Presentation for the Urban League opening session: "African American Male, An Endangered Species": Part 2
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
To Brother Shem Shakir who has hosted us here and made me feel so at home, Mr. Gleason Glover, Mr. Charles F. McCoy, to the Imams of Minneapolis and to the honorable and distinguished persons in the audience here, peace be on you. As we say, "As.-Salaam-Alaikum."
We thank God for the opportunity to address you on this very special occasion, the Annual Conference of the Urban League here in Minneapolis. I am encouraged very much by the information I have received on this brief visit, information on the Muslim community in Minneapolis. It the area's Muslim population] is small, but we are very, very proud, happy, and pleased with your presence here. It does us a lot of good to know that we have such persons in the brothers and the Imams who are making a difference in the Muslim community and also in the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I want to speak about "purposeful thinking". For Muslims, life begins with our ability to think. I think for the medical world, life too is identified as the ability to think. In my understanding purposeful thinking or thinking with an object in mind or thinking with a goal in mind is the foundation of society and the foundation of any group. We, I think as a people — the African American people — are growing in our minds with a high purpose to become responsible developers in our own life and in our own neighborhoods and for our own streets. This is big thinking.
To think development for one's self and for one's family and for one's neighborhood is big thinking. Muslims along with many other thinkers believe that in order to grow big, you must first think big.
There are a lot of good things happening that will help us if we just know of these good things. So I am going to concentrate mostly on the good things that are happening. And I am sure we are going to have many who will follow me, who will concentrate on the bad things that are happening. I am not as qualified as they are for that, and that is not a criticism. We need to know also the bad things that are happening in order to deal with those things and not be taken under or overcome or destroyed by them.
I would like to first address the country itself. America. America is a changing place. This is not the place that I knew as a child. It is not the place I knew as a young man. It is a very changed place. And for the most it has changed for the better, in spite of problems that are still with us and that we will have with us. We are going to have problems. Life without problems will not be a life on this earth.
America is becoming a place where everybody will have to step up the competition and be better prepared to survive and succeed. As you know the United States of America now has about 5,000 magnet schools. These magnet schools say that America is concentrating on building better minds for international competition. These schools themselves are model schools and are producing model students and model leaders for the future. They are model schools themselves that we hope will inspire and motivate other institutions both public and private to become better and stronger and to produce better students who will be better models themselves in our Society.
We need a climate to grow in and to prosper in. As a religious person I am more concerned about the circumstances and the climate that we are in than I am about the isolated or separate kinds of concerns that we have. In my address perhaps the greatest desire is to make some contribution to the improvement of the climate for us, the circumstances for us, internally first and as much as possible externally also.
There is a need for independent study on the part of African Americans. Rather there is a need for more such study, for we do have some independent study. We need to see with our own eyes the influences shaping racism in America and racial awareness. None of us is satisfied with racism in America or anywhere. I know that.
However, I think if we study also race awareness or race consciousness in African America, in "blacks", I don't think we will I be satisfied with that either There is a need to seek improved relations with conservative European Americans. As you know, Jesse Jackson and other groups met some time ago and invited us to identify as African Americans rather than use the language of term "black". We are still "black and proud". It the, expression and better identity "African American does not make us any less black and proud.
But I support that because I believe that we are not in a situation because of our varying skin pigmentation. We are not in a situation to benefit from identifying' with the term "black". So the term African American, to me, makes for more opportunity for the unity of the African American people. We have some African Americans who are as white as any white person, but they are still African Americans.
There is a need to seek improved relations with the Spanish speaking Americans. There is a need to seek improved relations with the Arab speaking Americans. I don't know if we are still seeing clearly the real enemy when it comes to the African American life and hopes. Our worse enemy is an extremely defensive ego. Now associated with that enemy are a number of problems.
Too many of us are given to a "no establishment" life. We have attacked establishment so much until I think we have let ourselves be motivated in every direction except in the direction of establishment. There is a need for establishment first home.
We are also troubled by the enemy of depressing expectations. Depressing expectations! For this, we are not totally responsible. Firstly the mass media is responsible and then the society. The T.V. has become the first companion in the home for most of us. Or it can be a music box or something. But mostly it is the television. There from T.V. we are being fed expectations. We see people living in wealth and having plenty money and with plenty cars, and our children are looking at that. So their expectations are being inflated.
Then we poor people are trying to keep peace in the house. We are trying to satisfy those extreme and depressing expectations, and we cannot do it. So that is part of the reason why we are filling up the jails and part of the reason why we have so much crime in the streets. You can't provide jobs for those big appetites. The appetite is too big for the reality.
These are some of the things I think we should think about. It is depressing to try to deal with the expectations of our children. They want a Mercedes, the average one wants a Mercedes or something similar.
Another enemy is nature regarding behavior. Nature retarding behavior! Religious people believe that God created nature, and that nature has an aim in it. God has put an aim in human nature. And that aim is not for retardation; that aim is for greater and greater social maturity. It is Lin order that] we will have stronger and healthier and more progressive families. It is so established that we will have stronger and healthier and more progressive neighborhoods.
I am also a kind of philosopher. I believe that desire can discipline involuntary physiological behavior. I am sure that many of us had problems when we were children, or had brothers and sisters with problems. If we were in a big family, there would be somebody who was still wetting the bed when they were wearing grown up clothes, they weren't wearing diapers any more. And it was the desire to not wet the bed that stopped them from wetting the bed when they were asleep, It was just the desire that grew stronger and stronger to not wet the bed. They did not want to be uncomfortable. This desire kept them from wetting the bed in their sleep; the conscious was not working. It was only involuntary things happening.
We need to work with improving the state of desire in the African American people. These things just don't happen on their own. What we are doing as religious groups or as public servants or as charitable organizations all have an affect on how we think and what we have an appetite for, what we desire. So we should become more conscious of how we are affecting the shaping of desire in the African American people.
More and more we are disappearing because of the help-leas life, the helpless existence. The head is supposed to be the thinking part and also the ruler on the body. When we just follow emotions and impulses and any signal to have more or to have pleasure or to do something destructive, we are existing as headless individuals. And if we don't check that as people in society or as institutions or as organizations that are responsible, then we ourselves are neglecting the problem and in ourselves are contributing to [such] problem as the increase of people with no heads.
That is what is happening. We are talking about the vanishing males, and that is what is happening. He is vanishing because he has no head. He is not really vanishing, he is still around here. But he has no head of his own.
(To be continued...)