September 9th 1994
People of African Descent on Race and Traditional Pride: Part 3
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
Africa's families, tribes or nations are not known to have in their own thinking skin color, physical features, hair texture and the like. This kind of thinking came to the world from the European family tree; it was not from us. However, our family on the mother continent we call Africa and here in the United States, in the Caribbean and elsewhere is over powered by this illegitimate race consciousness.
For us in America, race consciousness was not the most important support, but for White supremacy it is. And as for us, instead of getting support, we get the harm and no support. It disadvantages us, while giving the advantage to the race racism was created for.
The aspiration for freedom was not hurt more by anything than by the racial classification. Relief from that burden probably got on the way with the revolutionizing of industry and labor in the early days of what is called the industrial age. Our parents in slavery must have begun to sense their importance in the production or in the resources of their slave masters with the coming of that period called the industrial revolution.
The industrial economic world with the invention of Whitney's cotton gin began undergoing big change, as history tells us. Some of our parents witnessed that period of time, and I heard my parents talking about that time. At this early stage for the revolutionizing of industry in the west, manpower or slave labor was given a boost. There was more demand for more slave labor.
England opened more to cotton imports. Machines in competition with unskilled labor was a factor influencing more demand for raw cotton. So instead of machines making the slaves un-useful or not desired by the masters, the machines made slaves more attractive to the masters. It was because there was so much a demand for cotton. It was not only demanded in America but in other parts of the world and especially in England.
The machines couldn't do everything, and many of the slaves were trained by their masters even to do skilled labor. In fact, many times the masters had no members of their own race to do the skilled labor that they had allowed their slaves to learn or come into.
I just left Charleston, South Carolina, where I received a dear contribution of a book from the Booker T. Washington family. That city has a history of skilled "Black" workers there right now, and you can see and hear from the mouths of common people of their coming into skilled labor, of their being the iron workers of Charleston with their artwork in the building construction of Charleston. The evidence and the people are there right now. Most of us thought that we were laborers and totally unskilled. That is not so.
It so happens that in the Middle East where the Palestinians have been denied their rights and their dignity and their freedom, they are the best in masonry. Israel or the Jews have to depend on the Palestinians for brick or stone masonry. The Palestinians are the builders in Israel, and not the other way around.
This knowledge of our value in the labor market is very important for our children and very important for us. It will give us a different sense of existence, a different sense of value. We have been told only the worst things about ourselves during slavery. We have to get the story straight so we can have a better sense of race and personal value.
This brief period that we are talking about that revolutionized industry for the world started in the western hemisphere, as you know, with Europe and America. That period saw serious slave revolts and rebellions. These rebellions frightened White people, frightened the masters. We are told of Nat Turner's revolt, but before his history others revolted. He was not the first to violently rebel, and he was not the last.
I believe this rebellion or the spirit to rebel was helped by the growing industry. New inventions were sending shock waves through the world of that time. It was shock waves so strong that they just couldn't keep them from reaching the slaves' consciousness or awareness.
I also believe the slaves began to discuss their situation and said, "Look, we are more important to the world than we thought we were. They are bragging about what these machines are going to do, but look who has been doing this for them when they didn't have machines. We have been their machines."
I believe the slaves began to discuss their own importance with industry and to see their importance in a new light and in a new industrial reality. And they must have become more disgusted with their station on this earth as slaves. Some of them got so disgusted that they were willing to pay the ultimate price, to pay with their lives. Don't you know Nat Turner knew he was going to die. He wasn't stupid.
They called John Brown, the overly enthusiastic European, crazy; history has him as a crazy man. But if you read about him and read his language, he was not crazy. So why would John Brown knowingly rebel with a few Blacks who were slaves if he were sane? It was to say with his death what he couldn't say with his life. That is a way of a martyr.
A martyr is one who if he can't say something with his life, he will say it with his death if it has to be said. Wasn't Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a martyr? He told us he knew he was going to be killed.
I also believe that Nat Turner and the other slaves who revolted knew they could not win. But with their death they were going to say what they couldn't say with their life. And sometimes death can say it in a very strong way that sends waves out everywhere. Whereas sometimes you'll be muffled and hid and pushed back.
A lot of great men would not have had an impact on the future of society if they had not made that supreme sacrifice. I am not encouraging anyone, for I hate suicide and love sacrificing while I'm living. If you do the thing that might get you killed and live, you are a martyr over and over again.
I love sacrificing, and I work hard at living. I'm saying that to you, not for my sake, but in hopes that you will be more determined to live. Please don't make yourself out to be a sacrifice. If ever I go, I am telling you right now it was not intentional. But Allah has so created the world that some great advances are made by such sacrifices.
We know that with the industrial revolution there were other major developments for the South and North and for us as a people that made our existence even more miserable on this earth. The worst treatment to our people didn't come when we were slaves. It came right after reconstruction and during that period of industrial revolution.
The South had to save its idea of life against the march of the North. Eventually, it came to the point where the South had to break with the North. There was the break, the succession where the southern states attempted to become an independent Confederate nation to itself. They didn't have time to realize it before they were thrown into war.
Then after the Civil War the northern conquerors occupied the South and imposed us on the South and put us over the southern White man. Though emancipated and freed from slavery in the South, our race was wooed by the North so that the North would have a more thorough victory over the South, and also have for the White world a promised economic superiority over all other nations and races.
Symbolism-based race consciousness was exploited to block any chance that the South might heal its social wounds and compete with the North upon the strength of a united work force. The South had a great work force. I don't know about Black brothers now but then slavery proved the African man to be stronger physically and more suited to hard work. We don't like to talk about this, because we don't like to recall slavery. Whites tried to work their own race and tried also the American Indians. This is history, and they came to the conclusion that the African stock was best suited to survive the hardships of the hot humid environment and be continuous and steady at work.
The commercial establishment, the investors of huge capital - the northeast - were instrumental in manipulating race relations and setting the two races or two people against each other. Some might say that slavery set us against each other, the North didn't have to do that. But maybe you would be surprised to know how many Africans or Blacks in the South had very good relationships with a master. A few slaves and slaveholders were friends and did each other favors and enjoyed each other's company, and blocked out the ugly relationship.
Something else you have to know about slavery, that it is natural for the human being to render one's life completely. The only thing wrong with it is that we give our life to man and not to God. Our religion tells us that slavery is natural but give it to God.
(To be continued)