Man: A Challenge For Himself
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
(Editor's Note: The following is excerpted from Imam W. Deen Muhammad's April 13, 1986 address at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York.)
If we want to normalize the spirit and behavior of the African-American as a people, we must have the courage to follow the call of those leaders who address the whole need, the traditional need in the life of our people. There is not many of them around anymore. We once had quite a few of them, but most of them are gone.
Dear beloved people, isn't it strange that the European comes over here to America, and he becomes an American, his generations are Americans, but he has the religion of his homeland? The Asian comes over here, and he becomes an American too, but he has the religion of his homeland. The new immigrant — they are black, brown, and a few African are even white, like the Libyans, or like the Algerians they build their home, and in it they have a sanctuary for their traditional religion.
We African-Americans were cut off too abruptly, too thoroughly, to have that kind of sensitivity. It's as if we were just suddenly cast upon a new planet in the galaxy with no recollection of how we got here or whether we should stay or not. So we had to take all of our signals from the new environment, from the new situation that offered us little or nothing from the past, except negative things.
Tarzan, a savage white man, not even a civilized white man, but a half naked, savage white man that couldn't even talk, he had to holler. But he was the lord over the black people of Africa. That is the kind of picture cartoon and movie they showed to your children two, three and four generations back to condition our minds to believe that their white man was lord over our ancestors. I saw them. When there came an opportunity for Muhammad Ali to be made a mythological hero in fiction, they fought it, and didn't even give it a break, they played a little bit of it and took it out. Because those who want us as their field, animals, domestic pets and foster-home children, cannot separate from us, and if they see a trend that is going to take us out of our own, and establish us in our own manhood, in our own dignity as a people, they fight it, though they know it is against their better principles of civilization. They fight it because they are too weak in their sentiments. They are too much attached to their old property, called "Uncle Tom, Black boy, etcetera."
We know this in psychology. We know this in sociology that a person can become too attached to their own children, so attached that they become a cruel taskmaster. A domineering restraint on the potential of their own children, holding their children back from dignity and progress because they love them too much. Their love is coming from a dependency in them. It is coming from a weakness in them. It is coming from an insecurity in them, and they are coming from that weak situation, loving their children, and sending their children right to inferiority behind inferiority. And that is the same thing the white man's supervision of us does for us.
I don't want his supervision anymore. Let us walk together as men. Let me carry the light of education and enlightenment and destiny and future and philosophy. Let me carry it for myself. I don't want you carrying it for me anymore.
Whether we live in the old world or new world, the third world or the world of the superpowers, we are going to find ourselves in environmental situations where the very nature of man challenges man. The dynamism of man himself challenges him. And you are going to find bright children and slow children. You want to find those that will become unruly, and you will judge their unruliness wrongly because of your shortsightedness. You would think that your own children or your own subjects in that environment wherever it is are really against you, resent you, don't appreciate you, and are trying to overthrow you. But it might be because they are so out of touch with what you really represent, for some reason they have been separated from what you really represent from your traditional strength, your traditional life, your traditional progress, they have been separated from it.
You have left them by the wayside, and you didn't bring them along with you, so now they have become a factor for undermining you. Also, it can happen if you neglect to see that there are some bright ones among them, you who have insights and vision that will take your society much further than you can take it yourself, because you don't have that. You will be in the ruling position, but you won't have the insight. You won't have the genius that have emerged in your subjects. So because you see an unruliness in them, and a tendency to undermine, you will then go against them, and many times destroy your best people. You destroy your best future, in ignorance.
We look at our American society, now, the African-American. We look in these big cities, and we see our teenagers, we see our youth in these youth gangs, and they have a code of ethics. They have loyalty. They have a code that they live by, and they really exercise more respect for each other, and more loyalty to each other, then we exercise in our so-called legitimate society. I'm talking about these gangs. They are more committed to each other. They care more about each other than in the so-called legitimate public. In our homes, we don't have that kind of bond. We don't have that kind of commitment to principle. We don't have those loyalties. We just turn against each other, ignore each other, walking away from each other. Dying and going into dope, wine and prostitution and everything; going into theft, being recruited by gang leaders, and we are just letting it happen. We are looking at all of that happening, and sometimes the terrible destiny that God allows to happen is better than the situation that we have for our children at home. That is pitiful. But we are going to do something about it.
We can become ignorant, and become the oppressors of our own. We can become the very forces that suppress the seeds in our potential, and suppress the spirit in that potential. We have to understand the complexity of life, the complexity of society, whether it is in 1986 or in 1786 or earlier. We must understand that there are competing forces and competing systems, and there are always personal needs, And many times these competing forces and systems can become misguided and warped, and an environment will be created that is insane. Then the urge in human potential will begin to emerge, and with that spirit, that energy from that human potential will come personalities who as individuals will address the wrongs of the environment, and begin to recommend remedies for correcting the problems of the environment.
If we are too caught up in our own traditional ways, too fascinated, too charmed, too excited over our own achievements, we won't be prepared for the factor of liberation that is emerging in the new individual. We won't be prepared for it.