Imam W. Deen Muhammad
Editor's note: This is an excerpt from "An African American Genesis" by W.D. Muhammad.
There are many peculiar things in the situation of the African-American people's
enslavement. For example, the nature and degree of cruelty we experienced while enslaved. It is a peculiar and different experience from anything in the history of other human beings on this earth today. But, that is not all we have to look at when we are looking at peculiarities. We also have to look at our own behavior. Our behavior is the result or the effects of the peculiar experience behind us.
Although the present cultural environment that works against the natural function of human life has contributed much to our peculiar behavior as a people, and as individuals, I believe our behavior owes more to that peculiar past experience behind us. It owes more to the ugly pages of history and the enslavement of the African-American man.
This odd way of behaving is seen in our choices. Where in history have you ever read of people treated the way we were by their superiors, then when they gained their freedom, walk arm in arm with the people who mistreated them. We even joined their religion, the same religion that was used to justify our enslavement. We accepted their concept of God, even though that concept does not admit our race. We walk into their religious houses, accept their concept of God, bow, pray and kneel before the images that they have which don't admit our image, our ethnicity nor our race.
I have seen no African-American in their image of God or in their Heaven. Their Heaven is filled with Caucasian Americans or European angels, and those images are in their own likeness. They invited us to it, and we went right in and joined their religion. We lift up their image over our black suffering lot and say, "This is the Savior. This is the Lord. This is Jesus, this is my Lord." I am not knocking Jesus because Jesus never saw the pictures they paint claiming them to be him. So, forgive me if I seem harsh.
When we were freed, we were given a religion. As slaves, some of us wanted to have religion, but most slave masters would not allow it. We had our own religious spirit, our own songs, but no organized or revealed religion as such. We only had a spirit in us that made us feel religious. It was just the belief that God exists, and that He is a God of Justice. And knowing how we felt and believed, the Whiteman knew that we were ready to come into somebody's congregation.
Most people reading this book know that if you really want to make a child do something, just pretend that you don't want him to do it. If you pretend long enough, when you finally say he can do it, oh buddy! He will go right to it. This is the kind of psychology that was used on the African-American. For a long time we were not allowed to go to the Whiteman's churches or read the Bible. But when they said, "Now you can," we were conditioned to do so.
When first allowing us into their religion, we were told that we could not be a member of their church. This prompted a man in Philadelphia to start the first black church, which is now called the A.M.E. Church. Thus, we had our own black church, and we walked into that church with a great feeling of pride and dignity. We said, "They can't stop us from having church. They can't stop us from having our Bible. They can't stop us from having Christianity now. I'm free."
Some readers are probably saying, "Are you suggesting that many of our people accepted Christianity just out of spite?" Yes I am. What was there in that original Christian message for our people to accept? 'We had just been oppressed by a white figure, and then they offered us another white figure and said, "This is your salvation." We had just been oppressed, had our humanity taken from us for generations by a white figure, then that same oppressor gave us another white figure and said, "This is God, your salvation."
That was an insult. It was a terrible insult that no normal people would have accepted without being conditioned to do so. But we had been conditioned. The psychology to make us accept it was put to work before they introduced it. This is not just true for the religion or the church. This happened in other things we sought as well. Take the matter of integration. There were shrewd masterminds and shrewd manipulators of human emotions and behavior planning integration long before we fought for it.
I am not saying that all black Christians should leave the Church. It is up to the individual to make that decision. However, it would be better if our people left the church and came into the mosque. It would give them a level of dignity in this country that they have never enjoyed before. It will hurt many whites, but the hurt won't last very long. Now I know that there are some who will say, "How is the mosque or Al-Islam any different from the Church religion?" One very significant way in which our religion differs from many other religions is that it does hot allow us to see God in any man's form. Our religion does not say that God made man in His Own image and likeness. It is the Church religion that makes this claim, even though the Bible contradicts an idea or concept that raises any images as a likeness of God.
Ever since I have heard that claim, I've asked myself this question: If God made man in His own image and likeness, and the Whiteman is really a true convert to this belief, why doesn't he show that common image of man rather, than the image of a white man. You may ask, "What is the common image?" The common image first of all is that we have a good nature, a nature to rise up to the higher life and higher principles toward excellence.
As human creatures, we are naturally moved by goodness. Our humanity is not seen in our physical shape. I have heard some people say, "God is Spirit, and must be worshipped in the spirit." If that is the case, then why show me flesh? The reason I am shown flesh is to leave me with the flesh picture on my mind. We should have the courage to question these things in Christianity. These are the real issues that African-Americans must discuss.
I once read a book on English composition, in which the author was trying to help the would be new writer learn how to write. He wrote something that caught my attention. He said, "Quality means a lot, but the best writers are those who will tell you that when faced with a dilemma in which you have to choose between quality and substance, choose substance.
I would much rather have somebody talk to me about substance, than talk to me in a lot of flowery academic and overly. exaggerated language, sounding eloquent about nothing. Some people talk to you for hours and say nothing of substance. They just leave you with an encyclopedia of words, nothing but fancy rhetoric. Don't misunderstand me. I am not knocking education.
We should study the peculiarity of African-American behavior. I think the- African-American has accepted everything his former oppressor established for him. Some may say, "Well they are not oppressing, us now." That is true, but we will get more respect if we establish more independence in terms of making choices for' ourselves, by ourselves. We will get more respect from other ethnic groups if we had the courage to follow our ancestral spirit, the best of our past, and grow into something more uniquely ourselves as others have done. Other ethnic groups will have more respect for us if we were a more legitimate ethnic pattern.
The African-American has wanted power ever since being in America. We have gone from Black Power to Dollar Power, and still we are without any real power. Power is not going to come to us in that way. Power conies when you follow the natural process. We have to first assert ourselves as natural creatures, and not as artificial creatures. We must stop being shy in the face of our social obligations and social opportunities. We must come forward and not be afraid to trust our own intelligence.
We have become too emotional. We blame too much on the Whiteman. We have not tried to understand why the Whiteman feels the way he does towards us. We have not tried to understand why white people do not want us among them. Many other people of different ethnic origins come and move among white people and it doesn't bother them. Why? It is because they know those people have a sense of identity. They have a kind of unity, and though they are separated as members of their body, they are-not separated in terms of the group ego and group spirit. Though a person lives in a neighborhood with other races, he is still united with his people in spirit. He is still united with his people in terms of how he sees himself.
When a African-American moves into that same neighborhood, he tries to view himself like the white people view themselves. And white people look at this clone of their race and say, "Hell I am not going to recognize that. That is artificial." They are not going to say that to us because that is too embarrassing or too revealing.
It will seem very strange for those future generation who read our history and find that we lived in Africa before it was named Africa. In fact the continent, as it is presently called, was not named by its inhabitants. The name "Africa" was given by Europeans who came there and conquered the people. Practically every state over there at one time or other bore a foreigner's name. This is not just talk, these are recorded facts.
I am not only talking about a situation that we need to address, but one that even our motherland has to address one day. There are people who go around explaining the low spirit and low state of the African-American man and his descendants. They charge that the condition is due to the Whiteman's dominance. That is only part of the problem. The condition is also there because of our confused sensitivities and failure to establish a normal home life.
We need a home life for the race, for the family, and for the individual. We need a home life that has a spiritual context, a set of principles, and a network of sensitivities shared by all of us that will make us a people and will give wholeness to bur life. We need to do some philosophical thinking. We need to go back to what W.E.B. DuBois said, "The extent to which we will progress in the future, depends on the extent that we will go in teaching our children to think for themselves."
It is very strange, very peculiar that coming from Africa and from an Islamic past, we hear the ignorant among our people say, "Yes, but the Muslims sold us into slavery." Who told you that? That is untrue. Muslims did not sell us into slavery. Many of us were captured by marauders who raided the coastlines and small villages and took us from our land by force. The marauders were not even natives of Africa. They were marauders from Europe. This is a fact, and it requires very little study to prove it. This information is available at any public library for those who want it.
Many of us were sold into slavery by non-Muslims who wanted to get rid of their unruly population. They just sold their unruly population to slave traders. I could go on naming the conditions and incidents that contributed to so many millions of us being brought to this land and put into slavery, but it isn't necessary or fitting for this small publication. But, no matter what happened on that side, let us take a look at our judgment. If I do not want to be a Muslim or associate with Muslims or Arabs, nor want Arabs or Muslims close to me because they sold me into slavery, then I should apply the same rule to everyone. I should use the same measuring stick.
If you find the Arab whom you don't know as being so intolerable, then how can you tolerate integration, love and intermarriage with white people? After getting you into their hands, they did a much worse job on you than those whom you claim sent you over here. What kind of reasoning is that? You should be level headed. If you don't want to associate with a religion because Arabs are in it, then you shouldn't want to associate with Christianity because white people are in it.
Doesn't that make sense? It makes perfect sense. Rationalizations such as that will heal the mind of the African-Americans as a race. That is healing salve, and that is what we need. Those who fear to say these things don't have God's backing. Those not willing to go into the deepest quarters and recesses of the black man's life and experience to prepare him for success and progress in this world, they are not prepared to do this job.