Enter any school room in America where English is the primary subject and chances are you will happen upon a discussion of some great book or work of literary merit. Crusading White Pedagogues eagerly discuss the qualities and virtues of a given tome that has been deemed worthy of reading and further analysis is required to understand the myriad complexities the author is trying to convey.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Hemingway, Cooper, Melville, Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Twain, Hawthorne and numerous other long-dead individuals routinely speak to current students through the medium of their novel (here is a list of the top novels that the AP Test has mentioned in testing since 1971).
By reading great books, students enter worlds foreign to them and engage in intimate –albeit one-sided – conversations with people whose fictional lives are still celebrated centuries after their story was first told.
Black students have long been forced to read so-called great books penned by dead-white males who knew precious little about the Black experience in America, which can explain the dismal scores that they achieve on AP Tests, when compared to other students.
Disingenuous White Liberals lament the ratio of great books that were penned, created and written by white authors, knowing instinctively that for every Richard Wright or Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison or Richard Wright novel, countless books exist by obscure authors that maintain greater literary merit but lack the one ingredient necessary to be labeled a great book by today’s standards – Black skin.
Things Fall Apart is a novel regarded as a classic, a great book written by an African author depicting life in a traditional African village. Taught, read and discussed in school rooms across the nation, Black people never realize the absurdity of this novel being deemed the highest achievement of authentic Africa literature.
All Black literature that has been celebrated as great and worthy of commending can be distilled as a celebration of Blackness in the face of overwhelming, crushing and soul-destroying whiteness. No more, no less. The one constant theme that unifies these writers in the great Diaspora of Black writers is the persistent reliance on race and racism to anchor their stories in the safe literary waters of Blackness, never attempting to write about subjects outside the confines of that particular safety net.
Though the fine arts have been conspicuously devoid of Black participation and influence, DWL literary critics heaping praise and reverence upon Black authors who revel in their Blackness throughout their entire literary output is commonplace.
The continued reliance on the piteous few Black authors who must carry the entire load for all Black writers is a burden not even Apollo would dare carry. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Native Son, Invisible Man can only be trotted out for so long as examples of Black literary accomplishments, when entire sections of bookstores are devoted to African-American literature. Surely some novel that rests on those dusty shelves deserves to be cracked open and explored in earnest, offering a well-needed respite for Ralph Ellison:
As the author of books on black history and black culture, I was disappointed but not surprised. To see a working-class 30-ish black woman with a book these days is almost always to find her reading a selection from the fastest-growing segment of African-American letters, a genre called "ghetto lit" or "gangster lit."
The best that can be said about these books is that they are an authentic literary product of 21st-century black America. Black women are much bigger readers than black men, and gangster lit dominates the best-seller list in Essence Magazine, which calculates rankings using sales at black-owned bookstores nationwide. Recent titles shout out to the hard, fast lifestyle: "Bad Girlz 4 Life," "Still Hood" and "From the Streets to the Sheets." Some of the most prominent authors include Vickie Stringer, who wrote "Let That Be the Reason," a semi-autobiographical work, while the future ghetto-lit publisher was doing seven years for drug trafficking; and Nikki Turner, who wrote "A Hustler's Wife" and "Death Before Dishonor" (co-authored with hip-hop star 50 Cent).
Well, perhaps not. Black literature that is celebrated must remain as the bedrock of all “great” Black literature, because the bile that follows in the rich Black literary tradition is barely worth publishing at all, since it brings to light the true state of Black America:
Mainstream publishing houses contort themselves to acquire books that glorify wanton sex, drugs and crime. This fiction, known as street-lit or hip-hop fiction, most often reinforces the stereotypical trademarks African Americans have fought hard to overcome. And while we are all the descendants of those great literary pioneers who first gave a voice to the African American experience, and one certainly could not exist without the other, somewhere down the line the balance was thrown off and the scales tipped in favor of a genre that glorifies street life and denigrates a cultural institution that took hundreds of years to construct.
Does a literary ghetto deny Black authors opportunities for success and a large following, or is it the opposite? Like directors in Hollywood and screenwriters who devise the shows we watch, do so few talented Black writers exist that the only way to maintain any illusion of literary equality is to promote the same boring stories of oppression and books that revel in Blackness?
All of the so-called great books, penned by white people, will soon be banished from circulation because they fail to reveal in the proper level of Blackness and wallow in an acceptable amount of white guilt.
Stuff Black People Don’t Like includes the great books. Too few have been penned by Black authors and many of the celebrated authors wrote books that could be deemed racist and utilize unacceptable quantities of Blackness, which explains the high-rates of Black illiteracy that are found throughout the entire country.
Undeniably, Black people would rather urinate on the great books then read them. Things Fall Apart indeed.