I came across this article via Twitter (of course), and e-mailed it to myself a couple of weeks ago. The title alone prevented me from doing what I would normally do.

Skim.

On my flight to Seattle today I had a chance to read it. Ironically, the piece begins talking about what most of us do on planes:

Look around on your next plane trip. The iPad is the new pacifier for babies and toddlers. Younger school-aged children read stories on smartphones; older boys don’t read at all, but hunch over video games. Parents and other passengers read on Kindles or skim a flotilla of email and news feeds. Unbeknownst to most of us, an invisible, game-changing transformation links everyone in this picture: the neuronal circuit that underlies the brain’s ability to read is subtly, rapidly changing…

As I read, this quote was particularly insightful:

The subtle atrophy of critical analysis and empathy affects us all. It affects our ability to navigate a constant bombardment of information. It incentivizes a retreat to the most familiar silos of unchecked information, which require and receive no analysis, leaving us susceptible to false information and demagoguery.

I’ve been thinking about this phenomenon in light of the #SurvivingRKelly documentary. There was a 10 second clip of Chance The Rapper from an interview he did the day before our commencement at Dillard. It was part of a package of stories on HBCU commencements. They were at Southern University the day before where Angela Rye (who also spoke at Dillard last academic year) was their commencement speaker.

So first, here is the main product of their visit to Dillard and his interview:

In the documentary, a 10 second clip shows him saying “maybe I didn’t care because, I didn’t value the accusers stories, because they are black women…” A few folks wanted to find the entire video and found it, but they still could not grasp what he was saying. What really troubles me is how he can admit he wants to improve his thinking (I mean, this is the dude is who currently studying the Bible).

Some got sidetracked when they realized he was at Dillard and complained about us letting him do the interview on campus. For the record, the interview was not about R Kelly or specifically for this series. The segment below he talks about being engaged politically in Chicago. But this is what happens when you make pronouncement from a 10 second clip, or a 3 minute segment of four segments and over 20 minutes.

You skim to conclusion.

If Chance’s 10 seconds accurately portrayed his position, he damn sure isn’t alone. I was discussing with our SGA secretary her idea of an R Kelly forum (she’s from Chicago) and she showed me the video of him in the club, surrounded by women, singing along with him (she had it before it went viral). This is literally DAYS after we had 3 consecutive days and 6 hours of evidence about his abuses, where one of the women convincingly said:

“Robert is the devil.”

Lots of folks discount black women. Including black women.

Side note: I guess people didn’t see Boosie’s VLAD TV interview months before Surviving R Kelly where he offered a full throated, unapologetic defense of Kells. You have to watch this- we did in my class in the fall. Oh yeah, and he was our homecoming performer. But some folks mad at Chance? Yeah, okay.

Which leads me back to this article I read.

Slowly. Deliberately.

Going back over words and phrases to make sure I understand. That took me more time that I normally spend reading these days (hell, I even read and watch Black Ink Crew at the same time). But as the article posits, we’re losing critical thinking ability because we skim everything — words, images, you name it. And based on partially processed information we spout faulty truths.

We aren’t merely jumping to conclusions; we’re colliding into them.

Wolf concludes:

We need to cultivate a new kind of brain: a “bi-literate” reading brain capable of the deepest forms of thought in either digital or traditional mediums. A great deal hangs on it: the ability of citizens in a vibrant democracy to try on other perspectives and discern truth; the capacity of our children and grandchildren to appreciate and create beauty; and the ability in ourselves to go beyond our present glut of information to reach the knowledge and wisdom necessary to sustain a good society.

Slow down. Read deeply. Read in print. Write on it. Highlight. Interrogate.

(That last sentence isn’t necessarily for you. It is a reminder for myself.)

The Prez

Written by

7th president of Dillard University

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