The Importance Of Character: Part 2
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
(Ed. Note: Excerpted from a lecture by the Imam to students of Loop Jr. College in Chicago, in February, 1986.)
We have a lot of name-calling going on, and I think if we are not aware of identity in a sense deeper and broader than just color, we are in for a lot of trouble. You can easily unsettle someone if they are not really established in a real identity: an identity that is in reality.
To illustrate what I am saying, look at a car. It's identified as a car because of the image tells us it's a car. But if we go to that object that appears to be a car and try to turn on the motor, we can't. We try to drive it but we can't. Then we discover that it's just a model with no motor; it's not a functioning car.
The same is true with people. You can have an identity so shallow, that people won't recognize you as a person. When people get to know you, they'll say, 'hey, the dude is not for real, there's nothing there, nothing of substance in him.
The whole race can also come to that end if we're not careful. I think we went to extremes in calling ourselves "Black." The white man gave us a lot of hell with "white," so our reaction was to give him a lot of hell with "Black." And now it seems that we are just catching all the hell and the white man is going about his business.
I believe that identity is the key factor. We have been trying to establish our identity spiritually; there is a need in our very nature to identify ourselves; to have some real identity. Identity is our real form, it's not our black skin, it's not our nappy hair, or our broad features, it's something within. Real identity is within.
It's very important that we have some identity, and that thing that will give you identity, is your belief. What do you believe in? We have to believe in something.
Dr. Na'im Akbar, a doctor of psychology, who has been a featured speaker on many black campuses, has been emphasizing the need of. establishing some cultural context to our life. There are several others involved in promoting the building of a cultural context. But I think that's too vague.
I think we hurt ourselves when we stress too much of one image for all of us. There should be a diversity: we should have one central identity or purpose, and that is, to motivate the excellence of our people, to establish community life. So we should try to establish community life, for our people, and we should all be united in this.
Some of us are doing very well as individuals. In fact there are a greater number of us that are doing very well now. But the lot of us are looked upon as economically un-established. When some of our leaders began to complain and pressure President Reagan for concessions, soon after he came into office, he said, what you need to do is get your dollars to stay in your community and to make at least one circle in your community.
I watched a program on television recently that said the Federal Reserve Board points out that in most communities the dollar make five to six circuits but in our community it doesn't make one. Where is all of this money going? They're talking about more than $200 billion dollars in consumer spending by 25 or 30 million. Where is all that money going? Where is the strength?
This is because of the absence of character in the African-American community. Find the weakest character and give him a million dollars, by next week he'll be broke. But people of strong character are motivated by principle, and they just don't do anything, they have rules that they have to follow, they have a disciplined life, character makes possible a disciplined life.
So let us think about that very seriously; I wish I had more time I would like to talk to you for a few more hours, really. I've enjoyed talking with you and I hope that I have said something worthwhile in this month of February on identity and what really constitutes identity.