Monday, September 22, 2008

We see the Promised Land so what's next?

By Brother William P. Muhammad

According to current demographic trends and statistics, the year 2050 will reveal an America the founders neither realized nor imagined, a nation where people of color may very well become the majority population. Subsequently translating into governorships, congressional seats and, as heralded by the past campaigns of Shirley Chisholm, Jessie Jackson and now Barak Obama, the Oval Office, as a rule rather than the exception, may find people of color routinely occupying its seat.

This potential reality, a dream for some and a nightmare for others, would change current social, political and economic paradigms. Manifesting significant domestic and foreign policy changes, such as wealth distribution at home and abroad, strategic realignments overseas and perhaps more equitable relations with the developing world, the mid 21st century may indeed become the beginning of the non white world’s rise.

Bringing a new meaning to words E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one) is such a future realistic, if not overly optimistic? Are the American people, particularly our youth, adequately prepared to inherit such a reality? And as the old saying goes: if “there are two sides to every coin,” with reality often found somewhere in the middle, where will the United States truly stand, and toward which direction will the current facts lead?

On the eve of his 1968 assassination, in what became his final speech, Dr. King referred to reaching the mountain top and seeing the “Promised Land,” a profound if not prophetic statement on America’s future potential. This often misrepresented statement of his, if interpreted properly, should put into context the “Valley of Decision” in which the American people find themselves today. However, Blacks and Latinos who desire to occupy that “Promised Land,” serve themselves and their interests better by taking into account where they fit into the “big picture.

According to US census data, the United States may instead find itself a nation where power rests with an older, wealthier and more educated class among whites and Asians, with an increasingly undereducated, poorer and non-skilled majority consisting primarily of Blacks and Latinos.

Demographic projections for 2050 indicate an America more diverse, with increasingly higher numbers of non-whites, than at any other period in its modern history. As these numbers continue to grow with current socio-economic domestic conditions remaining the same, this new and emerging majority may not have the qualifications necessary to maintain America’s status as a world power.

According to the religious traditions of Jews, Christians and Muslims, the “Promised Land” was a civilization, and as such, a society built and maintained, in part, by a mastery of mathematics, the sciences and law. From a secular perspective, Dr. King’s “Promised Land” is no different and history bears witness that the American civilization was likewise based upon a mastery of these three things. Therefore, in order to enable the eventual emergence of a new socio-economic and political order, people of color must first qualify themselves in order to occupy the future positions awaiting them, requiring much more than the oft repeated mantra of “stay in school.”
Parents, educators and policy-makers must offer a crystal clear vision of how the future will look in order to motivate the coming majority population and academic achievement should carry the same weight, if not more, as athletic achievement.

For instance, how many schools hang banners of conference, regional and state championships in their gymnasiums, how many school hallways prominently display sports trophies and how many schools do the same or better for intellectual exercises such as math, science or debate and which is the priority?

Education and the seeking of knowledge are the keys to success for any generation, and to remain relevant within in a market-oriented global reality requires an intense commitment not only to excellence, but also to a vision relevant to the people involved.

According to educational statistics, by order of race, Asian-Americans leave high school with the highest math and science scores, followed by whites with slightly lower numbers, while Latinos, Blacks and Native Americans score at the very bottom (and this does not take into account those who dropout before graduation).

Coupled with current incarceration rates which find nearly one-in-three African-American men, and increasing numbers of Black women, entangled in the criminal justice system, the disposition and relevance of African-Americans by 2050 appears only open to speculation.

Whether it is false pride, self-sabotage and personal destruction promoted in popular culture; envy, materialism and unnecessary debt promoted through conspicuous consumption or racism, abuse and low expectations promoted in our national priorities, our young men and women are digesting the bitter fruits of social, economic and political irrelevance, and the old saying says: “You are what you eat.”

In 2050, a Black or Latino child born today will be 42-years-old. In a country where they will no longer be a minority, but together the majority, will they be relevant in the onward march of civilization? Today will the elders lead them over the mountaintop and into the “Promised Land” or will we wander in the wilderness another 40 years without vision as our young people continue perish? The time for change is now, and we know what must be done.

Education is more that just showing up in the classroom. It requires a desire among both the teacher and the student to feed from the wellsprings of knowledge which is an ever evolving process. It requires parents to recognize the light of brilliance in their children’s eyes and to stoke the fires of their natural curiosity. It requires limiting the television and reading to or with them, discussion of current events, the physical world around them and how they fit into the big picture.

It requires a vision for the future and how young people will impact and affect that world when it comes, and perhaps more important than anything else, it requires parents, teachers and policy makers to recognize that if Americans wish to maintain their quality of life and status as a world power, together they must value their children more than they value their own personal interests.


Bro. William P. Muhammad is a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso and an author.

It's time to get it together

By: Brother William P. Muhammad

It is undoubtedly one of the most understated facts any person of reasonable intelligence could ever hope to make, to say our sojourn in North America has been arduous from the time enslaved Africans first arrived here. Without rehashing what should be regarded as “home lessons 101,” among Black folk at least, perhaps in addition to the February ritual of pulling out and dusting off the old curled and browning pictures of inventors during Black History Month, maybe our various community leaders should consider setting aside the internal subterfuge and bickering that far too often hinders the badly needed solutions to the many problems plaguing us.

It is abundantly clear that the top-down models of umbrella organizing, in the name of coalition building; charismatic leadership, in the name of ego and leadership by proxy, through begging white philanthropy, have all failed to provide the long term solutions needed to secure our youth and subsequent generations. With longevity, success and prosperity being the legacy our fore-parents worked so hard to leave for us, now more than ever, as the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has challenged the Black community to do, it’s long past the time to look inward and seriously exercise the concepts of “self-examination, self-analysis and self-correction.”

Undoubtedly, most Black folks reading this will agree that the above said is true and on point, but in the meantime, are we nevertheless willing to concede defeat to the strategies and tactics of Willie Lynch? (And if you don’t know who Willie Lynch is by this late in the game, I’ll forgive you only just this one time.) But many have done just that, conceded defeat, not necessarily in words, but in deeds. Particularly if we expand Mr. Lynch’s list of exploitable differences among us to include those of religion, education and class, it won’t take a rocket scientist to see that our positive efforts, for the most part, will become exercises of futility as the clock runs out on Black America.

Eurocentric education, both public and private, white oriented national and international political interests and philanthropic efforts by those of good will outside of the Black community, cannot and will not make us into a people who love and respect ourselves, our families and our fellow Black brothers and sisters. That responsibility rests squarely upon the shoulders of those assertive people who are aware of their own self-interests and don’t apologize for it.

History teaches us at the turn of the 19th into the 20th century, with the denial of public accommodations, legal segregation and outright oppression, Blacks owned more producing land than today; we were more producer than consumer and we relied more upon the resources available in our own communities. Therefore, it is not an accident that the denial of land, access to capital, ownership of the means of production and control of distribution, as the keys to real political power and independence, has been among the goals of institutional racism. Without these things, the concepts of self-reliance, self-sufficiency and self-actualization diminish, and the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness become, in fact, an illusion.

But, are we capable of overcoming these manufactured impediments? Emphatically, yes!

The study of history, and our willingness to learn from its consequences, teaches the wise how to avoid the snares and pitfalls in the present, and only an earnest, honest and comprehensive introspection, will achieve this to any meaningful degree.

For instance, in the early days of the 20th century, personalities such as Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois and the Honorable Marcus Garvey all championed individual ideas sufficient to lead us to the proverbial promised-land. Also, between these men, their individual agendas contained the economic, intellectual and socio-political blueprints necessary to overcome America’s problem of “the color line.” However, their ideas failed to cross-over and congeal into long-term solutions when their philosophies were misinterpreted by Black people, redefined by whites and undermined by government machinations. Either criticized for “accommodating” Southern white racism, disrespected as being co-opted by Northern white elitism or rejected as a movement of so-called “hateful negroes,” these individually successful models, proven to lift us as a people, nevertheless died on the vine, and Black America paid the price for it.

By the middle of the 20th century, successful models again emerged in the Black community through the socio-economic paradigms put forth by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam and the socio-political agendas championed by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the SCLC. Though attempts to merge their ideas of empowerment, economic independence, political solutions and legislative initiatives, through cooperative strategies and tactics, were marginal at best, the same factors undermining Black progress in the early 20th century, returned once more in the 1960s and ‘70s forcing Black America, once again, to pay for the price for failure by the end of the 1990s.

Now in the dawn of the 21st century, with the disintegration of the American Black family, a failing public educational system, increasing incarceration rates among Black youth and the export of formerly well paying factory jobs to Third World markets, the economic uncertainty facing Americans has clearly spread beyond the borders of our individual communities. With more pressure not only upon the poor, but also upon the middle and working classes in general, can Blacks now afford to wait for others to create the jobs we need to improve the quality of their lives?

Overseas conflicts spawned by globalization and the subsequent Euro-American efforts to “manage” the rise of the non- white world, have brought the American Black man and woman into the “valley of decision.” Will it take yet another generation to finally learn the lessons of the past? Will it take another hundred years to truly partake of the so-called American dream? Can the Black community really afford to not amalgamate its various philosophies into functional strategies and tactics for the benefit its future?

It is possible, but the clock is running down. If Black folk don’t get it together, and soon, we as a people may not make it through the 21st century, and the American dream so many desire, may very well become a nightmare that could have been avoided.

Brother William P. Muhammad is a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso and an author.