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.