Volume 6, Number 15 May 22, 2003
Can Black People Survive?
by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Muímin Muhammad
While attending a conference on May 3rd at The City College of New York for a celebration of their African Studies Program, I posed the following question during my lecture: "Can Black people survive and thrive in a world with no meaning?"
The answer I give to my question is emphatically, No. Slaves can survive in such a world, but not a free-minded Black people. The key here is what is the nature of a "people". A "people" is not just the sum total of a bunch of non-connected individuals.
Black people have been seeking "unity" for the last 100 years. Yet we are as divided now as we were then. "Unity" is not the key to survival in a white supremacist dominated country. Obeying "massa" will allow you to survive. Disobeying him will cause you death, unless you have an army to defend yourself.
If the only way that we could obtain food, clothing and shelter was to "unite" with our Black self, then that is just what we would do. However, the children of our former slave masters have made themselves the "gods" over our physical survival, and they punish us if we attempt to unite.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad wrote in "Message to the Black Man" in 1965:
"Today, the international conception of honor, pride and dignity is not concerned with individuals within a country but is rather concerned with your work and value as a part of an established nation.
In order to be recognized today you must represent your nation. We must understand the importance of land to our nation." (p.223)
On my way up to this conference I was listening to National Public Radio. They had a conversation with two people working with orphans whose parents had died as a result of 21 years of civil war in Angola. One of these workers made a profound statement on the distinction between the "African" mind and the "European" mind. She stated that Africansí sense of self was completely interwoven with the group. The individual had no meaning except as he or she was related to the group. This is in strong contrast to the type of "individualism" taught by western societies. I might add that Blacks in America have bought into this concept of "individualism" lock, stock and barrel.
As descendants of Africans we want "honor, pride and dignity" without land and a "King" or leader. We have placed ourselves in an impossible position by expecting to gain these things as "individuals". On top of this, many of us have visited Egypt with scholars such as Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan and seen the dark skin, broad noses and kinky hair of the builders of the pyramids. We have come back defiant, not willing to bow down to white supremacy but unwilling to break away and build a nation. This is very dangerous.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that we must have "land" to have a nation. I have been working with Black farmers since 1997 to help them save the land that Black people still own. However, we own this land as individuals and not as a people. Without this concept of "group" or people we as Black farmers have not been able to unite successfully and stop the USDA from continuing to take away more land.
During the last administration when the Democrats had power they caused divisions within the Black farm movement by offering the possibility of USDA funding to one set of farmers, if they broke away from the other group of "trouble makers". When the Republicans took power they caused divisions within the Black farm movement by offering the possibility of USDA funding to one set of farmers, if they broke away from that other group of "trouble makers". When will we learn?
To show you how this system continues to work against our unity and the productive utilization of our resources and talents, we held a Black Land Loss Summit in February of this year. At that conference Min. Akbar Muhammad, the International Representative of the Nation of Islam, spoke to Black farmers about visiting Zimbabwe. Immediately after such invitation and acceptance by these farmers, America and Britain slapped sanctions on Zimbabwe and a rash of civil unrest broke out in Zimbabwe.
Another theme at the land loss summit was developing a strategy to fulfill the offer by Cuba to purchase from Black farmers. Now somehow Cuba has become a "threat" to America and normalization of relations has been put back on the back burners.
Many Black farmers and Black people in general will not want to believe that the government of the United States is that concerned about what a small group of Black farmers are attempting to do. The government of the United States has "Nia", purpose. Do you know what that "Nia" is? Do we as Black people have "Nia" or do we just say the word on the fifth day of Kwanza?
Is our "Nia" to integrate with our slave mastersí children? The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said:
"In what other country on this earth will you find 22 million people within the framework of another peopleís government seeking to become qualified citizens joyously singing the song of integration? Our people are the fools of the nations. Integration means self-destruction, and the means to this end is exactly that -- death and nothing less." (p.223)
These words were published in 1965. It is now 2003. A whole generation has chosen "integration" as a means to survival and prosperity in America. A lot of that generation is now behind bars and the other set lives at the bar, drinking and trying to figure out what went wrong.
As a farmer I can look at a field that did not produce well and figure out "what went wrong". If I do that same thing next year, guess what? The same thing will go wrong again.
We have had over 400 years of experience here among white people in America. Thus far their sole purpose seems to have been exploit, enslave or kill all non-white people of this country and the world. In light of recent events in this country and this countryís involvement in non-white countries around the world, has that "Nia" changed?
They have a strong and active "Nia". What about you? Therefore I repeat, "Can Black people survive and thrive in a world with no meaning?"