Content warning cartoon villain levels of anti-Blackness
In her discussion of Black students on college campuses in On Violence, Arendt asserts that the majority of Negro students admitted to colleges and universities were admitted without academic qualifications and that within the Black community the Negro’s goal was to lower academic standards (CR 120). For Arendt, lowering academic standards included attempts to create courses in African and African American studies, which she calls “soul courses” (a phrase she borrows from Bayard Rustin), and instruction in languages such as Swahili (177). Arendt describes Swahili as “a nineteenth century kind of no language spoken by the Arab ivory and slave caravans, a hybrid mixture of a Bantu dialect with an enormous vocabulary of Arab borrowings”—using the 1961 Encyclopedia Britannica as her source (192).6 She predicts that “in about five or ten years this ‘education’ in Swahili …, African Literature, and other nonexistent subjects will be interpreted as another trap of the white man to prevent Negroes from acquiring an adequate education” (ibid.).
6. Concerning the description of Swahili as a “no language,” [Anne] Norton retorts, “By this standard, English cannot escape censure, and Arendt’s regard for Yiddish and modern Hebrew becomes almost inexplicable” ([“Heart of Darkness: Africa and African Americans in the Writings of Hannah Arendt,” in Feminist Interpretations of Hannah Arendt, edited by Bonnie Honig], 252).