Ebony and Ivy: An Optimist’s Illusion

High school senior Ifeoma White Thorpe recently made headlines for her admittance to eight American Ivy League schools. The story proved newsworthy due to the following:

  • It substantiates ideas surrounding whites and their superior institutions: Thorpe accomplished what many whites aspire to achieve. This functions to illustrate that most in the western world are on a common journey to whiteness, a journey consummated in attending an Ivy League Institution.
  • It functions to demonstrate black capability: Thorpe’s achievement functions to illustrate black excellence as a possibility, an anomaly, but a possibility nonetheless. Thorpe’s achievement also bears an interesting dichotomy to black disenfranchisement. Thorpe’s achievement garners traction due to the internalized belief that blacks are less intelligent that whites,  yet, Thorpe’s achievement functions to discount the depth of black systemic disenfranchisement. Namely, Thorpe’s Ivy League acceptance suggests that blacks who do not experience Thorpe’s achievement do not do so because of personal, not societal deficiency. Thus, this seemingly positive image actually works against blacks to suggest that black excellence is more in tune with whiteness than blackness. and thereby worthy of entrance into white institutions.
  • It illustrates a “changing” world that fosters black excellence: Featuring this story, demonstrates the western world as welcoming the black intellect, which is course is untrue. Thorpe’s Ivy League Acceptance depicts the western world as welcoming the black assimilationist, not the black intellect.

Entrance into white institutions is a pivotal step in assimilation. Namely, entrance into these institutions equips the black mind with tools that will take him or her away from self, and ingrain their body as a means to aid the very culture that foments their systemic misfortune. The ebony body in the Ivy League, endures the height of exceptionalism, nurtured to mirror Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas— melanated bodies who are no more black than the contents of a Pepsi can. Thus, we as blacks should not celebrate or encourage members of our collective to seek an education from our oppressors, simply because as Audre Lorde once said in essay “The Master’s Tools”

The Master’s Tools will never dismantle the white man’s house.

While the western world will nurture the Ivy League graduate to believe their education is unmatched in terms of prestige and quality, a degree from an Ivy league school as an indigenous or abducted African is useless in granting mental liberation. With the white man’s education, the black body will become programmed to self destruct.

This self-destruction is of course not unique to the Ivy League atmosphere. Melanated individuals need not attend an Ivy league school to reap the wrath of white supremacy. But to attend an Ivy league school is to obtain the fast track to white supremacy with the veil of elevation and intellect.

In reality what black bodies receive at Ivy League institutions is what Dr. Bobby Wright designates as “training.” This training aligns with all higher education, as the black body receives the necessary tools to serve western institutions be it business, education, medicine or law. An Ivy League Education typically affords its graduates high paid positions and increased access to resources that catapult them to the height of western acheivement. This “achievement” comes at a cost, as institutionalization leaves few unscathed by her pernicious ways. The institution of education encompasses perhaps the most understated danger, due to her rewards being far more commemorated than her misdeeds.

The trained, or institutionalized, black body employs the black body as a gateway to the black mind. This began with the institution of slavery and manifested into higher education and institutions like the police department. Melanated police officers or officials function in a manner similar to ivy league educated bodies, where the overtly black body functions to exploit, and injure their own communities in a manner identical to those of the majority under the veil of “intellectual,” or “professional.” The institutionalized black body typically occupies elevated positions, making him or her a trusted member of their community—an often undeserved honor that delineates just how highly consummating white acceptance ranks to most blacks. Black preoccupation with white acceptance prompts blacks to covet an ivy league education as a gateway to an allusive whiteness. This coveting occurs as a result of a collective amnesia that prompts blacks to forget the history of the American college or nurtures them not to ask any questions.

Dr. Craig Steven Wilder wrote Ebony and Ivy a book that examines the role slavery and historical disenfranchisement played in establishing the American University. He states that “African Slavery and the slave trade subsidized the college and the colony.” (29) A fact that has dissolved into the abducted African’s plight toward the American University. Wilder delineates how the slave trade afforded both labor and finances to establish schools for the wealthy males of the majority. He begins this analysis by discussing how those of the majority implemented universities as a means to nurture the assimilation of indigenous bodies into white culture. Wilder states, “Students had to wear their gowns or cloaks whenever they left their rooms, and these grooming and comportment had to be consistent with English custom for learned men.” (27) He then goes on to finitely state the following “The English sought to correct Indians’ appearance, speech, and beliefs.” (28)

Whether America’s most premier university Harvard or a State Universities like Rutgers, the American college performs similar tasks in our contemporary setting, seeking to matriculate the black body into a culture that will never truly grant its entry.

In short, Thorpe’s acceptance becomes newsworthy because it performs a cliche contemporary move. Namely, this news appeases those of the majority who wish to act as if racism is limited to the Trump administration. Thorpe’s acceptance suggests that the world has “come a long way” given that a body that stands at the intersection of race and gender can not only apply to a university but be accepted. This bit of news also functions to thwart talk that the western world only focuses on negative portrayals of blacks. The story seemingly epitomizes Dr. King’s wish that those of African descent be judged by the “content of their character” and not the color of their skin. Let us not forget that Dr. King also said “I fear I may have integrated my people into a burning house.” Furthermore, Thorpe’s achievement illustrates that it is the content of a colored body’s character that grants them entry into a burning house.

Thus, celebrating a black child’s acceptance into an Ivy-League or a historically white institution, is like celebrating a black child’s entry into a flamed building where they’ll die a slow death that first suspends their mind and then seizes their body.

While Thorpe’s intellectual abilities are worthy of praise, her acceptance into ivy league schools are not. Rather, Ariyana Davis, the black youth accepted into twenty three historically black colleges or universities is worthy of praise. We as a collective must nurture our children to seek education from our own demographic, as this is our only hope in creating a world where blackness is central and our history is not fetishized or jarred for white exploitation and advancement.

Furthermore, the union between Ebony and Ivy is an optimist’s allusion, as optimists trust that things have gotten better without making a contribution or fully grasping the facts. This allusion will not advance the black collective, but will hurt the up and coming generation at an impressionable and vulnerable part of their lives.

So to Miss Thorpe, I say that you do not need an Ivy League acceptance to commemorate your intelligence. Instead of choosing a college, I encourage you to choose yourself. Implement your talents to restore your collective and the ancestors who died to make your “achievement” a reality will thank you.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Ebony & Ivy is on my book list to read. This was a brilliant analysis on how Ebony bodies chasing whiteness is absolutely destructive for the Ebony bodies. The white supremacist’s religious and educational systems are excellent brainwashing systems for black bodies and minds. Thanks for the excellent post.

    1. Well said black empowerment!

  2. “It illustrates a “changing” world that fosters black excellence: Featuring this story, demonstrates the western world as welcoming the black intellect, which is course is untrue. Thorpe’s Ivy League Acceptance depicts the western world as welcoming the black assimilationist, not the black intellect.”
    This right here summed it up for me. I would also add that the western world is not welcoming to black self respect,dignity,slef love or blacks being self sufficient. These type of mindsets don’t work well in a system of white supremacy.

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