For some reason, English teachers at Southaven, MS-based DeSoto Middle School deemed Rapper Jay Z’s life and “works” appropriate enough to be included in a lesson on overcoming adversity.
To say the students’ parents were upset over discovering song lyrics filled with misogynistic language and drug culture-glorifying themes are what’s passing for homework these days would be an understatement, and their reaction should have surprised no one.
I don’t disagree with the crux of the assignment; I have had more than a few negative experiences that have done more to help me grow Spiritually than the positives have, thus far; I also understand that some of the best character-building experiences stem from having to endure trials of various sorts.
However, it’s the execution of the idea I question.
Is the outrage of the mostly white and admittedly Conservative Christian parents based more on the color of Jay-Z’s skin than on his actions?
More than likely.
We are, after all, talking about Mississippi.
That said, is the point one parent made about success not being about “demeaning women, glorifying drugs and violence and flaunting money” any less valid?
No, it isn’t.
Well, in the very least, it shouldn’t be.
Therein lies my dilemma: I understand how these parents feel, and – as mortified as I am by the thought – I agree with them.
JUST THIS ONCE.
Whenever I think about someone who has overcome adversity, or someone whose earlier life experiences didn’t necessarily indicate where he’d end up, here’s who I think about:
- Malcolm X – A REFORMED criminal who went on to become one of the strongest and loudest voices in the African American struggle for justice and liberation;
- Dr. Carter G. Woodson – A man who was well into his teens BEFORE he started school, yet went on to become the SECOND African American to earn a PhD from Harvard University, and;
- J.A. Rogers – A mixed-race Jamaican immigrant who, with only a rudimentary elementary education, began teaching himself, and did it so well he later became one of the leading contributors to the study of Africans and the African Diaspora.
When I think of people who’ve overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, I think about people like them.
These are people who – once they connected to some semblance of their Purpose – spent the rest of their lives IN SERVICE TO THEIR PEOPLE.
An unrepentant drug dealing, obviously self-hating Negropean chauvinist who’s had ZERO PROBLEMS using his dope money to help finance a career that has made him a millionaire several hundred times over, while the communities he helped decimate (yet refuses to help), continue to disintegrate, just doesn’t qualify – at least, not to me – as the example of overcoming adversity that should be presented to children.
Nor should he.
And that he does should give pause to ANY parent who pays attention to what’s going on in these schools, and notices the steady diet of garbage – masquerading as education – being fed to his child.
I know it does me.
And I’m not buying DeSoto principal Duane Case’s (who’s Caucasian, by the way) excuse in saying studying Jay’s biography and how he became famous isn’t the same as agreeing with what he’s done to become that way.
An adult of average intelligence can only barely dissect that (very faulty) argument. WHY are children expected to do better, when they have neither the Spiritual, nor the Cultural awareness necessary to do that?
Or is the REAL idea to teach students achieving success – at all costs – is permissible, and that a person’s character runs a very distant second to his accomplishments?
That sounds more likely.
What else could explain a school’s use of someone with Jay Z’s very questionable character to illustrate to CHILDREN what can come from surviving hardship?
This dude’s success is directly tied to the adversity he caused others by POISOINING the community with drugs, and the SAVAGE doesn’t even have the decency to at least PRETEND he’s conflicted about it.
Malcolm X REGRETTTED the pain and suffering he caused his people, and spent the rest of his days on Earth working to ATONE for what he had – through White Supremacy – done wrong; Jay Z, on the other hand, wears his transgressions as if they were some badge of honor, and treats them like a twisted Rite of Passage.
I wish I could say I didn’t understand any of this, but I can’t.
Truth is, I understand this a little TOO well.
And sometimes, I wish I didn’t.
The concern many so-called educators have expressed over how to make the curriculum relevant to students, especially in the Age of New Media, is most certainly a legitimate one, but, seriously? Gabrielle Douglas’ story didn’t meet the “pedagogical standard”?
I mean she’s ONLY an Olympic Gold Medalist who, at one point, lived with her family – in the back of a GODDAMN van.
That she was able to come from that, to become a WORLD CHAMPION isn’t “inspirational” enough? How is it her story doesn’t perfectly illustrate the point how we start out in life doesn’t always indicate how – or where – we’ll end up?
So I suppose, based on that “logic”, James Ward’s (also African American) story of overcoming homelessness to get into Howard University also failed to meet DeSoto’s “exhaustive” criteria?
What am I missing?
I think I got it: When it comes to Black folks, the only story of overcoming adversity that’s worth presenting to the masses has to be the trite and oft-embellished narrative of “I was born in the projects, raised around drugs and gang violence, so I became a drug dealer, but now I’m rich and famous”, because telling a story that doesn’t somehow perpetuate the Negro stereotype might actually force society to view African Americans as actual people.
And we can’t have that.
And to think that almost slipped by me.
That was close.