Reject Excessive Dependency
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.)
Dear beloved people, let me share with you something that happened to me about five days ago. I was shopping near one of the better high schools on Chicago's Southside. I like to get a little piece of penny candy every now and then, an ice cream cone, or a rainbow sherbet cone. When leaving the store I overheard one bright girl say. “In the USSR, basic necessities are free. Russians don't have to pay for education or housing.” Moving along slowly with them, stepping in front of them. I turned my head and said. "The Libyans don't have to pay for basic necessities either. I added, "But you know, there are some things I like to pay for myself." A young male turned, looked at me and asked, "What kind of thing do you like to pay for yourself?"- (I was praying for that kind of _ response.) I answered, "I like to pay for my freedom myself."
A freedom that emerges, dawns in the very deepest recesses of the soul of man. In the phenomenal spirit of man that ties us to one and the same personal and environmental human concern, that special freedom. So being myself stirred by that special freedom, I understood something, and having that understanding of it, is why I said that to the young students.
When we start to respond more to the urgency deep within, instead of just reacting to the rhetoric, statistics, research data, etcetera, of our preacher politicians and demogogue leaders, we will have that same influence driving us to move out of excessive dependency on others. We will have that influence driving us into personal responsibility and community responsibility for our own circumstances, for our own good future.
Setbacks occurring in the cultural processes of life are sometimes so devastating that nothing short of a genesis —one with which man, nature and social purpose are united — can move that people out of that devastating situation into a better life and a better future. For the task of successful living, the African-American people must have this kind of genesis. It was attempted by many before us, as I have said earlier. It was attempted in the social reform work of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. It was not in his racist talk; that was only a reaction to the whiteman's racism, and the whiteman's traditional religious based racist ideas.
Racist Religious Base
Many of us will forget that the belief that blacks were created inherently inferior received support from the ignorant church people and church leaders who said that we were Ham's children, and that Ham was cursed for laughing at his father's nakedness. The church taught that the curse fell on his children who were cursed to be black. Having experienced cultural setbacks to the extent of social devastation in the life of the African-American, we must dwell here on this particular concern, a concern for the establishment of a philosophy for the African-American people. We must establish a philosophy of life, a philosophy of group behavior for the African-American people. We must dwell here in this sacred unity until the hope is had by us as it has been had by other people who now are liberated, while we are still gripping and struggling in the spirit for that kind of liberation in the African-American life.
As ironic as it may seem after coming so far from slave and prison camp conditions, with more rights put on the law books than ever in the history of a people struggling for rights, and being in a land that still attracts the desperate to its offer of free spirit, free markets, free competition, our group spirit is still detained outside, still not yet liberated. Screaming Cubans have stopped yelling; they seem to be doing alright in Florida. Crying Haitians are going into the sunshine and drying their tears. The newest arrivals also, new citizens from the Far East are putting new blood into the business life of America. By answering a need in their own lives, they are strengthening this nation.
Cruelty After Slavery
Let us have again a movement out of excessive dependency. The reconstruction period put us in a situation to be rubbed like salt into the wounds of the white Southerner. We were put in the situation by the Northerners to be used to attract Southern rage away from their Northern white brother who had defeated them in the Civil War. They directed that rage to the African-American whom the Southern whiteman had enslaved. As a result of that there came a wave of cruelty unmatched even by the previous plantation cruelty.
A hundred years of lynching and KKK terrorism lasted even up to the time I was a young man in Chicago. There was a lynching in Cicero, a community not far from where we were living on the Southside, at which they brutalized a young black male only because he was walking alone in their streets during the quiet hours of the day. He was only there doing work, but they didn't believe him, they thought that he was just an intruder or a bold nigger who was over there walking in their neighborhood. So they brutalized him, and lynched him. That happened when I was a young man in Chicago.
Emmett Till, perhaps you remember how they brutalized him. He was a handsome young boy from Chicago who went to Mississippi, unprepared for a racial shock, and there he displayed mannerisms that the whiteman of Mississippi in that day could not tolerate. So they cruelly lynched that boy, and put a weight on his body and dropped him into the river.
So we find that behind slavery came the manifestation of greater cruelty against us. That is not to be charged to the Southerners. That is not be charged to the KKK. That is to be charged to the scheme of the Northern establishment that had to protect itself from the rage, bitterness and vengeance of the conquered South. They had to find something to put as a buffer between the North and South. So they used the Southern African-American. They gave him authority, and power right after the Southerners' defeat. They imposed martial law, and put blacks over those conquered whites, meaning they then had to take orders from blacks who had just recently been freed.
That was humiliating. Especially since that blacks that were put in those positions were not even educated to the psychological factors in that cruelty and in that situation: They were not prepared to deal with the psychological factors; they were ignorantly trying to do the best they could and allowed themselves to be used in a situation that created for them more resentment, and bitterness for the race. The result was one hundred years of lynching, a hundred years of terribly, insane cruelty against my people, your people, our ancestors.
We have to lead ourselves. Who will tell us that? Who will have the courage to tell us that? What social scientist is telling us that? What theorist or analyst is telling us that? You should understand that this man talking to you is the son of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He is dead and gone, but he was a tremendous man, a powerful man. He did a lot of wrong in ignorance, but he had great spirit for liberating his people, socializing his people, reforming his people socially, and giving them dignity and equality. He didn't want to do it walking hand in hand with white people; he wanted to do it hand in hand with brave women and courageous men, and of his own people. And now, out of his loins comes a son of his that actually has no credit from formal schools except a high- school diploma, in fact, a G.E.D. I took the test and got a diploma from the State, and I just have three hours in English from junior college.
But it is out of a person like me that comes the vision, the insight the direction for the people who can't find it otherwise. And I challenge you, your Ph.D. degree will not give you the answers you have gotten here. I challenge all of you. Your P.D. will not give you what I have presented here. Why? Because your Ph.D. has no provision for the peculiar situation in the African-American intellect. But God provides for all.