The Effects of the “Talented Tenth”

Author: Brennan E. Wells;

W. E. B. Du Bois is credited with a many number of things and the theory of the Talented Tenth is no different. This theory is grounded in the belief that the top ten percent of the African American race would lift up the other ninety percent. Lifting up the other ninety percent through word, deed, thought, politics, culture, and economically. On its surface, a theory from the preeminent scholar Du Bois does not often draw criticism, but  a race of people who respect tradition, even if it is to a fault, must reexamine the thoughts that have led us this far. And I can think of no other thought that has been more pervasive than the idea that only the very best of Black America can save Black America.

When the theory of the Talented Tenth comes to mind it draws upon an image of a race of people dependent upon a small intraclass of people, akin to an intellectual caste system. I have not seen in my many years more done with a fewer amount of individuals. So then I have to ask , would ten percent be able to outweigh ninety percent in their agency? It is a question I ask myself and present to you the reader. During the time of Du Bois, the opportunity to obtain an education I am sure was not plentiful, so those with the potential to shine through intellectual rigor were put through the paces of formal learning. This is a piece of logic I cannot disagree with. Yet, during the year 2017 in an “information economy” why does this theory hold so much weight in Black America?

So far, I have asserted that it is rare that a fewer amount of individuals will able to do more than a majority of others in comparison. Further, the theory of the Talented Tenth makes plausible sense during the time Du Bois bore it to light. Moreover, we are left with the question as to why would a significant collation of individuals in Black America subscribe to this theory. My answer would be, that these “select” individuals who subscribe this theory feel special and a cut above. Who would subscribe to such a theory in this day in age and consider themselves a part of the ninety percent? No one, hence, gaining a feeling of self-importance accompanies this theory for its subscribers whether it is just or not.

With the aforementioned established we may delve further into the effects of the Talented Theory on Black America. Will a belief in dependency ensue in Black America if the idea of the Talented Tenth is allowed to flourish? Will innovation stammer till a stand still? Will the idea of “community” only be utilized during times of convenience? These questions among others come to mind when reflecting upon this theory. What questions come to mind when you think of being led or leading with or by an intellectual elite? As we fight the great moral issue of our time, income inequality, Black America can ill afford to adorn the practices of the oppressor. Only the will of the people, a majority of the people, will pave the way for social, economic, and political change, there is little room for the elite.

As I was once told, I now say to you, we are the leaders we have been looking for. It will not be ten percent, but the whole one hundred percent that will play the part in uplifting this mighty race of people. Silence is sin, so if you agree, share your thoughts and if you disagree, share your thoughts too.



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