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People celebrate February as Black History Month, but what is its real purpose — other than therapy for elite blacks? Obviously, there are brilliant black intellectuals, but in general, blacks aren’t interested in scholarship. We should stop deluding ourselves; blacks don’t care deeply about learning.
Blacks rarely value knowledge for its own sake. If it doesn’t help him financially, learning is unimportant to the average black. In my experience, many blacks are happy to study something to get a degree and a job, but learning something for its own sake is a story. It is not uncommon for me to have to justify my reading habits to other blacks. The only time I can freely discuss intellectual issues with a black person without his questioning the value of the conversation is if he is exceptionally curious. Many blacks think you can go crazy if you study too much. On several occasions, I have seen blacks caution one another against passionate study because it will induce madness. Black people can appreciate someone getting a graduate degree to boost his income, but they can’t fathom why he would read Hegel for leisure.
Of course, white people sometimes tease nerds, too, but they don’t act as if brilliance is antithetical to whiteness. The reclusive inventor is a hero in the Western intellectual tradition. White children are taught to admire Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Albert Einstein. Meanwhile, some blacks still think scientists are arrogant layabouts for investigating the mysteries of life. To them, intelligence is worthy of scorn. Even educated blacks have told me that scientists are weird people.
I am also baffled by black hatred for philosophy. I can understand why a black parent would discourage his children from studying philosophy in the present economy, but it’s inexcusable to dissuade them from enjoying the timeless wisdom of classic authors. In college, I met scores of blacks — including philosophy majors — who did not see the point in reading philosophy. They just wanted a fancy degree. Likewise, I knew science majors who didn’t read about science in their free time. For them too, it was about getting credentialed.
This is why we should scrap Black History Month. It’s irrelevant to learning, and is solely about projecting undeserved black pride. For one month, black people get to brag that their race has produced men and women on par with the best whites. But they show no desire to carry on the work of these illustrious characters. Blacks use this time only to score cheap political points. After the fanfare, forgotten black thinkers revert to being interesting subjects only for scholarly whites.
Unlike whites who celebrate men such as Adam Smith and Milton Friedman every day, blacks lack zeal for non-commercial learning. Giving blacks a month to promote their historical achievements is pointless if their attitude towards learning stays the same. The heroes of the black community will always be entertainers, not forgotten intellectuals such as Abram Harris and Alexander Crummell or entrepreneurs such as Elijah McCoy and Milly Pierce. All Black History Month does is stroke the egos of some blacks. We should scrap it to spare blacks the burden of pretending to care about learning.