In The Mis-Education of the Negro, Dr. Carter G. Woodson wrote, “When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.”
Although published 84 years ago, Dr. Woodson’s thesis remains true today. Woodson argued that “Blacks of his day were being culturally indoctrinated, rather than taught, in American schools. This conditioning, he claims, causes Blacks to become dependent and to seek out inferior places in the greater society of which they are a part.”
Dr. Woodson’s comments on controlling a man’s thinking came to mind when Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs announced that he was interested in buying the Carolina Panthers- an NFL team that is being put up for sale after the current season, due in part to a growing investigation of sexual misconduct and racist language attributed to Carolina Panthers owner, Jerry Richardson.
Combs expressed interest via Twitter in purchasing the team.
Combs is a businessman, rapper, songwriter, actor, record producer, and entrepreneur. In 2017, he was listed in the Forbes Magazine as the highest-ranking entertainer with an estimated net worth of 820 million dollars. Other Black men such as NBA player for the Golden State Warriors, Steph Curry and blackballed NFL Player Colin Kaepernick have expressed interest in joining Combs in taking his words from a tweet to reality.
I expected many White people to tell Diddy that owning an NFL was impossible. The oppressor will always seek to keep the oppressed, oppressed. And true to form many White people did voice their opinions telling Diddy how foolish he was even to make the statement that was interested in buying the Carolina Panthers. However, many Black people decided to voice their opinions as well, with most letting Diddy know that believing that he could actually own the Carolina Panthers was a foolish dream. Henry Wofford, an African-American sports reporter, for Bay Area TV station KRON4 recently came under fire for his remarks, regarding Combs buying the team. Wofford said, “How can you take Diddy seriously? The guy looks high right there in that video. He looks like he just smoked a blunt and drank a 40.” After the backlash, Wofford issued an apology.
While I would like to say that I am surprised by Wofford’s comments and other Black people that think like him, I am not shocked. When you are so used to just being the player, it is difficult for your mind to conceive that you could actually own the team. When it is so ingrained in you that your success is dependent upon what a White person will allow you to have, you never seek to believe that you can have anything else outside of what they are offering you. When you are so used to allowing a White person’s vision for your life to set the parameters of your dreams, it is easy to tell Combs what he cannot have. This way of thinking is nothing new. Malcolm X spoke about this way of thinking at Michigan State University over 50 years ago. Malcolm X said, “So you have two types of Negro. The old type and the new type. Most of you know the old type. When you read about him in history during slavery he was called “Uncle Tom.” He was the house Negro. And during slavery you had two Negroes. You had the house Negro and the field Negro.
The house Negro usually lived close to his master. He dressed like his master. He wore his master’s second-hand clothes. He ate food that his master left on the table. And he lived in his master’s house–probably in the basement or the attic–but he still lived in the master’s house.
So whenever that house Negro identified himself, he always identified himself in the same sense that his master identified himself. When his master said, “We have good food,” the house Negro would say, “Yes, we have plenty of good food.” “We” have plenty of good food. When the master said that “we have a fine home here,” the house Negro said, “Yes, we have a fine home here.” When the master would be sick, the house Negro identified himself so much with his master he’d say, “What’s the matter boss, we sick?” His master’s pain was his pain. And it hurt him more for his master to be sick than for him to be sick himself. When the house started burning down, that type of Negro would fight harder to put the master’s house out than the master himself would.
But then you had another Negro out in the field. The house Negro was in the minority. The masses–the field Negroes were the masses. They were in the majority. When the master got sick, they prayed that he’d die. If his house caught on fire, they’d pray for a wind to come along and fan the breeze.
If someone came to the house Negro and said, “Let’s go, let’s separate,” naturally that Uncle Tom would say, “Go where? What could I do without boss? Where would I live? How would I dress? Who would look out for me?” That’s the house Negro. But if you went to the field Negro and said, “Let’s go, let’s separate,” he wouldn’t even ask you where or how. He’d say, “Yes, let’s go.” And that one ended right there.
So now you have a twentieth-century-type of house Negro. A twentieth-century Uncle Tom. He’s just as much an Uncle Tom today as Uncle Tom was 100 and 200 years ago. Only he’s a modern Uncle Tom. That Uncle Tom wore a handkerchief around his head. This Uncle Tom wears a top hat. He’s sharp. He dresses just like you do. He speaks the same phraseology, the same language. He tries to speak it better than you do. He speaks with the same accents, same diction. And when you say, “your army,” he says, “our army.” He hasn’t got anybody to defend him, but anytime you say “we” he says “we.” “Our president,” “our government,” “our Senate,” “our congressmen,” “our this and our that.” And he hasn’t even got a seat in that “our” even at the end of the line. So this is the twentieth-century Negro. Whenever you say “you,” the personal pronoun in the singular or in the plural, he uses it right along with you. When you say you’re in trouble, he says, “Yes, we’re in trouble.”
But there’s another kind of Black man on the scene. If you say you’re in trouble, he says, “Yes, you’re in trouble.” He doesn’t identify himself with your plight whatsoever.”
It has been said that Harriet Tubman said, “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” While the validity of attributing this quote to Harriet Tubman has been called into question, the sentiment of the quote remains true. Some Black people will never see that they are slaves to a system. Some Black people will never believe that they can have more than what a White person chooses to give them. In a world where many Black people are content eating the crumbs that fall from the table, it is difficult to teach some Black people that they do not need to settle for crumbs but can indeed cook their own meal.
When you know nothing but oppression, it is difficult to believe that you can have freedom. But you can, and that freedom starts with the simple belief that you can have everything that you have ever desired. Black people you can dare to dream. You can dare to believe that what they say is impossible is in fact, possible. Know that when people tell you something is impossible, they are speaking out of their own fear or their desire to keep you in a specific position often for their gain. Black people, you can own and know your worth. Do not underestimate your value. White people have pimped your value for their gain for centuries. Those days are over. You do not have to settle. Black people you do not have to believe what they have told you about you. You write your own story. You are the offspring of greatness, brilliance, and excellence.
Combs dares to believe. Perhaps that is why he rose from a young Black kid from Harlem to the highest paid entertainer on the Forbes list. As Dr. Woodson wrote, “History shows that it does not matter who is in power…those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they did in the beginning.” Going into a New Year if I can implore Black people to do anything, I would ask for us to dream, to set a vision and then do everything within your power to act on that vision. To support other Black men and women that have a dream. Believe that we can have anything that we desire. That anything we want is possible. That we do not always have to be the players, but we can own the team. We are the masters of our destiny. We are not beholden to anyone to fulfill our destiny. Understand that we stand on the shoulders of giants. Genius is inscribed on our DNA. All we have to do is believe.