Blacks have been vanishing from college campuses in the United States and reappearing in prisons, videos, and movies. Cecil Brown tackles this unwitting "disappearing act" head on, paying special attention to the situation at UC Berkeley and the University of California system generally. Brown contends that educators have ignored the importance of the oral tradition in African American upbringing, an oversight mirrored by the media. When these students take exams, their abilities are not tested. Further, university officials, administrators, professors, and students are ignoring the phenomenon of the disappearing black student – in both their admissions and hiring policies. With black studies departments shifting the focus from African American and black community interests to black immigrant issues, says Brown, the situation is becoming dire. Dude, Where’s My Black Studies Department? offers both a scorching critique and a plan for rethinking and reform of a crucial but largely unacknowledged problem in contemporary society.
On Cecil Brown's "Hey, Dude, Where's My Black Studies Department" By Marvin X Brown's essay appeared in the Eastbay Express newspaper, December 1, 2004 Novelist Brown is known for his Life and Loves of Mister Jive Ass Nigguh.
I have discussed this topic in my essay Neo-Colonial Black Studies (See In the Crazy House Called America, essays, Marvin X, 2002, Black Bird Press, Castro Valley). Although Cecil clearly could use a course in statistics, his general idea is on point but it must be handled with caution because of the Pan African nature of his discussion. This delicate topic has wide implications for the future of the Pan African world because demographics are changing so rapidly it bewilders the mind. New Negroes have arrived in America, the old Negroes have bitten the dust, victims of the criminal justice system in particular, but certainly they, especially black men, have no presence in the academic system. Cecil noted after that initial radical thrust to establish black studies in the 60s, the radicals were immediately removed from the student body and the faculty of colleges and universities coast to coast. The system realized who they were and knew they had to go, after all, the system could not contain them. They were immediately replaced with acceptable Negroes, the more pliant variety of military types and yes, in many cases, immigrant negores more acceptable to the colonial college administrators. Thus Africans and Caribbean Negroes were in many cases found less radical, even though much of the African American radical tradition comes from immigrants such as Marcus Garvey, George Padmore, Kwame Toure, Malcolm X and Farakhan. As Amina Baraka informed me, "We're all West Indians." And this is true because kidnapped Africans were brought to the Caribbean for "the breaking in," then transferred to North America and elsewhere.
So we must ask ourselves would we rather have a radical immigrant African in black studies or a reactionary Negro only because he is a Negro. But Cecil's point is that the American academic system feels the immigrant Negroes/Africans are easier to control than the violent black American male. So the truth is immigrants have replaced Negroes coast to coast, but even black American males who remain are of the passive variety, and even those with a Pan African ideology or Afrocentric approach to black studies are often at odds with the original mission of black studies that was to focus on the plight of the so-called Negroes in the ghettoes of America, how to uplift him out of his morass and degradation. The focus on Africa, Pan Africanism, Diasporism was secondary to the central focus us, i.e. Nigguhs in the hood! Especially self declared Nigguhs for life!But such a focus by definition requires a radical intellectualism that the University industrial complex of necessity must avoid. The African and Caribbean intellectuals found acceptable on campuses, naturally feel issues from their frame of reference are the priority, not issues critical to "Black Americans." While this emphasis is on bones in Egypt, rarely will one find students going to Mississippi and Alabama to research the bones of their ancestors. Yet it became clear to me that until I made peace with the South, I could not reconnect with Africa in any meaningful sense. Matter of fact, some of those founding radicals of black studies claim their ancestors are in the South and go no farther. After all, they say, what can Africa teach American Negroes? The poorest Negro in the ghetto is richer than the majority of Africans. The poorest ghetto Negro has running water, electricity, a bathroom, televisions in every room, at least two cars, and other amenities out of reach to most Africans and Caribbean blacks. It is for this reason that he is the object of envy and jealousy, although we must place the source of this madness to colonialism and neocolonialism or our addiction to white supremacy (see my How to Recover from the Addiction to White Supremacy, Black Bird Press, foreword by Dr. Nathan Hare).
The replacement of radical students and professors in black studies with immigrant Negroes not only represents the legacy of colonialism, including divide and conquer, but also the new demographics in America, it reflects the pervasive criminal justice system and the desire for immigrant Africans to take full advantage of the amenities of America. For sure, all the discussion of African culture and civilization is not leading to a mass exodus of Africans back to Africa, and for all their jealousy and envy, Africans are trying hard to stay in close proximity to Negroes, even if it kills them, as with Diallo and the Haitian brother who fell victim to the plunger.
The mission of black studies awaits redemption and African Americans must again crash the gates of Academia or construct their own radical academic institutions as I am suggesting with my Academy of da Corner. Ishmael Reed calls me "Plato teaching on the streets of Oakland." Recently, my elder and comrade in arms, Dr. Nathan Hare, bemoaned that although he is the father of Black Studies, no Black Studies program in America has sought to hire him, even though he possesses a Ph.D in sociology and one in psychology. Of course the American dream is for generations of pliant Negroes in the classical manner of the colonial elite so prominent in Africa and the Caribbean. America and her sycophants in Black Studies, also known as "Careerists" or "Tenured Nigguhs" are compromised but will tell you at least they have a foothold or "out house" in academia, thus we should be satisfied. No, we cannot be satisfied with the neo-slavery of the prison-corporate-university-military complex of institutions with the mission of breaking in the neo-slave, of taking his mind back to Africa or to the moon, anywhere but focusing of the here and now. On Saturday, April 13, 3-5pm, at Geoffery's Inner Circle, 410 14th St., Oakland, we will celebrate the 80th birthday of Dr. Nathan Hare, the father of Black Studies. Isn't it ironic that not one Black Studies Department in the Bay Area has offered to be a sponsor of this event? Where is San Francisco State University, Stanford, UC Berkeley, San Jose State University, Laney, Merritt? Perhaps they have been given orders not to attend, after all Dr. Nathan Hare put his life on the line, along with other radical faculty and students to establish Black Studies in America, so he has been forever "Blacklisted" or shall we say "whitelisted". Marvin X, poet, playwright, essayist, is considered the father of Islamic literature in America, also one of the founders of the Black Arts Movement. He taught briefly at Fresno State University, University of California, Berkeley, UC San Diego, San Francisco State University, University of Nevada, Reno, Mills College, Laney and Merritt colleges in Oakland.