H. Rap Brown’s US Educational System ::: Highlighting Chapter Two Of ‘Die Nigger Die’

If you have not read my highlights of Chapter One, click here. I have included an important disclaimer that applies to this post as well.

 

In his second chapter of ‘Die Nigger Die!’, H. Rap Brown spends time addressing US Education as an institution of division and hierarchy establishment. He begins this argument by addressing individualism and territoriality in US Black spaces. H. Rap communicates:

 

Given the destruction by slavery of both tribe and culture, negroes create a new kind of american tribalism. A tribalism based on the exclusion of certain types. A deliberate attempt to make race a secondary consideration. There are tribes and tribes of negroes. The A.K.A. tribe, Kappa tribe, Doctor tribe, Teacher tribe, Entertainer tribe, High School tribe, College tribe, etc. This tribalism has extended into what is called the “Movement.” “Militant” tribes compete against other “militant” tribes and “moderate” tribes, to promote tribal interests and not the interests of the race or the masses. We treat revolution as if it is an historic process rather an evolutionary movement. In other words, we all got a monopoly on truth. Whites who consider themselves allies add to this by deciding which tribe is “correct” and which is “incorrect.” In other words, the one which best fits their needs.

pg. 16

White folks get all righteous and wonder why Black people steal and gamble. Same reason white folks do. We need money, because the society says you must have it to keep from starving. If you got it, you eat. If you don’t, tough. But white people are able to make their stealing and gambling legitimate. White man’ll sell you a $20 suit for $50 and call it good business. What he actually did was steal $30. White man’ll buy a watch for $5.00 sell it for $49.95 and call the difference, profit. Profit is a nice word for stealing which the society has legitimatized.

pg. 18

In this chapter, H. Rap introduces a character from his past by way of anecdote. J.S., throughout this chapter, comes to symbolize those academically capable but underprivileged US Blacks that schools leave behind. In his own words, H. Rap explicates:

The teachers had to tell J.S. he was smart, ’cause it was so obvious. But they made a point of letting him know that being smart wasn’t enough if your hair was uncombed, your clothes a little dirty, your skin a little ashy and your manners not the best. In other words, you may be smart,
but are black!

pg 21

This passage is pregnant like a rabbit with insights. Reading this not only reminded me of my own adolescence but also public treatment of Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas. When she became Individual All-Around Champion at London’s 2012 Summer Olympics, Gabby was attacked for hair, not applauded for her achievements. Even in that realm of athletics, public opinion reduces Blackness to superficial appearance.

 

H. Rap continues his discussion on US Education and US Blacks:

 

Education in america has to be viewed as propaganda machinery. All educational systems are propaganda machines, but for Black people, the american educational system is a propaganda machine we don’t need. It propagandizes against us. It makes us hate ourselves.

pg 21

We discuss noted scholar of propaganda, Jacques Ellul’s rules for propaganda, and I believe H. Rap’s labeling here fits well into that framework.

 

He writes further:

Part of my mother’s whole attempt to make us a part of negro america was that she took us out of McKinley High and sent us to Southern High. Anybody who could pay $12 a year could go and that was for the activities card…it was really set up so the teachers at Southern wouldn’t have to send their children to school with Black kids. It was a crock of shit, but it had an air of “respectability.”

Busing Black children to schools outside the Black community is nothing but a move to divide the community. If integration is what’s wanted, then bus the whole community. But to take individuals out of the community is a very dangerous and immoral thing. The “brightest” students are taken, students who can fit into the white man’s program best, and they’re bused out the community so they can come back and articulate the white man’s program.

pg 21 – 22

So, not only is H. Rap defining this USAmerican Educational system as a propaganda machine because it “makes Blacks hate themselves”. He is also referring to how this system establishes a hierarchy of local level schools based on race. He shows how integration is less a process of social equality, but actually, another means by which US Blacks class themselves vis-a-vis a US Black collective.

 

I am one of those US Blacks that believes race is less important of a determination for loyalty than those you locally choose to be loyal to. Most of my considerations poured into US Black Media Trust is founded on my disdain for distant and unconditional race-based fictive kinship. Just because two people find themselves living on same street or block does not make them “close” or “related”. I do, however, agree that if we are going to blatantly (as opposed to tacitly) group ourselves, then our schooling should be grouped as well. Any form of exclusiveness within our blatantly–that is verbally and not assumed– defined group is bound to create exclusion.

 

That said, I do believe that H. Rap is pointing more toward forms of Toxic Assimilation than blind fictive kinship obligations.

 

 

I was always at odds with teachers. There are certain things in negro institutions that you have to do if you expect to make good grades and certain things you don’t do. One of those things is you don’t talk back. You don’t challenge the existing order. Well, I challenge anything that doesn’t make good sense.

pg 23

 

“…I challenge anything that doesn’t make good sense.”

 

I am not sure one could blame me for highlighting that passage, it contains a soundbite for these ages! In his concluding paragraphs, we revisit J.S. H. Rap explains that while still brilliant with math, he was in trouble with law enforcement. H. Rap states that J.S. was sentenced to life in prison before he was able to finish tutoring H. Rap in his college level math. He was eighteen.

 

He was rebelling against the way the cards were stacked against him and even his rebellion was a stacked deck.

pg 25