Sunday, 20 November 2011 01:50

On Black Phenomenon, Knowledge Oracle and Financial Racial Educator's Imagination

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Often times racism and investment education collide with the rancor of poverty, black containment, and race stereotypes. This brief expose takes on Harvard Financial Educator, Dee Lee, on the notion that blacks cannot read let alone emancipate through financial investment.

I was not shocked out of reason, nonetheless, to read an e-mail article forwarded to me by a community person of mine on financial racial education by a financial educator at Harvard, Dee Lee. Evidently, Dee Lee’s concern is that black people cannot read and take opportunity to invest wisely and come out of financial poverty and enslavement. She argues that blacks are contained like motor vehicles (italics mine) and whites will continue to enslave them by driving them around; and now even without physical chains. Enslaving the black’s brain to avoid mental escape is working in financial ignorance and opportunity to the advantage of white people. Dee Lee summed up her argument with this statement:

Yes, we will continue to contain them as long as they refuse to read, continue to buy anything they want, and keep thinking they are 'helping' their communities by paying dues to organizations which do little other than hold lavish conventions in our hotels. By the way, don't worry about any of them reading this letter, remember, 'THEY DON'T READ!!!!

Perhaps’ what Dee Lee did not remember to add is something like this …by massively looting their countries’ assets, resources, treasures and treasuries and by sending their sons and daughters and girl friends to us to keep, educate, train and retain in our political and geographical economy – we are Lords to them. Our hospitals and health institutions are open doors their corrupt investment and loots help to furnish and revamp – therefore our caring and support system continues to be on the cutting edge of science and technology needs – thanks to their ignorance and believe that we have got it all. They do not realize that our system works not because we are better but because we do not keep our mouths shut in the way our democracy functions towards monitoring and reporting violation to our humanity and human rights, laziness and evil. We do not buy and sell votes. Voting is our power and weapon to think and act. It is governed by a political time to sustain, modify, elect and reject performance and vision. Direction of our lives and conditions that shape that direction are crucial to our survival, relationship with others and total existence.

I want to point out therefore who are the black people Dee Lee is focusing on? And, indeed, when black people are referred to - what is in the mind of the referrer and the referred? In his celebrated book, Heart of Darkness (1988) by Joseph Conrad (edited by Robert Kimbrough of the University of Wisconsin, 3rd ed.) celebrated as A Norton Critical Edition; recaptured is the story of George Washington Williams, a Black American who was in Congo of Africa at the same time as Joseph Conrad.

This book tried to reconcile and differentiate the diverse perceptions the two story tellers had of Africa, namely Congo/Zaire’s historical background and its peoples at the time of Belgian intervention under King Leopold 11.

Since the publication of this novel and its subsequent editions, it has faced different interpretations by both westerners and third world writers like Chinua Achebe, Wilson Harris, and Frances Sigh. For example, Chinua Achebe’s title of his critique of the novel: “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”, is even self explanatory (p. 251). One straight line pointer of Achebe’s hallway chat with a student suggests that the way black people are stereotyped and compounded into heaps of imaginations and wonderings contested and continues to challenge the fact that black people are yet to be understood in their new find lives in the global connect of our time. The lives of people – individuals and groups everywhere is full of odd customs and superstitions as Chinua Achebe showed; and we need now to follow and understand that we may not necessarily travel to local communities today to experience those odds in order to see “first hand” as anthropologists would say, and get a picture of how they feel, think and act in a modern global encounter. The person standing there before you from the imagined local community is a symbol of reflection of his native land. He is his native persona and mouth-piece about the changing way of people – in the Diaspora. According to Chinua Achebe, the Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as “the other world,” the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization, a place where man’s vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant bestiality (p. 252). Furthermore, Achebe pointed out in the conclusion of his submission that:

Conrad saw and condemned the evil of imperial exploitation but was strangely unaware of the racism on which it sharpened its iron tooth. But the victims of racist slander who for centuries have had to live with the inhumanity it makes them heir to have always known better than any casual visitor even when he comes loaded with gifts of a Conrad (p. 262).

Putting all of these in context, Dee Lee, a Harvard financial educator recently has gone air strong to lambast Africans as folks who are packed with a new cultural environmental knowledge for financial investment but cannot access the system around them. That Africans have remained poor because they cannot read financial knowledge sources and apply them to themselves. Development is not a landing, nose-diving leap, it is like a step by step fire ladder of escape, with a target to reality in the upward curve.

Questioning how to be a Canadian, and in our case, African, even if you already are one; Will Ferguson and Ian Ferguson (2001), suggested that “Why I Hate Canadians” became a guidebook for new comers on how to be positive and progressive Canadians. That is to say, why Conrad’s novel is a book of why one should hate Africans – provides a cue for reflection. It is also a novel that did shine light on the creativity of local and international cultural quirks. In other words, cultural encounters swim up and down the bellies of fishes and shrimps – helping to put sea torrent soaker and wave on the clear and hidden cultural foibles, habits, eccentricities, traits, whims, oddities, peculiarities and idiosyncrasies as opposed to cultural twists of fate, fluke and coincidence.

What is a cultural or racial agnostic? I refer to What People Believe: A Study of the World’s Great Faiths (Vol. 11, 1983), in which Evans Moynes Martinello draws from Bertrand Russell on page thirteen captioned “What is an Agnostic?” For Bertrand Russell, an agnostic thinks it is impossible to know all we need to know – the truth in matters such as God and the future life with which Christianity and other religions are concerned. Likewise, cultures have belief systems and values that guide how they operate, change and continue. We cannot predetermine how all these can be in their becoming. The point is it is equally important to engage in a cultural gaze to understand people like Dee Lee and financial education to escape from African poverty of reading and lack of audacity to apply the knowledge of what is read. Where do the ethics lie?

A Confucian ethics captures more of the substance of a cultural plight as it will benefit our thinking here on the question of humanity – the African humanity – on the issue of Heart of Darkness and the African uneasiness to read given the argument by Dee Lee that I have mentioned – that Africans cannot read, discover and financially invest and shun poverty.

In the real and ethereal Confucian world, it is held that when someone asks what humanity means, the Confucian answer is “love men.” Followed by the fact that to understand humanity and put it in practice, one should be able to observe and practice the embodied FIVE VIRTUES of cultures and humanity. The five virtues are, namely – courtesy, magnanimity, good faith, diligence and kindness. The Parable on the Mount of these virtues is important in the study of racism and ethnicity – to read or not to read and invest. To put it nearly and clearly as I can; let me pull it out as Evans Moynes Martinello has listed them; and then add comments as below:

1. He who is courteous is not humiliated

Inversely, racism which has continued to endure does not facilitate cultural courtesy as it should be, though tolerance has improved with conservatism.

2. He who is magnanimous wins the multitude

On the opposite side of the matter, magnanimity comes into play under forced human rights law and amnesty international interventions and human rights watches – it is yet to become a commonly shared and executed pattern in Africa from where immigrants come and live in the west to the nightmare of Dee Lee.

3. He who is of good faith is trusted by the people

But on the divergent strong view, whites do not trust blacks. It takes a long road to emancipate the white to believe in the black. Black is a lack in the white, let us not forget the ideology of race and racism. Dee Lee knows this well.

4. He who is diligent attains his objective

On the contrary, to be tireless, determined and assiduous has all limits one can go – either one (African race) is profiled or not on a level one can be accepted to attain. It takes greater diligence to break the race ceiling and we need to know this inhumane face of the race complex to be seriously and awesomely true.

5. And he who is kind can get service from the people

Dissimilarly, African friendship, and indeed, kindness has not gone a long way in a competitive investment and business strategy-making despite how much they try to be kind. Sometimes African kindness has been misinterpreted as laziness and excess charity and reciprocity.

What Confucian ethics exposed here is helpful. It is so helpful in that without humanity a person cannot long endure adversity, nor can he long enjoy prosperity. The humane, he showed rests in humanity; the wise, in other words, the White, find it beneficial. But how far is the white conqueror and fortune determiner – for individuals and nations eager to take this ethical prescription and live with it? Apparently the Confucian philosophy and theology of the human race and racial idiosyncrasy is that political, economic and financial environment for investment must meet the above five categories of human virtues.

While there is a loss and benefit analysis in using philosophy and ethics to prompt investment by people like Dee Lee, it is certain that African poor attitude to reading knowledge in books and materials should not be counted to be against them because cultures have their own ways of knowing and doing things. African communities in the western world are mainly of the educated class. And that does not in itself conclude that to read guarantees that one will become curious to invest and become a financial wizard and therefore liberate poverty and financial racism. I contest Dee Lee’s position that she has mistakenly stereotyped the African business sense and sensitivity to business and investment. Africans invest and learn. Ways of gathering information for the African is not by reading alone. Oral system – passing of information or knowledge by word of mouth – other than written knowledge system works for the African. And if reading has not worked to attract African investment interest, it suggests that other ways can be tried and promoted. Black people have continued to be a critical human and economic phenomenon of the world to practice race conflicts, opportunities, investments and growth. Investment racism is hurting!

Below in the box is Dee Lee’s systemic slave minded and provocative racial article we need to know about.

Dee Lee, CFP
Harvard Financial Educators

THEY ARE STILL OUR SLAVES: We can continue to reap profits from the Blacks without the effort of physical slavery. Look at the current methods of containment that they use on themselves: IGNORANCE, GREED, and SELFISHNESS.Their IGNORANCE is the primary weapon of containment. A great man once said, 'The best way to hide something from Black people is to put it in a book.' We now live in the Information Age. They have gained the opportunity to read any book on any subject through the efforts of their fight for freedom, yet they refuse to read. There are numerous books readily available not to mention their own Black Bookstores that provide solid blueprints to reach economic equality (which should have been their fight all along), but few read consistently, if at all.

GREED is another powerful weapon of containment. Blacks, since the abolition of slavery, have had large amounts of money at their disposal. Last year they spent 10 billion dollars during Christmas, out of their 450 billion dollars in total yearly income (2.22%).

Any of us can use them as our target market, for any business venture we care to dream up, no matter how outlandish, they will buy into it. Being primarily a consumer people, they function totally by greed. They continually want more, with little thought for saving or investing.

They would rather buy some new sneaker than invest in starting a business. Some even neglect their children to have the latest Tommy or FUBU, And they still think that having a Mercedes, and a big house gives them 'Status' or that they have achieved their Dream.

They are fools! The vast majority of their people are still in poverty because their greed holds them back from collectively making better communities. With the help of BET, and the rest of their black media that often broadcasts destructive images into their own homes, we will continue to see huge profits like those of Tommy and Nike. They'll continue to show off to each other while we build solid communities with the profits from our businesses that we market to them.

SELFISHNESS, ingrained in their minds through slavery, is one of the major ways we can continue to contain them. One of their own, Dubois said that there was an innate division in their culture. A 'Talented Tenth' he called it. He was correct in his deduction that there are segments of their culture that has achieved some 'form' of success..
However, that segment missed the fullness of his work. They didn't read that the 'Talented Tenth' was then responsible to aid The Non-Talented
Ninety Percent in achieving a better life. Instead, that segment has created another class, a Buppie class that looks down on their people or aids them in a condescending manner. They will never achieve what we have. Their selfishness does not allow them to be able to work together on any project or endeavor of substance. When they do get together, their selfishness lets their egos get in the way of their goal Their so-called help organizations seem to only want to promote their name without making any real change in their community.

They are content to sit in conferences and conventions in our hotels, and talk about what they will do, while they award plaques to the best speakers, not to the best doers. Is there no end to their selfishness? They steadfastly refuse to see that TOGETHER EACH ACHIEVES MORE ( TEAM )

They do not understand that they are no better than each other because of what they own, as a matter of fact, most of those Buppies are but one or two pay checks away from poverty. All of which is under the control of our pens in our offices and our rooms.

Yes, we will continue to contain them as long as they refuse to read, continue to buy anything they want, and keep thinking they are 'helping' their communities by paying dues to organizations which do little other than hold lavish conventions in our hotels. By the way, don't worry about any of them reading this letter, remember, 'THEY DON'T READ!!!!

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Patrick Iroegbu Ph.D

Patrick Iroegbu is a Social and Cultural (Medical) Anthropologist and lectures Anthropology in Canada. He is the author of Marrying Wealth, Marrying Poverty: Gender and Bridewealth Power in a Changing African Society: The Igbo of Nigeria (2007). He equally co-ordinates the Kpim Book Series Project of Father-Prof. Pantaleon Foundation based at Owerri, Nigeria. Research interests include gender and development, migration, race and ethnic relation issues, as well as Igbo Medicine, Social Mental Health and Cultural Studies.