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  • Samuel Adams


By: Samuel E. Adams

Black people are encouraged to speak, dress, and think like White Americans, preferably White Christian Americans, from a young age. This road to assimilation is paved with smiles, rewards, and pats on the back. The purpose of these accolades and kind words is to convince Black people that assimilation leads to safety and success. Invitations to assimilate are regularly handed out to Black folks at church, work, and school. 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, all Black folks have to do is disavow their heritage, their Blackness.

The public education system has been assimilation’s most effective weapon. In general, the overwhelmingly White teaching staff has been collectively tone-deaf to the needs of Black students. It is not surprising that this group of educators is comfortable dispensing a colorblind and cultureless canon of knowledge, which promotes a singular American narrative minus the Black experience. With as much zeal as any of the European missionaries who Christianized Africa, these educators teach Black children to use the English language correctly; teach them to dress properly; teach them how to be good citizens.

In 2016, we were given examples of just how harshly Black students who do not accept the public school definition of correct, proper, and good are disciplined. The valedictorian of Amite High School in Louisiana, Andrew Jones, was not allowed to participate in the school’s commencement ceremony because he had a goatee. Taiylar Ball, a senior at Homewood Flossmoor High School in Illinois, was banned from the school’s prom because of her Black female empowerment poem ‘Dear Black Girls.’ And severe consequences for not assimilating do not end when you leave school.

Whenever Black people embrace their culture or demand their human rights, they can expect demonization 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 Black people with whom they are comfortable. And if White America was not comfortable with you while you were alive, they will wait until you die to create an alternative narrative about your life that pleases them. After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., White America transformed this revolutionary freedom fighter into the ‘I Have a Dream’ guy. After Muhammad Ali’s death, America remembered him more for lighting the flame at the 1996 Olympics than refusing to fight in Vietnam because he adhered to Islam.

Now, White America has living, breathing, and thinking Black folks with whom they are comfortable. Dr. Ben Carson and Justice Clarence Thomas are well-educated, professionally successful Black men. Their political or social stands will never be condemned or ridiculed by White America the way Dr. King and Muhammad Ali’s political or social stands were. White America is more comfortable with the lives led by the good doctor and friendly old judge than with the lives led by the preacher and the champ.

To assimilate or not to assimilate is the question, and the Black community’s future depends on your answer to that question.

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