Sounds hilarious, kooky or perfectly cromulent? Where in the versal world have you ever seen black people as a collective fond of reading? Do I hear a cold, swollen-headed and egocentric foofaraw, ‘how dare you attach a racist-fueled stereotype to the pigmentation of my skin!’ The truth knows no colour.
Reflect on the Russian proverb; ‘Don’t be mad at the mirror if you are ugly.’ No, I am not an elitist twit, but tread carefully, for you may well be! A wise man once cautioned, “Do not be quick to take offense, for the taking of offense lodges in the bosom of fools.” In case you are about to get hot under the collar, relax. I have never been one to smatter the truth with insincere bonhomie. Generally, reading and blacks are sworn eternal enemies. Our local glitterati seem to be the most compromised. You would hardly see a social media post speaking to a book they are reading. We need to embrace a culture of intention-fueled reading. And lest you are offended, let me assure you that I am saying this with a seraphic smile.
This unfavorable indictment, especially on our beloved buddies, is not wrought with emotion. Few subjects charge individuals with unrefined emotion as ones with racist undertones. To be clear, the theme of this article does not suggest pink, yellow or ruddy people fare any better. No. It highlights an unpleasant truth. An inherent weakness in our society, which is largely black. Few blacks can be labeled committed readers. While I would passively acknowledge that there are a few exceptions, I would hasten to ask, when did you last see your spouse, parent, sibling, relative or friend reading a book? As you answer this question objectively, not clouded by sentimental affection, reflect on the unfortunate self-deceptive demeanour mentioned by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, a 19th Century French critic, “Almost everyone flatters himself that he and his are exceptional.” Gone are the halcyon days when we used to pride ourselves with holding a paperback or hardback, deriving a deep sense of fulfillment in flipping through the pages.
Have you realised that we are busy breeding a cursed TLDR (too long, didn’t read) generation? Always keen to demand that we condense written material for them. Imagine if they were to be asked to read the four gospel accounts. They would scream until someone posted this abridged version on social media, “Jesus’ life was transferred to earth from heaven. After his baptism he traversed the length and breadth of Judea, Galilee and Samaria, fully immersed in the preaching work. He died after three-and-half years, got resurrected and ascended to heaven.” While they hate reading, the youth are quite happy to enjoy a sedentary moment of up to 210 minutes watching a full-length movie. Though careful not to suggest that I am a nonpareil among ardent readers, I have to say, I love reading. At any point in time, I would be reading two or three books concurrently. For instance, I am reading Sooley, John Grisham’s latest novel, Leave None to Tell the Story, an 800-page account on the Rwandan Genocide and Fearless Leadership by Loretta Malandro.
Are you a champion of reading? If so, what are you currently reading? Do you associate with like-minded individuals? Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur and author uttered this instructive view, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This would cover people we spend time with, online and offline. If you love reading, but opt to surround yourself with bibliophobic individuals, instead of bibliophilic ones, you may need to deal with the harsh reality of a toxic slow-down in your reading habits.
Prior to 1865, some of the states in the US had laws that barred black folks from being literate. For instance, the state of North Carolina had enacted a law that stated, “the teaching of slaves to read and write, has a tendency to excite dissatisfaction in their minds, and to produce insurrection and rebellion”. Denial of blacks literacy was perceived as an effective strategy for keeping them docile. Sanctions in the form of heavy fines were prescribed by the law enacted in 1830. Between $100 and $200, an equivalent of up to P60,000 in today’s purchasing power, could be levied against a white person for infringing the said Act, while a black person could be brutally scourged on a bare back with 20 to 39 lashes. Blacks were in an unenviable space at the behest of their cruel masters. Now that everyone is free to indulge in the pleasure of reading, what accounts for the low reading energy among the black folks? Apart from indolence and the fast-paced nature of life, we can blame it on technological disruptions and distractions, particularly the cookie-cutter combustible short form content which has proved to be a veritable barrier to meaningful reading. There is a prevailing asinine view that we can quench our thirst for reading by devouring social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Add to that Pinterest and the myriads of online and offline video games. If we are not careful, these can gradually drown out our energy for reading, blunt our critical thinking skills, compromise our performance and kill our strategic and visionary outlook. Reading is beneficial, not only when one is in a classroom setting. Classrooms are simply tools, which equipped us with the skills to inform and develop our cognitive abilities through reading and diligence in studying. Reading is the beginning of a process, which ultimately leads to wisdom. A process which may include acquiring broad-based knowledge and profound insights, developing a nuanced outlook on simple and complex matters, reflecting on the usefulness of such information and decisively applying it in our life. Purpose-driven reading is an essential precondition for growth. It requires us to engage our thinking faculties and reflect on three questions. Is this information useful to me? In what areas of my life can I implement what I have learnt? When can I start applying my newfound knowledge? Whenever we read a book, be it a work of fiction, a biography, an intellectual or professional piece, we need to meditate on the following question; how can this material help me to execute my role, as a student, an employer, an employee, a parent, a spouse, an entrepreneur and a neighbour, with an elephantine sense of responsibility, vigour and panache?
Avid readers would tell you how reading has been instrumental in improving their memory, their vocabulary, the quality of their diction, their ability to elegantly address various subjects with unpretentious confidence owing to a broadened perspective in life, their perception of critical issues, and their capacity to think, reason and act with a secure sense of personal autonomy. When we read wholesome content on various subjects, we are effectively feeding our brain with the nutrients essential for keeping it focused, sharp and performing at its optimal level. It is for this reason that Tyrion Lannister, a fictional character in novels by an American author named George R.R. Martin, said, “A mind needs a book as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” Reading endows one with the wherewithal to scale the slippery and colossal logic and awareness wall effortlessly and effectively. It bestows one with the discernment crucial for fighting the intellectual drought, which is so prevalent among individuals who do not read. I would like to believe that this article has put up a compelling case in favour of reading. We all need to navigate the balance between staying abreast of the latest developments through social media platforms and ever so often taking a book, soft and hard copy and gleefully devouring the content. It is essential for propping up our psychosocial profile and the quality of our arguments. Reading with avidity will always serve as a wide and powerful aperture through which brainwaves can stream into the society for the benefit of all.