“Assimilation is treason against your own conscious.”
Mr. Julius Olalusi, senior @ U Penn
At a young age, African Americans are encouraged to speak, dress and think like White Americans, preferably White Christian Americans. This road of assimilation is paved with smiles, rewards and pats on the back. The purpose of these accolades and kind words is to convince African Americans that assimilation leads to safety and success. Invitations to assimilate are given to African Americans at churches, jobs and schools every day. Assimilation is never offered explicitly; these invitations are delivered subtly with a distinct aroma of opportunity attached. In exchange for this opportunity at the American Dream, African Americans must disavow their heritage, their Blackness.
The public school system has been the most effective tool of assimilation. In general, an overwhelmingly White teaching staff has been collectively tone deaf to the needs of African-American students. It is no wonder that this group of teachers is comfortable with dispensing a colorblind and culture less education, which promotes a singular American narrative sans the African American experience. With as much zeal as any missionary, these educators teach Black children to use the English language correctly; teach them to dress properly; and show them how to be good citizens. African American students who do not accept public school’s definitions of correctly, properly and good are dealt with harshly: Andrew Jones, valedictorian of Amite High School in Louisiana, was not allowed to participate in the school’s commencement ceremony because he had a beard. Taiylar Ball, a senior at Homewood Flossmoor High School in Illinois, was banned from the school’s prom because of the diction in her Black female empowerment poem “Dear Black Girls.” Severe consequences for not assimilating do not end when you leave school.
Whenever African Americans embrace their culture or demand their human rights, they can expect to be demonized by White America. Civil Rights Movement? Communist. Muhammad Ali? Draft dodger. Black Lives Matter? Anti-police. Beyonce’s “Formation” video? Anti-White. The warning is clear: Assimilate or be labeled unAmerican.
Assimilation is White America’s way of finding African Americans they are comfortable with. And if White America was not comfortable with you while you were alive, they will wait until you die to create a narrative about your life they are comfortable with. After Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, White America transformed this relentless freedom fighter into the “I Have a Dream” guy. After Muhammad Ali’s death, he was being remembered more for lighting the flame at the 1996 Olympics than for refusing to fight in Vietnam because of his dedication to the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Now, White America does have living, breathing and thinking African Americans they are comfortable with.
Dr. Ben Carson and Justice Clarence Thomas are well educated, professionally successful family men. Their social stands will never be condemned or ridiculed by White America the way Dr. King and Muhammad Ali’s social stands were. White America is more comfortable with the lives led by the good doctor and friendly old judge than they were with the lives led by the preacher and the champ. There are two questions every African American must answer: What will you devote your life to and which road will you to travel to reach your goals?