Are Black Intellectuals Obligated to Speak on Race?

Professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr. believes Black academics have "sold their souls" and strive to become television pundits rather than lead the community in intelligent discussion.

Posted: 02/05/2013 03:39 PM EST

Should Black academics be obligated to step outside the classroom and speak with the public on racial and social issues? This is a question Eddie S. Glaude Jr., the William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African-American Studies at Princeton University, asks in his New York Times op-ed.

The chairman of Princeton's Center for African-American Studies feels that, while they don't have a "special obligation" to fill this role, they should step up and "aspire to be the moral conscience of their societies: that what we write, say and do should reflect intelligent efforts to provide a critical account of who we take ourselves to be as a nation."

Black intellectuals, Glaude argues, have stopped addressing the issues affecting their community and have instead "become cheerleaders for President Obama or self-serving pundits." Rather than taking another swig from the Kool-Aid, he believes a stronger Black America can emerge if intellectuals can remove the blinders, start engaging with the public and figure out solutions to the crises still plaguing African-Americans.

Glaude writes:

"Even given this state of affairs, I remain hopeful. Those of us committed to the work of thinking carefully in public with others must model the value of seriousness amid the white noise of our current media landscape. This involves using various social networks to push critical conversations and thinking among our fellows; it entails recommitting ourselves to build reading and writing communities that cultivate the habits of public intellectual work; it means bringing our skills to bear on the problems of our day through interpretations that single out our failings and point the way forward to what needs to be done to, as James Baldwin wrote, 'achieve our country.'"

 

What do you think about Glaude Jr.'s opinion that Black academics should lead these discussions in our communities? Do you feel too many have dropped the ball and have let themselves be led by pundits and the media rather than spearheading conversations themselves?

 

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(Photo: Eddie S. Glaude Jr./Twitter)

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