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The H3O/Art of Life Blog

  • The H3O/Art of Life Blog

Artificial IQ: The Historio-Philosophical Origins of Ideas, Part Two

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

By Dr. Josef Ben Levi Presented by Omni-U Virtual University

Most non-Black teachers who teach and assess Black children are completely unaware of and, in most cases, don't really care to know about the linguistic background of many of the children they teach. They are often completely unaware of the syntactical and morphological structures of African languages so that, when they hear a child dropping a "consonant cluster," i.e. "ct" at the end of words such as object (objek), reject (rejek), respect (respek), or collect (collek), they think the child is suffering from some sort of speech impediment and should therefore be corrected and labeled as speech deficient or learning disabled. What is really wrong with this is proof that it is the teacher - not the child -who is suffering from the disability. Such teachers have been so indoctrinated with the "normal curve" worldview, that they are blinded to the simple cultural differences related to West African and Central Africa language patterns which are carry-overs from those cultures. (Dillard, 1972; Smitherman, 1977; Smith, 1980) That is why I was struck by the way in which the idea of labeling has been socially constructed in the educational system. This form of stereotype-casting has a long and interesting intellectual history. This process has been formed into a “naturalization” event and therefore, perceived as normal for those who are viewed as outside of the “normal curve.” Those who are viewed as outside of this "normal curve" are -by extension- viewed as "abnormal," "deviant"- even "ill-bred." This form of the “pathos of distance” was created by those who usurped the right to create values and to name those values. This pathos creates a difference between the "nobles" and the "servile'' within the social order. Terms like "good", "well-born," "genteel," "capable," morally good," etc., are contrasted with those who are viewed as "ugly", "ill-born", "low-born," "base," "worthless, etc. Of course this insinuates that one’s parents and antecedents are also categorized in these same ways. Those parents on the "low-born" end of this perception are also viewed as "irresponsible." This "pathos of distance" has an equally important subset - the "pathos of nobility." It is an enduring, dominating, and overall fundamental feeling of higher order in relation to a lower kind which serves as an entrée into ideas found in opposites called ‘good’ and ‘bad’. It is the right of the "master" to confer names or labels on those viewed as "undesirables." Cotton Mather was one of America’s Puritan fathers who viewed Africans as the miserable children of Adam and Noah as well as that slavery was their ordained punishment. He viewed his "slaves" as his "children" who, through instruction in Christian tenets, would be eligible for "eternal life" in the beyond- provided they gave eternal and unquestioned service here on earth. Yet, it was well-established that the first group of Africans brought to the shores of America could not be "properly" trained in the tenets of Christianity because they were too rebellious. So, it was necessary to focus on the young ones who had not yet grown to become so stubborn. (Woodson, 1919). Yet, it was one of Cotton Mather’s enslaved Africans, Onomisus, who saved Boston and the colonies from an outbreak of smallpox by using the skills of traditional African medicine to heal the community. And he is still not recognized as the Father of Inoculations! In 1763, there were discussions about the consequences of instructing Africans. There was a fear that, through the process of education, they would then begin to emancipate their minds and demand liberation from the circumstances in which they and their ancestors had found themselves. Even the famous so-called “Great Emancipator” Abraham Lincoln, who never emancipated anyone -and particularly not ex-slaves- ( Cheatwood, 1991; Bennett, 2000), stated, in a speech he delivered on September 18, 1858, at Charleston, Illinois:

I say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races; that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say, in addition, to this, that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. This type of teleological thinking has led to a cultural lens through which the dominant culture began to represent the alleged "undesirable social groups" as “other and inferior.” The consequence of this was- and still is- the disenfranchisement of whole populations who are viewed as in need of “fixing” since they fall outside of what is viewed as the" norm." A good example of this is segregation and its negative impact on the education of African Americans. The "inferior" could be cast aside as unfit for societal largesse - such as education- since they were perceived as incapable of possessing the requisite cognitive tools, I.e. intelligence. This ideological strategy has worked very well in convincing policymakers and other scientific soothsayers to dehumanize whole populations of capable people regardless of so-called ethnic background (Gottfredson, 2005). These strategies of distinction- or pathologies of distance- were designed to distinguish what was considered the norm- “white males”- from those groups which should be regarded as subordinate to them. Since these are pre-established norms, they are not open to debate or to any alternative discourse. The question is deemed ideological in nature and is, therefore, seen as a mute topic unworthy of discussion. The established discourse already sterotype-casts and devalues the “other.” This form of objectification is maintained through conceptual incarceration- imprisoned thought processes- and constructed consciousness in which one group submits to a set of values or ideas that places them at a disadvantage (Hinchey, 2010). By objectifying the subject, the advocates of stereotype-casting and dehumanization can claim scientific objectivity while, at the same time, subjectively using their intellectual hegemony to characterize any and everyone they choose as outside of the "norm." Any counter-discourse that challenges this cleverly concocted "norm” would be problematic for the authors since they would find themselves reeling back on their heels trying to find a comfortable escape route. The consequences of the systemic violence perpetrated through these modern forms of labeling, based on normative assessment tools, has resulted in a "clash of cultures.'' This seems to serve as the foundation for psychometrical warfare on African American and other so-called "disadvantaged" populations (Hilliard, 1991). Psychometric assessment is a huge business enterprise and the field of mental measurement is culturally bound to the ‘normal’ standard established for some nebulous notion of a "superior" ethnic group. This is despite the fact that- as a scientific term- "Ethnos"/ people- from which we get the word "Ethnic"- was not in use before the 1950s (Sands, 2009). The perpetrators may be unaware of this systemic violence because it is so much a part of their social construct, their prescribed way of " looking at the world" and doing things in it. It is exceedingly difficult- if not impossible- for these people to maintain dominance in any way other than by aggression. The victims are usually oblivious, or in many cases, resigned to their condition of oppression because time and illusion have imposed on them what Paolo Freire calls a “fear of freedom”. (Friere, 1993) They have been reduced to objectified "things" and find it difficult even to imagine a state of liberation outside of the perspective of the perpetrators. "Conceptual incarceration" prevents the oppressed from engaging in emancipatory thinking. This assessment seems somewhat fatalistic and the die appears to have been cast. Yet, a way must be found to get to that glorious position where the lamp of knowledge cannot be dimmed by artificial assessments which impose systemic violence on students and administrators alike. Levels of intelligence and achievement should not be solely measured by -or limited to- matriculation from the academy to the exclusion of knowledge gained over time from life’s experiences as well. But where should we start?

We must start, I think, with the crisis of identity. How can we assess someone- or a people- who have an imposed identity- who does not know who they are or from whence they come; who has a prescribed sense of self, and an imposed illusion of the self and only mirages in front of them? We must first acquire a powerful gnosis, the ability to” know ourselves” in the words of the ancient Kemetic sages. This was passed on to Plato through his teacher, the great High Priest Sonches, at Heliopolis (Iwnu), (Clement, 2012) and then, as the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas says, “We will be known.” (Pagels,1979) Otherwise, providing tools that measure useless knowledge will only lead to more fallacious assumptions and synthetic predictions. When we begin to look at the issues with disability studies and the question of race, I think we begin to engage in a discourse that - to some extent- is lacking in the field especially, when it comes to those who claim to be "critical race theorists" (CRT), (Crenshaw, et al.,1995). While it is not my intention to re-interrogate CRT at this time, I do want to look at what I think are the intellectual foundations of the idea that racialized people- and particularly people of African descent- who are viewed as "intellectually disabled" and, therefore, incapable of engaging in higher order thinking or, for that matter, even being educable in the United States. This phenomenon is directed more toward Black young boys than any other social group.

To be continued in Part Three...

Recommended Reading Wayne Sebamurti Gentry. Arrested Development: Know Thyself. An H30 Art of Life Blog Ancestor Lerone Bennett, Jr. Forced Into Glory. Kiarri T.H. Cheatwood. The Race: Matters Concerning Pan Afrikan History, Culture and Genocide. Thomas DiLorenzo. Lincoln Unmasked.

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