The Education of Eric Wattree: Or The Impact Of the Black Experience on This Black Man

-A +A

Eric Wattree

[Beneath The Spin]

Ocean-Kat, you said,

"I think you experienced discrimination as a black child in school and as a result you project those feelings onto most everything you see. Its a terrible thing that so many black children were made to feel stupid in school and terrible that prejudice still continues to this day. But you're a grown man with many accomplishments. Isn't it time you moved beyond that childhood discrimination."

Kat, you’re laboring under a grossly erroneous assumption here. Yes, I’ve felt anger and frustration over the stupidity of bigots. But I've never felt any resentment or any other affects from the discriminatory traditions in this country other than a sense of profound superiority due to a lifelong recognition of the childishness and transparent insecurity from which bigotry stems.

You've speculated about the downside of the affects of the Black experience, now look at the upside.  Consider how reinforcing it must have been to my young ego to recognize that I was intellectually superior to everyone I met who engaged in discrimination or bigotry. And consider the practical side. I've spent my entire life having to outwit bigots. There's got to be some intellectual benefit from that, don't you think?

So I’m not the least bit bitter as a result of my background and experiences. On the contrary, I'm of the opinion that adversity has made me more, rather than less, so I wouldn't trade in my hood rat background to be the son of a billionaire, because it made me, me; and I'm convinced that most educated Black people of my generation feel that way though they might not let you know it.

I view the Black experience in America from the perspective of a detached human being observing the social interactions of an ant farm. While I don't like seeing people hurt or injured, every since childhood I have always found the insecurity of bigots both fascination, and very instructive. It gives me an insight into people that I doubt you have. For example, I often observe, with great amusement, the lingering vestiges of cultural hubris here, among White people of good will, who would never consciously engage in bigotry or discrimination. Your naively erroneous assumption of how I think, and why, is a perfect example of that, and it’s laughable. You’ve been watching far too much television or reading too much pop psychology, my man.

There’s only one Wattree family in America. Everybody with the last name Wattree is related to me. We immigrated to the United States from France, as an intact Black Family, during the time that the French abolitionists, Edouard Laboulaye, and sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, conceived and sculpted the Statue of Liberty. Did you know that Lady Liberty was a freed slave, and has broken shackles at her feet?

When my family arrived and settled in Minden, Louisiana after the civil war, my great, great, uncle, Richard Wattree, established the Wattree School to educate free Black people, and he was responsible for educating many of the heads of some of the most prominent Black families in the state of Louisiana -- and since we are a one-of-a-kind family, that can be easily researched on the net; simply go to Google and enter "Wattree School" --  and since that time the professionals in my family have been dedicated to the education of Black people in one way or another.

My daughter, Kaiumeka Wattree-Jackson, is currently a human relations specialist for her alma mater and the regional vice president of a college and university employees’ union, and many other Wattrees are scattered across this country teaching everything from kindergarten children through high school; others are working in positions of university administration. My son is a senior special agent with the Department of Justice, dedicated to eradicating drugs and street crime in America’s inner cities. So your inane assumption of the way I view the world and reality is just that - inane, presumptuous, and simplistic.

My woman is a public person, so she used to hate it when I referred to myself in my writings as a hood rat. So I wrote her the poem attached to the end of this missive to explain exactly how I feel about my background. It may enlighten you just as it did her. Now, she not only understands, but she approves. You see, Barack Obama is not the aberration that many people think. People like myself, Barack Obama, and many others, are cultural hybrids, and as we continue to grow in numbers, character, and vision, we’re going to become something to be reckoned with in this country.

Evolution is a wondrous thing, and adversity is nature's primary tool of effecting evolution. When man first appeared on Earth he was a necked ape. He wasn't as ferocious as the lion, as strong as the elephant, nor could he soar above danger like the eagle. He was completely vulnerable, much like the Black man has been in this country. But nature provided man with one weapon to address the adversity within his environment; the human mind. Now, as a result of the effective use of that weapon, man has developed the resources to slaughter the most ferocious lion, machines that can crush the strongest elephant, and vehicles that can easily soar far beyond the most determined eagle's domain. In fact, he's even left his home planet to explore other worlds. Well, I'm convinced that adversity is having the very same impact on many Black people.

Blacks have become bi-cultural. Educated Black people have not only attained the educational knowledge that governs their environment, but they also have a specialized knowledge that was necessary to develop in order to survive the adversity of a hostile environment.  Even as I write we can see it at work in Washington, D.C. If we look toward Washington, what we see appears to be one adult, Barack Obama, patiently dealing with a government filled with ranting, raving children, the GOP, engaged in a world-class tantrum.

The American people intuitively had the good sense to keep Obama in place in the last election. Somehow they knew that he was exactly the right man, doing exactly the right job, at exactly the right time. And they were right, because President Obama is not governing this country based on the knowledge that he gained at Harvard. He's holding America together by utilizing the knowledge and insight that became necessary for him to attain and develop in order to survive the adversity of the Black experience in America, and that's extremely ironic.

So Ocean-Kat, you can spare me your condescending and paternalistic hubris regarding my history of being born Black in America, because I've benefited greatly from every second of it. In fact, I wish you were here.

The Hood Rat (Poem)

I’m sure you know that I love you;You’re everything that I need.You fit the bill of all my desires,a perfect match for all of my dreams.You’re everything I’ve always craved,that luscious vision from across the tracks;that delicate flower,just beyond my grasp, andnow here you are at last.

But what you ask is foreign to me;You need something that I'm not.You said, if I'd tweak my nature, just a bit,you’ll give everything you’ve got.

But that "tweak" you need is who I am;It's my essence, can't you see?You want to abolish the hood rat from my life,the very thing that makes me, me.

While a hood rat may seem trite to you,a hood rat’s what you see;So forget about what the other’s say -here’s what it means to me:

I’ve been brutally dragged through the pits of Hell,yet, managed to survive,well educated and fully functional,when I came out the other side.

I scrounged the lessons taught at Harvard,because knowledge, I found, was free;But Harvard can't teach the lessons I've learn -that knowledge is unique to me.

While they've heard the sounds of a mournful Trane,and Miles moaning in the night,not against the backdrop of hunger and pain,or injustice, hatred, and blight.

Yet, these are the things you want me to purge,and spurn the life I’ve led.Well, I’m sorry sweet thing, as much as I love you,the soul of a hood rat is my edge.


For more columns by Eric L. Wattree please see

[email protected]

Also Check Out...

long-planned release of the official framework for the AP® African American Studies course.
Official AP African-American
An overwhelming majority of New Yorkers, including fellow Republicans, want Rep. George Santos to resign from Congress
Resign Say 78% Of Voters From
The first ever Black Wedding Experience Expo is happening April 8, 2023, in College Park, MD
Maryland: Black Wedding Experience
Former New York Giants star wide receiver Victor Cruz
Victor Cruz Featured In ‘New Pivot
Summer Food Service Programs fill a critical need, providing free meals
NY Dept. Of Ed Accepting
teams led by Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts advancing to Super Bowl 57
Super Bowl: Sports World Reacts To