By William P. Muhammad
As the first decade of the twenty-first century draws to a close, one of the greatest challenges facing Black America is education and the acquisition of useful knowledge. Considering self-preservation as the first law of nature and the darkness of ignorance its antithesis, to infringe upon a people’s human right “to know” is to hobble both their mind and spirit.
In 1832, for example, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates is on record as having boasted: “We have, as far as possible, closed every avenue by which light might enter their [the slaves’] minds. If we could extinguish the capacity to see the light, our work would be completed; they would then be on a level with the beasts of the field, and we should be safe! I am not certain that we would not do it, if we could find out the process, and that on the plea of necessity.”
The Commonwealth of Virginia, one state out of several, is on historical record as not only having expressed the desire to deprive an entire people of knowledge, but also of attempting to reduce Black people to the level of “beasts of the field.” As an historical consequence, despite the years that have passed, this effort to deprive an entire people of their humanity could not have occurred without leaving an indelible mark.
Although more than 140 years have passed since the official end of chattel enslavement in the United States, the shadow left upon the hearts and minds of Black people remains in the destructiveness of not only institutional racism, but also through an internalized form of self-hatred reinforced by the myths of Black inferiority and white supremacy.
It is only through an education that embodies the love of self, the knowledge of self and respect for the female that the healing and preserving of a people may take place. It is in this vein that one’s edification and enlightenment is assured and by focusing first on self, a people become rooted not only in their past, but they also become grounded in their present, thereby enabling them to embrace their future with optimism and pride.
With truth, wisdom and understanding as the catalyst, a complete change in thinking shepherds a well studied generation into a revolution of the mind. But what is a revolution of the mind, and how does it apply to the virtues of freedom, justice and equality?
Qur’anic scripture teaches us that “after difficulty comes ease,” therefore, in the cyclical nature of time, returning a people to their former greatness requires a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of history. Requiring study of that which has been traditionally omitted from most Western history books, our people are returned to their original state through the knowledge of their creator and the knowledge of their value as individual human beings.
If revolution represents a complete and total change from one state of being to another, and mis-education, misinformation or deceit represents stagnation and regression, then one may safely argue that an education dedicated to correcting historical falsehoods is apt. In a competitive market-oriented reality, helping to establish not only enlightenment, but also self-actualization requires the overthrow of ignorance, self-hatred and nilhism.
In a world often distracted by “greed, materialism and inordinate self-interest,” too much attention is focused upon the superficial and superfluous while those suffering from the lack of knowledge are prevented from rising above their condition. Therefore requiring early intervention, the natural intelligence with which our children are born must be nurtured and guided in order for them to negotiate the barriers and illusions impeding their progress.
Those charged with teaching our children must implement a “new educational paradigm.” Challenging our youth to see themselves as both relevant and important fixtures in the society cannot be overstated. Underestimating or dismissing the value of our young people closes the door to future possibilities and undermines our potential for greatness and success. An education that sparks to life the will and desire to master a given subject sets into motion that which cannot be undone, a mind made aware of its movement toward the absolute.
As our people begin to recognize that we are the masters of creation, and not the opposite, enlightened minds from among us will step forward into roles of leadership. With the knowledge of self at the center of a new curriculum, new expressions of civilization will emerge and those once at the bottom will be raised to the top as those once considered the tail become the head.
Brother William P. Muhammad is an author and a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso.