slaves were free, they ran in droves to teach other to how to read. Our slave ancestors looking down from heaven, observing our actions, must be rolling over with grief in their grave. Turmoil must rack their spirit, because everything that they strive and longed for in life, is now at our feet, but we egregiously squander it. America will never have to worry about the majority of Black people competing for the limited resources that this world has to offer.
For 20 years, I have been a high-level educator, and I have seen these travesties take place first hand. These schools will put a child in an eighth-grade science class, knowing they can barely read on a fourth-grade level. How cruel. Reading is the foundation to the success of any child. The great minds of our generations prosper and come from all walks of life. Many excel in all different areas, but what I am sure of is that they have one core thing in common: They are all literate. How we can expect our children to learn the vast topics of the world and become successful, if they can’t even read the textbooks that teach them. That is unfair and an unjust expectation. Too many of our Black people will spend money on the most frivolous things, clothes, shoes, jewelry, and hair weave.
In fact, we will stand out in the blistering cold or the sweltering heat to wait in line for sneakers. Some of us senselessly fight and kill each other over these material things. Yet, when you tell many African American parents that their child reads below grade level, they look at you with a vacant stare. To take a step further, if you offer lessons to eradicate the problem, that cost half of the price of the sneakers on their feet, their response is that they’ll think about it and then the thought never crosses their mind again. There needs to be a large shift in the priorities within the Black community and in Black culture altogether.
We need to realize this eminent fact before it’s altogether too late to make the change. More and more foreigners are creeping their way in and taking our spot. They are hungry and are enjoying all of the fruits that America has to offer. The fruits that were built on the backs of our great grandparents and those that came before them. There is no reason in this day and age why our children aren’t able to read. There are so many resources to take advantage of, but we don’t have the thirst to pursue these avenues. The internet is littered with programs (some expensive and some completely free) that offer children the great gift of literacy. We need to start opening our eyes and take advantage of them.
Dr. Roma J Benjamin