“If you want a [Black person] not to know something, put it in a book.” Or so I was told during childhood. In a household equally literature rich and loving, this ideology wasn’t relatable. My Barbies were brown, my name is Swahili and my conversation is conscious. When did viable Blackness correlate to illiteracy? Who made airheads chic? Did technologically savvy replace reading?
Facebook and MySpace pages boast “I don’t read” under the ‘favorite book’ sections (of every race).” My friend bragged about having not read a book from seventh grade until just prior to college.
One can see that the instant gratification generation dropped the knowledge ball.
But, who limited reading to novels? Articles, song lyrics, friend’s poetry books-even recipes suffice. In a world of daily verbalization, when did we stop befriending written word? Has materialism taken precedence where the insatiable mind has grown lax? How devalued is education? Are we too busy being busy to continue questing and questioning?
In the midst of fantastical fortunes boasted on Vh-1 countdowns, somewhere amongst every get-rich-quick reality tv scheme, people forgot the basics.
If all else fails, read. If all else doesn’t fail, read.
As descendants of people who were initially taught everything but, we owe our predecessors and their struggles the societal retribution that is knowledge.
Though the supposed All-American identity pushes a materialistic agenda, we must ground ourselves in reality. 37 million people (12.6 percent) lived below the poverty line in 2005, according to the US Census Bureau. In today’s world of tight budgets and gas obliteration, reading is the remedy.
Until we create our yachts, wed our ideal spouses, raise 2.5 kids and pull up to our cul-de-sacs in time for a warm family dinner, we must reignite the passion in avid readers everywhere.
With the National Assessment of Educational Progress citing significant strides in the educational gains of Black and Hispanic youth, we must also be aware that black and brown gains have hit a plateau since the 1980s. It’s up to us to correct the lull.
In 2003, 39 percent of white pupils scored sufficiently on their fourth grade reading exam. A bleak 12 percent of black students and 14 percent of Hispanic students were proficient. If not elementary school, when?
But as every rags-to-riches story says: Work hard at something. Be smart. Be Black. Go on, get your read on.