SOLVING THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN DILEMMA - Motherless
By Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(Excerpts from the Book - "AN AFRICAN AMERICAN GENESIS" with the address given at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York )
One of the great tragedies of the African-American experience has been the inability of the race to re-establish a stable family life since being physically freed from slavery. Part of that tragedy has been the failure of the race to understand the importance of the woman and her role in establishing that family life. In our religion God gives us the understanding that the woman's role is one in partnership with the man. God also tells us that they are our mothers.
Now, these concepts and the concerns for them are fundamental. We cannot abandon these dear and precious essentials from our life without suffering catastrophic kinds of problems. On the other hand, if we don't abandon those essentials, we can make progress in dealing with other problems. But first we must deal with the basic, primary needs in the life of the human being in society. In this connection God wants us to remember that the woman is our mother.
The African-American community has a great burden on it because slavery separated the mother from her greatest occupation of being a mother in the true sense. And since slavery, we have not been in a situation to re-establish her back in that great noble position.38 We had some grandmothers, great grandmothers and great, great grandmothers who did a good job in that spirit of excellence. They had the spirit to carry out the mother responsibility to their children and to their society, but generally, we underestimate it.
We are right when we do not act like our mother or grandparents did when it comes to disciplining our children. When it came to disciplining her children, my mother was from the old tradition. She would love you with a stick, and love you with an apple pie. She would love you with chicken and dressing on Sunday, love you with your favorite biscuit or your favorite cake or your favorite piece of meat. She would say, "Momma cooked this for you. I know you like this." But, she would also love you with a stick, and she would then say, "Momma got this for you."
If you talk to some of these modern social workers, they might tell you that my mother was crazy, cruel, brutal and a child abuser. They might ask, "Oh, did she really whip you like that? Did she leave scars on you?" Yes she did. Then they might ask, "Did she brutalize you?" No she didn't. It makes you wonder where these social workers were trained. Some of them cannot understand the changed circumstances. In today's circumstances, it would be improper to take a stick and beat kids like that because they are not responsible for their behavior.
It is the extremely altered environment that is causing most of the malfunctioning in our children. We cannot take up a stick to correct them. Social workers today should study the past, the old situation before they start judging our mothers and trying to make us believe that they were cruel. My mother wasn't cruel. She had a right to do that to me. I knew better, and there was nothing influencing me to behave that way but my own free choices.
For children today, it is not only a person's free choices, but the overwhelming super image of the environment saying, "Oh, you are wrong to behave like your mother. She is backwards and unpopular." This is a greatly changed situation since I was a child. Therefore, man needs the strength and power that only God can give him. He needs the strength to challenge the very environment itself, no matter what dimension it has. Whether it is the size of New York , America or the size of China , man has to meet the task.
Man and Woman's Nature Established by God
The Holy Qur'an teaches us, "He has created for you mates that you may find in them rest."39 There is nobody on the earth today more in need of resting his head than an African-American male, especially if he has a family. God also says, "By virtue of natural development, they (women) are dependent on the males."40 If God has established this, then we cannot change these nature based things that have served to establish man and civilization and usher them forward. We cannot get a happy notion about freedom in this very liberal wine drinkers society of equals and forget about these things that have accounted for the establishment of man and woman, for the health of society, and the advancement of civilization.
In addressing the inherent equality for males and females, God says that we have been created from one and the same entity.41 God doesn't tell us that the woman was created from a rib of man to fit under his arm as she walks down the street as his sweetheart. I actually heard a woman preacher say, "God made woman from the rib of man. That's from his side, so he can put his arm around her as they walk down the street." That is a ridiculous statement to make of the woman who has a much bigger and nobler job to do at home.
Sometimes a woman doesn't have the time to walk with her man down the street under his arm. She has something more important to do at home. This world has frightened the woman out of her home domain. In her home domain is the fortress for protection of the life of society. And it has been the deterioration of home life that has resulted in the bringing down of the African-American race.
A Strategic Withdrawal
The African-American's life-the group spirit, the group form and group identity has never been established. That is why members of the race has a feeling of loneliness. That is why we have not yet arrived as other ethnic groups. With so much material affluence around us, with wealth piling up over our heads, with all of our degrees in practically every field of endeavor, we still feel lost. We still feel short of the mark of arriving at home simply because we have not retreated.
We need to step back from the Whiteman and say, "Look, you have led us as far as you can take us. Now we are going to build our own ideology. Now we are going to build a philosophy of life for our own people, and you cannot help us any longer. Therefore, stand aside and watch us do it, and if we want or need you, we will call on you." In our soul, that is the work that is yet to be done. W. E. B. DuBois made a strike at it. So did Carter G. Woodson. A man who wasn't even on this land or in this part of the world, Franz Fanon, made a strike at it. Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, was striking at it before he died, trying to do something about it. Dr. Mays' sensitivities indicated this as the direction in which he wanted to take his people.
With all of the efforts of these people, none were able to accomplish it. Why? It is because the African-American think more of a civil rights struggle or civil rights protest. We have been conditioned by past experience to think that the only way home is through the politician and the preacher, but history has shown us, that is not the way to get there. We need to set up camp in a desirable climate for six months, or a year, even longer if necessary. We need to stay together until we come out with what we need. This is what Moses had to do. He took his people up into the wilderness and they stayed out there until they got what they needed. I am not trying to pretend that I am the only one who has this kind of concern or wants to move our people in that kind of direction. I am only stating why we have not done so, and why it must be done.
Eric Fromm, in his book Sane Society, dwells on this need in man. He was fascinated by what he saw in this dynamism of man, and he recognized that dynamism in the spirit of man's potential. It is from that potential that there arises or emerges a spirit that many times we are not aware. You may not know your potential, but there is a spirit that keeps telling you, "That isn't enough. You are not situated well enough yet. You have not realized enough freedom yet." You may think, "Well I'm free as a bird," but that spirit tells you, "Not enough yet. I want to be even freer. I want to be free enough not to putter out while I am going in the direction I want to go."
God tells us in the Holy Qur'an, "And He has made whatever you see in the Heavens and in the Earth as a utility to man."42 If God has made me for such great significant performance on this earth, then it tells me that He has put into the human being a potential bigger than the challenges of these environments. He has given me a potential equal to the task of the universal environment. This potential is what makes Superman. But in our religion, that degree of growth is not Superman, it is true man. God tells us that man is created for a productive life, that man has been created to grow.
Although we have been created to grow, we know that the most crucial role for man is the one God gives us in these words, "Neither did I create men nor jinn for any purpose except My Worship."43 Thus the worship of God is man's highest purpose. When we say, "Worship God," we do not mean to just have a spiritual session, clapping our hands and getting the spirit. Worshipping God means to be of service to Him in a way that benefits man, plants, animals, the total environment that we must live in. It is this kind of concern that separate the big nations from the small nations, the passing away nations from the sustaining nations.
The Work Ethic
Man's spirit wants to go to the Moon. That is the spirit of your potential. That great potential is telling you, "Get up out of this mediocrity. Get up out of this inferiority. You have a greater destiny. You are not yet home. John H. Scanzoni, in his book, The Black Family In Modern Society, tells us something that is revealing about the African-American. He points out that the deteriorated condition of the African-American family and social life should not be taken as an indication that the entire race is given to such situations.
There has been, and there still are African-American Christians who hold to the Protestant work ethnic. Neither they nor their families are lost. They still have disciplined forward looking children. Their children are not filling up the jails. Their children are successful, and represent the strength, and maybe even the future of the many others that do not have the better foundation for life.
Mr. Scanzoni points out, that having similar credits are the Black Muslims who could not find that work ethic in Christianity.44 He says that they were the unfortunate ones. They were not blessed to have had that Christian work ethic and Christian principle of fine performance in life imparted to them; therefore, they turned their backs from Christianity in disappointment and followed the loud call of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad to a new way of life, a new concept, a new future and a new self-image.
Mr. Scanzoni says, after researching the followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, he found that the Black Muslims, who were mostly from the low poverty strata, able to achieve that same work ethic. They were able to perform in the same way, and they were also emerging into the main stream of American life. What does that tell us? It tells us that if we couldn't find it in Christianity, and nearly ninety-eight percent of us do not, then we need something different. The same old thing just will not work for most of us.
When we consider work, we find that it fulfills the need for happiness in our lives. How do I know what work fulfills? I found it in the Word of God. He says, "Enter you, among my workers. Enter you My Paradise."45 I cannot make it any clearer than that. However, it is also important that we realize what the Prophet said. Referring to work, he said that no descendant of Adam gets enjoyment from having his needs supplied equal to the enjoyment of what is gained from his own lawful efforts and endeavors. In this connection, I believe it is appropriate to mention a poem written by an Arabic poet many many generations ago which states, "A cage is not my living quarters. It is not my habitat. The open environment was made for me, and I will never accept an existence in a cage, though my master makes my cage of solid gold." This is the kind of attitude the African-American needs.
The Genetic Factor
I believe with all of my heart, and with every fiber of my being that God has blessed us as a people by putting us into this situation. You can read the history of slavery in Encyclopedia Britannica, which is no ordinary encyclopedia. In one section of the encyclopedia, it describes the peculiar slave system America had in the South.46 It tells us that it was unlike any other condition of slavery that ever existed. It was drastically different from any other slave system in the history of man in its nature and its attitude toward the enslaved.
Who was it that experienced that? The genes that represent the core of my genetic life right now experienced that. Don't think only of your ancestors back there in the 1700's and 1800's. Even though those people are buried and gone, their genes are in their descendants. That is why long after a man has done a work and departed, people who know his history will say of another person, "Hey, he has traits just like that man." And that is why many people believe in reincarnation. But it isn't reincarnation. It is the sperm that puts it there. It doesn't have to come back.
I have the genes of my mother, father, both grandfathers and grandmothers just as you have the genes of your ancestors. I also have the genes of Adam in me right now. They didn't go anywhere. They were passed on exactly as his genes were made by God. That explains why you can put a man in the dark, but you cannot keep him there if he has the spirit from his better ancestors.
If a man responds to the genes and the better spirit of his ancestors, you cannot keep him in the dark. You may try to keep him there, but eventually you will find him with a light. You will wonder, "How did you get a light? There was no way out of this place." God is the One who lights from within. Now many may want to play down the importance of what I have just said, but give another explanation if you can as to how this happens.
38 John W, Blassingame, The Slave Community. Chapter 3, The Slave Family, pp. 77-KB. Oxford University Press, New York , 1972. Also see, E. Franklin Frazier, The Negro Family in the United States . Chapter 3, Motherhood In Bondage, pp. 33-49. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1973.
39 Holy Qur'an 30:21.
40 Holy Qur'an 4:34.
42 Holy Qur'an 14:33.
43 Holy Qur'an 51:56.
44 David, Gutman, Sutch, Temin and Wright, Reckoning with SLAVERY. Chapter Two, Sambo Makes Good, or Were Slaves Imbued with the Protestant Work Ethic, pp. 55-93. Oxford University Press, New York , 1976.
45 Holy Qur'an 89:29:30.
46 Encyclopedia Britannica, Early Modern Plantation Slavery, pp. 860-63, Macropedia, Volume 16, also Slave Rebellions, U.S. & Slave Trade, pp. 266-67, Micropedia, Volume IX, 15th Edition, Chicago, Illinois, 1973-74.