Nobody Knows My Name: A Letter From the South 

In Nobody Knows My Name: A Letter From the South Baldwin states, “The level of Negro education, obviously, is even lower than the general level. The general level is low because, as I have said, Americans have so little respect for genuine intellectual effort. The Negro level is low because the education of Negroes occurs in, and is designed to perpetuate, a segregated society” (201). Education in America is already designed to promote whiteness as ideal and the black experience as one of unfortunate circumstance. There is a lack of accountability for how the systems of racism were founded on whiteness as superior to everything else. The idea of education perpetuating a segregated society affects the way black people have viewed education for generations. This is something that I have come to take interest in with regards to my own family’s background in education or lack thereof. I will be the first person in my family to attend college because my parents did not even know that college was an option because their education was limited to barely graduating high school. Education is a pathway to upward mobility for many people and not having access to it contributes to generational poverty. 

Baldwin also describes the experience of being black in the North in comparison to the South as having little difference. He states, “It must also be said that the racial setup in the South is not, for a Negro, very different from the racial setup in the North. It is the etiquette which is baffling, not the spirit. Segregation is unofficial in the North and official in the South, a crucial difference that does nothing, nevertheless, to alleviate the lot of most Northern Negroes” (203). This idea is something that education also thwarts. Like many other students, I grew up believing that life in the North was better for black people and that only the South was racist. I’ve come to learn that this is far from the case. Education is a powerful tool that has been used to manipulate the way people perceive American history.

One thought on “Nobody Knows My Name: A Letter From the South ”

  1. I definitely agree with your points about education and how repressing education and whitewashing it is contributing to racist systems. The lack of accountability and upward mobility ties in a lot of unequal practices that clearly show systemic racism that most are publicly unwilling to acknowledge. I think it is also important to add the economic factor here, which you touched on briefly. Education, inheritance, and land ownership are all repressed for African Americans and other minorities because American economic systems are designed to repress the poor. And racism has made poverty inseparable from minority communities. While efforts on the social and political must continue to be made, dismantling racist systems in America depends on taking apart the economic incentives for the wealthy and powerful to continue to oppress, because of how connected class and race are.

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