How Subjugated Knowledge leads to a Flawed Self Identity in African Americans

By Shanara Chung, Opinion Writer

African Americans have received an education that was extremely flawed in which lessons of self-hatred and defeat were perpetrated with a lack of relevant background information. The relevant and valuable background information that should have been instilled, was instead hidden by the dominant race. African Americans were not equipped with the tools that they needed to prosper, but instead taught that they were inferior to the oppressor.  The things that they should have taken pride in, were presented in a way that downgraded these aspects of their identity. The negatives of the African American race and where they stood in society were brainwashed into their minds, but the reason why these setbacks even existed in the first place was withheld and disguised. The fact that vital knowledge of the identity, status, and oppression was and still is hidden in the curriculum of African Americans has lead to a flawed sense of self-identity.

Receiving an education is one of the basic principles in America, but what is most important is receiving a proper education that applies to the needs of individuals in the construct of society. Blacks had to fight for their right to an education, and when it was granted unto them, the education presented did not aid in the prosperity of African Americans at that time. For instance, in the era of reconstruction, white businesses prospered, however, this was not because whites possessed qualities that made them superior to blacks as they were taught to believe. This was based on the simple fact that blacks were not taught how to make their businesses prosper. There was a scarcity of agricultural and industrial education. Instead, they received a liberal education, which was of no use to them at the time.  They were advanced in science, math, and languages. What good is being well learned in those subject manners to someone who was a laborer all their lives? African Americans were taught that excelling in these subjects were the key to their success and prosperity when that was not the case at all. We are lead to think that the reason why blacks did not prosper was due to some kind of inferiority, but in fact, it was because of the systematic oppression that caused blacks to be at the bottom end of the economy.

The same qualities that were embedded within them, were portrayed in an ill-favored manner. For instance, when students were studying language in schools, the African American dialect was portrayed in a distasteful manner, causing students to scorn it rather than embrace it as a unique quality. They should have been taught that that very language was something that their descendants used to uplift each other and communicate in times of bondage. Instead, however, they were taught the significance of the languages of other races before they were taught to understand the importance in their own.

Due to the fact that African Americans were taught the restrictions and bondage that came with being black in America, but not why these negatives existed nor the cause of them, they are left to believe that they are the ones to blame for things that happened throughout history.  African Americans should be taught what really lies in their bloodline. That they are the descendants of ancient Africans whose scientific knowledge was used to concoct poisons for arrowheads, mix colors for paintings, to extract metals from nature. They should be taught that Moors were rulers who made prominent findings in science and taught the Europeans how to bathe themselves.

Throughout time, African Americans have been made to believe that a lot of things that have happened and the ways that they lack in socially and economically is due to some flaw in themselves. As Carter G Woodson stated, “to handicap a student by teaching him that his black face is a curse is the worst sort of lynching”. However, if all knowledge in its full capacity of the background and self-identity were taught then that self-hatred can be replaced with self-pride. As stated by poet Nina Simone, “There’s a world waiting for you. This is a quest that’s just begun .. oh but joy of today. Is what we can all be proud to say. To be young gifted and black is where it’s at.”


A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 20th print edition.

Contact Shanara at

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