Personal Testimony: The Agony of the Black Scholar in the White World
Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 58, No. 10 (June 1977), pp. 746-750
6 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2013
Date Written: 1977
An informal discussion among a group of black graduate students in economics at M.I.T. on plans to relate the tools and concepts we were learning to other black students evolved into a continued debate on the role of the black scholar, particularly the black economist, in the survival of black colleges and universities. The discussion became a debate because at least one of us had based his argument on the unstated premise that "relating the tools and concepts" of economics to black students implied going to teach in a black college. We agreed that in the past black schools have played a vital role in the lives of our communities. They have provided us with most of our community leaders, professionals, teachers, businessmen, and businesswomen. We disagreed on what the optimal trajectory for future growth of black colleges and universities should be. Should black schools continue to share the increasing burden of preparing the masses in our urban ghettos and long neglected rural districts for a technological society by teaching specific job related skills and techniques? Should black schools be indistinguishable from the wide range of their white counter parts in providing services, except that they should maintain a distinctive cultural heritage? Or should black schools provide the ideological vehicle for a true black revolution led by a broadly trained, aware elite? If, for efficiency's sake, some of our schools must die, should the criterion for survival be the existence of an absolute and not only a comparative advantage in reaching any set of black people's educational objectives?
Keywords: black scholar, agony, difficulties, MIT
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation