Professor Corie Muhammad: On Education And Confronting The "New Jim Crow"

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HBCU's produced the majority of our most luminary, and influential people from among our ranks such as, W.E.B. Dubois, Martin Luther King Jr, Thurgood Marshall, Oprah Winfrey, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Toni Morrison, Kwame Nkrumah, and scores more.


[Education]

On
a recent visit to the Historically Black College, Alabama State
University, in Montgomery, Alabama. I had the honor and privilege of
conversing with Professor Corie Muhammad about everything from the
importance of HBCUs, the bombardment of sex, violence and materialism
in today's mainstream media, to Ameica's spending on prison as opposed to education
. Here's how it went.

Edwin
Freeman: Hello Mr. Muhammad. Can you please tell us a little about
yourself and how you came to be a Professor at the Historically Black
College, Alabama State University.



Corie Muhammad: Peace Brother Edwin
Freeman, first of all I would like to thank you, and Black Star News
for always bringing our community useful, current and engaging news on a
consistent basis. I have been a long time reader of Black Star News,
and I truly enjoy your commentary as well. I am currently a Professor at
Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama. I am a native of
Lansing, Michigan, I attended Alabama State University for undergraduate
school, and I attended Boston College for graduate school. Besides my
academic pursuits, I am also a basketball coach, and most importantly I
am a husband, and father.


EF: How important do you feel HBCU's are to Black students and Blacks in America as a whole?

CM:
In terms of how important HBCU's are to Black students and Blacks in
America as a whole, I think they are extremely important. Black Colleges
were created for a couple of reasons. First off, Black people after the
end of our physical enslavement, were very much concerned about
reconnecting with separated family members, getting land, and providing
educational opportunities. Secondly, White people were very much
concerned about what to do with this newly freed class of people, and
what kind of education they would receive. So HBCU's were started out of
a context of how could they serve Black people, both for their own, and
the majority White society. Thus, HBCU's provided educational
opportunities for Black people in this country when White Racism
disallowed Blacks from going to White institutions in the north as well
as the south. So, HBCU's have historically been the primary place of
Black people earning a college education. HBCU's produced the majority
of our most luminary, and influential people from among our ranks such
as, W.E.B. Dubois, Martin Luther King Jr, Thurgood Marshall, Oprah
Winfrey, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Toni Morrison, Kwame Nkrumah, and
scores more. Therefore it is this type of legacy that HBCU's have given
to Black people, the United States, and the world. So, Black colleges
are very important. Lastly, even though Black colleges no longer receive
the majority of Black college bound students, and also accept a large
number of underprepared High School Graduates, they still produce the
majority of Blacks obtaining Ph.D's, Federal Judges, Medical Doctors,
and about half of all Black engineers in this country, and this is with
limited resources, and bad leadership a lot of times. So, the question
is where would Black people, and America be without HBCU's? Yes, they
are more important now than at any other time in our history. We must
fight to protect them, and support them with both financial, and human
capital.

EF: Please talk to us about the presence of Black male students on college campuses or the lack thereof.
CM:
In terms of Black males on college campuses today, we have to always
look at our situation with an eye towards history. Black males have
always been under attack in this country, and the western hemisphere
since we were brought to these shores in the holds of slave ships. So,
there is this unstated, but often implied assumption that when we talk
about Black males, and their lack of visibility on campuses that it is
primarily because they are not taking advantage of opportunities, and
that they are lazy. So, when you ask me that question I always think
about the law of cause and effect, which is in action in all that we do
and see. Black males are on campus, but I think that we need more. We
need to promote our strong legacy of Black people desiring,
establishing, and achieving education in this country, as well as the
legacy of education that we gave the world as African people. This is
our tradition, and Black males need to be explicitly told that this is
who they are, and that they have a duty to grab hold of it. Also, Black
people, and the government must be forced to put up money, and resources
to increase the number of Black male college graduates, and skilled
tradesmen. This is our duty, and responsibility as a people to our boys,
and men, and it is also the duty of the government. Let me say this,
Black people in America are not like any other group except maybe the
Native American. We were brought here as enslaved people, to be burden
bearers for capitalism, and the whole Western world. This was carried
out in a systematic, organized way. And there are legacies, benefits,
privileges, setbacks, and exclusions that have been developed by both
Black and White people in this country as a result of this system of
enslavement. By the way, in terms of years, Black people have been free
for a shorter period of time than we were physically enslaved. So, this
is why I say that we have a unique history in this country unlike any
other group of people, and this is why I also said the government has a
large role to play along with Black people in helping increase the
number of Black males graduating from both college, and trade schools.
But, like I stated in the beginning of this answer, Black males have
always been under attack, and since the idea of White Supremacy has yet
to die, many people in this country still view the rise of Black males
as a direct threat to their success, so we have to always keep that in
mind.

EF:
Over the past decade America as a whole has fallen behind in the areas
of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math). How can we as
Americans and Blacks in particular change this position in the next
decade?
CM:
Yes, it is true that the United States as a nation has fallen behind in
math and science, and so has Black people who live here. As the old
saying goes "When White people have a cold, Black people have the flu",
our condition is much more pressing than the majorities condition, which
is very bad. I think with all things, if you plan well, you usually get
good results. It is not a mystery how one can produce more competent
people in math and science, just like it is not a mystery how one can
produce a better jumpshot, golf swing, or deer hunting shot, it has to
be on purpose. There is a book out now by Dr. Anthony Muhammad titled
"The Will to Lead and the Skill to Teach" which touches on the fact that
we already know what to do to have successful students in all schools,
and in all subjects. There is enough research that has been done, plenty
of case studies showing models of success, but the problem is the will
to do these things is not there. Now, I am not saying that this lack of
will in the U.S. to not implement what we already know works in
producing skilled people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering &
Math) is just lack laziness and ignorance. That may be part of the
problem, but I also believe that there is an element in this Nation who
also plan to keep the majority of the U.S. citizens weak in the STEM
areas. Am I a conspiracy theorist? No I am not, there are such things as
conspiracies and I think this is one of them. I ask you these questions
to help with my view. Do credit card companies benefit financially from
Americans borrowing more than they save? Do fast food companies benefit
financially from Americans cooking less at home? Do drug companies
benefit from Americans being on more prescription medication than any
other time in our history? The answer to all of these questions are yes,
so therefore people actually benefit from a small group of people being
competent in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math, which are the
core 21st century skills. It is these area's that have led to people
creating businesses that produce tremendous wealth. So, what would
happen if more people became competent in STEM, you would have more
slices of the pie going around instead of just a few people at the top
with the most slices, and the STEM challenged majority fighting for a
slice, and some crumbs. I think Black people should make it a priority
in developing these skills in our homes with our children, in our
religious houses by setting up teams, and tutoring. All of our
socializing institutions need to make creating these skills a priority.
Little league football and basketball teams should re-enforce these
skills, and then celebrate our children who develop these skills with
great fanfare, prizes etc. Let if be known that in addition to awarding,
and celebrating singers, athletes, and good speakers, we will also
celebrate Science, Technology, Engineering & Math, this is what we
must do. If we get with successful groups who are already doing this
among Black people, and duplicate their efforts, we won't have to
re-invent the wheel.

EF:
With the current bombardment of sex, violence & materialism in
today's mainstream media. How important do you feel it is for Blacks to
make education a major priority?
CM:
Yes, there is much sex, violence & materialism on television, and
in mainstream media in general. This is something that has been
happening for the last twenty five years, it seems each year the radio,
and television becomes more low down. And this is having a major impact
on our society. In fact there is plenty of evidence that shows that the
more that people watch the news, the more negative opinions they form of
Black people. This holds true for Black news watchers as well. Why is
this? Because the law of cause and effect is in action. If you
constantly have these negative images of Black people in mainstream
media, this is how we will start to believe Black people are. And if you
show it long enough, you start getting the "Self Fulfilling Prophesy"
of Black people acting out these images. So, you can take that principle
to every other area where shame, decency, and self respect seem to be
eroding by the day. We all have contradictions in our lives when it
comes to right and wrong; however, when you have a society that's trying
to legislate and make fair seeming those contradictions that is a
different story. Lastly, we as Black people used to be able to say as a
whole " Black people don't do this", or "Black people don't do that",
today we can't honestly say that anymore. We have lost our way as the
moral vanguard in this country that our history has shown us to be, and
we must get back to that.

EF:
Last but not least, I'd like for you to address America's spending on
Prisons versus their spending on Higher Education. What is your opinion
on the disparities?
CM:
In terms of America spending more on prison than on education when it
comes to per pupil expenses, it shows you that there is a conspiracy
going on. Michelle Alexander's book "The New Jim Crow" gives an
excellent insight into this conspiracy to increase the prison population
especially of Black males, and females. There is no way to explain how
Black people make up the majority of the prisoners in this nation, yet
are not the majority population. It is numerically impossible for Blacks
to commit the most crimes, because we lack the numbers to do so. There
is most likely over policing in the Black community, and under policing
in the White community. Also, as I mentioned earlier the Honorable
Elijah Muhammad said that history is best qualified to reward our
research: Thus history shows that Black people have always been
disproportionately locked up compared to their White counterparts. This
took place during our physical enslavement, as well as during the Jim
Crow Era. We know that during those times this focus on locking up, and
controlling Black males was done on purpose, and with an agenda, in
other words a conspiracy. So, I ask, what evidence do we have from then
until now, that should convince us that this is not a conspiracy today?
That's something that we need to seriously think about.

EF: Thank you for your time Mr. Muhammad.
CM: Thank you for your time, and keep up the good work at Black Star News. Peace!



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