"The Talented Tenth" which was written in 1903 begins:
"The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races."DuBois takes his time and states his case for how these exceptional men will save a race of people who had recently (less than 40 years) been freed from the bondage of slavery. DuBois ends the paper by re-stating the opening sentence, "The Negro race, like all other races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men."
Now, what led me to ruminate about a college class that I took over 20 years ago? It was three things: it has been a little over 40 years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act , a little under 40 years since we lost a true member of our talented tenth - Martin Luther King, Jr., and just last weekend, Tavis Smiley hosted "The State of the Black Union." Wow! In just under 40 years, I wonder where have our talented tenth gone and where is the Tide of Enlightenment that was supposed to raise all of Black America's boats? Enter Tavis Smiley.
Engaging. Fast talker. Sound bite equipped. Television ready.
A bit of a huckster, if you ask me. Mr. Smiley hosts a symposium on C-SPAN, brings in a bunch of his likeminded cronies to pontificate and crow about how bad things are for the Black people who got left behind, he gets his cronies to write papers on what should be done, and then goes on tour the following week to peddle his book entitled, "Covenant with Black America."
Maybe I'm way off base here, but if this Covenant is so noteworthy and so necessary to - in the words of DuBois - save the race, why is this book being sold? Shouldn't this book be posted on the Internet, freely distributed to churches, community centers, and schools in poor Black communities. Shouldn't there be seminars and conferences on how these great ideas can be implemented? Shouldn't this blog be about how our talented tenth has finally gotten it right?
Well, the Covenant with Black America Tour comes to my hometown tonight. As a matter of fact, the Decatur, GA church where it is being held is less than 2 miles from my home. I guess I should show up early so I can get one of the free books for the first 200 attendees.
I think not. You see, I didn't need a Covenant to tell me that the only way to end the cycle of poverty and despair and ignorance in the Black community is through education and personal responsibility. My neighbors and our surrounding neighborhoods have little to learn from the Covenant.
The Covenant book tour doesn't need to come to the second most affluent Black community (DeKalb County, GA) in the United States (we're running a close second to Prince George's County in Maryland). This tour needs to make a stop in the crime-ridden, drug dealer infested, inner city neighborhoods about 20 miles to the west in downtown Atlanta. Those neighborhoods need the Covenant a lot more than my neighbors and me. Let's see how many Tour participants decide to roll through that part of Atlanta?
I guess today's Talented Tenth is too busy raising their own boats to get rid of the very plague that is lining their pockets with wealth. If all Black communities knew how to prosper, I guess Tavis Smiley and his ilk wouldn't have much to talk about. Something to think about before someone buys a book that they don't need from someone who's getting rich by selling it.