The Irony of Black Excellence

“When I was seventeen, I secured a job in the factory and discovered that blacks tended to be restricted to manual labor while whites filled managerial positions. That setting was reminiscent of Mississippi cotton fields where blacks labored and whites supervised. I became aware that racism did not stem merely from the hate of mean white segregationists but rather was a national phenomenon (Aldon D. Morris, The Scholar Denied).”

In the 1900’s anybody who was not a hetero-sexual, Christian, white male, was seen as deviant. One of the worst things to have been was black. In The Scholar Denied, Aldon Morris explores his upbringing in such an environment.

Growing up in the 1950’s, Morris tells us about his experience with the Jim Crow Laws, the times from the brutal murder of Emmitt Till, the Civil Rights movement, and how both the black community and society as a whole was impacted by such events. Within all this racially charged phenomena, Morris analyzed his lifetime from a sociological standpoint, making W.E.B Du Bois his sociological compass, and making a case for why Du Bois’ work should be more highly recognized in Sociology.

Morris reminds us that from Du Bois we get an ironic situation of  The what we now call a Black Scholar. The irony stems from the fact that the image of a black man during Morris’ time was that of low prestige, limited or no education, and violent or criminal tendencies. However, Du Bois broke away from this stigma to challenge social studies head on from a “black radical” standpoint. Morris also got his chance to become his own idea of a Black Scholar from being exposed to Du Bois’ work.

Morris explains his experience in college, having a background which told him college would not be an option. He came from a family of people who valued education so primely, but never had the opportunity to grasp it for themselves, so Morris pursued higher education. Personally, having a background such as Morris’ has motivated me that much more. During his time in school, he learned about W.E.B Du Bois, and his impact on sociology. This forces Morris to question why Du Bois’ contribution is not acknowledged as much as it should be.

From Du Bois, we learn about race in sociology more than his predecessors cared to talk about. According to Morris, from Du Bois also came the first school of scientific sociology. However, because of the color of his skin, Du Bois gets denied the earned right of being acknowledged for his direct contribution to the science. As a sociology major, I think it is unfair. A lot of the ideas we study in the science are accredited to Karl Marx. However, most of it was also covered in Du Bois’ work as well. Du Bois wrote about class and power struggle, constantly eluding to the idea of how the struggling class (black people) can gain status in society. As a black scholar himself, many can say he was a great leader in the wave of what we label as  “Black Excellence,” which is now paving the way for further scholars such as Morris and myself to educate ourselves and to educate others to come.

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