I still remember reading Carter Woodson’s Miseducation of the Negro. I still remember how perfectly it captured my struggle as a Black-American caught between being educated into a dominant culture that seemed reluctant at best to accept me. Each aspect of difference they asked me to surrender left me less literate in the culture of my birth. I was a PhD when my mother quipped that I laughed differently–not a compliment or an idle observation.
Since then, I have encountered maybe the most sinister and disheartening realities of Woodson’s description. These realities are better understood in the context of discussions between W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington. They are the questions of status quo, conformity, and progress. They are questions even more pertinent on Juneteenth.
I’m dropping 7 re-education truths to invite you into the freedom that I am running after. Follow if you will. As Harriet Tubman is credited to have said, “I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”
The Truth with Make You Free
1. It was never about loyalty. It has always been about production.
Consider how we are raised through institutions to value them–to value the bond that unites us through the “person” of the institution. We give them life through mascots and colors or even crests. We revere them in song, and convene in reunions to share our common devotion. Yet, what is the currency of those reunions? It is not the memory of the song, the wearing of the colors. The currency is what you have made of yourself. What impresses is what you have created, what you have produced. And, with all the fuss about colors, mascots, fight songs, and homecomings, the truth is that they were distractions that may have offered a chance at unity. Don’t be distracted by the fuss. Your ticket is validated by what you produce.
2. It was never about achieving. It has always been about choice.
Yet, surprise, the point was not for you to be better, more powerful, or more accomplished. Status is only a means. And, even when the means of production is acquired, there are still levels to traverse. First is the ability to recognize autonomous choice as possible. To conceptualize the ability to make a decision without the influence of outside forces. Next is to realize the information sources and flow influencing the sense of informed choice. All the while, realizing how often the full knowledge is intentionally hidden. Next is to recognize the scaffolding of choice architecture that can only be understood, in honesty, as structuring reality. Next, realize that this power is yours through application of status at a certain level. And finally, to make an autonomous, fully-informed, intentional choice knowing the outcomes that will result. That is true power.
3. It was never about retirement. It has always been about return on investment.
Many examples of this fallacy exist requiring you to look forward to a reward in the future. Asking you to forego any recognition of current struggles to accept contentment in disquieting circumstances. Yet, the truth is that the means of production, coupled with an understanding of and intentional decision-making in the context of the system can yield returns right now. You must only redirect your resources from insurance to assurance, from asset protection to asset building. Take food as an example. How many face the struggle of 3 weeks of money for 4 weeks of month? But, what if you invested the money into growing food rather than purchasing? How would the scales shift from buying to investment? And, there are many other examples. Return on investment is the answer to questions of ends meeting.
4. It was never about security. It has always been about innovation.
Again, If you had the assurance, you wouldn’t need the insurance. Mythology is replete with examples of figures who attempted to hang on to power only to lose it. Their fatal flaw was one of hubris, yes. But, it was also one of expending energy to hold on to what they had rather than expanding beyond the infantile needs. Your choice is similar. How long can you work to maintain, even re-seed the same process that grinds you down little by little? Until you meet your end. That’s the answer. But, you would most certainly change your choice if you knew that the outcomes would work exceedingly in your favor beyond what you could imagine. I’m not saying that you should rush and leap toward this reality. I am saying that your investments should be in exploration of this reality more than maintenance of an inferior one.
5. It was never about trust. It has always been about paying forward.
And what is trust, but a sweet, old-fashioned notion? My point is that you do not owe anyone your trust. What you owe is to produce such that others who come after you have an easier time discerning. Provide them with unimpeded information and access to history. Allow them to build on the experience of those who have come before them. Share the good examples and the failed experiments. Allow them to build, choose, and innovate. In this reality, trust gives way to transparency.
6. It was never about maps. It has always been about charting paths.
They lied even unknowingly. You have to do the research yourself. Even education, learning itself, is a fallacy and a collective delusion when perpetrated as a structured delivery assembly line. Students are placed on conveyor belts, they are doused with knowledge, they are asked to respond with the tones played in their ears, and they are certificated. We lament those trouble makers and loquacious souls who would do things their way and seek a Socratic interaction beyond the regurgitation of rote. And, yet these are those who chart new paths and captain industry and innovation. They become the employers of those we celebrated. The assembly-line students rise in the industries built by the trouble makers, and they, those souls of regurgitation and rote, promote the process they credit with their success. “Work hard,” they say. Chart your own path, I encourage as your better judgment.
7. It was never about writing your ticket. It has always been about ownership.
“You can write your own ticket.” How silly those words now sound in the absence of any information about the means of production, choice, investment, innovation, legacy, and collaboration. True freedom is ownership. And yet, ownership is hard work. Not hard as in blue-collar daily grind, but hard as in lonely, often praise-less, and disrespectful. Grueling would be more accurate a word to describe it. Think of it less as writing your own ticket and more like launching your space program. It will not happen without capital, calculations, and collective action. It will be pointless without passion, purpose, and an end game. It cannot be sustained without a business model, investors, and a certain return on investments.
So, this is freedom. To begin with these seven and change your world. To engage this truth and continue seeking. To own the means of production and find space and expression for your ideas.