By Rahim Islam
Contrary to popular belief, America’s Black community, which consists of 47 million people, is not a monolith.
Black America, like any other community, is made up of a diverse population that includes various sub-groups including urban and suburbanites, low, middle and high income people, the religious and non-religous, liberals and conservatives among others. While much of the population is made up of the descendants of African slaves brought to this country, there are also people who came to the United States via the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and South America.
Bottom line: no matter how we got to America, we’re all descendants of Africa and considered to be one Black race.
Scholars often interpret race as a socially constructed phenomenon, its divisions shaped by common social norms, understandings, and perceptions. However; human fate still depends upon ancestry and appearance. Our hair, complexion, and facial features define who you are in America and foster all of the stereotypes that come with it. Like all people, Blacks don’t have a monopoly on good or bad people, but Black culture isn’t anything like its portrayed in the American mass media. Black culture isn’t about being lazy, diseased, criminal, promiscuous, anti-family, anti-American, or helpless. Given the predicament that Blacks have endured in America, Black culture is strong and resilient; it’s about achievement, greatness and excellence.
Blacks in America and around the world have become a conquered group and the result is that black culture has morphed into a clone of American white culture. American white culture hasn’t produced nearly the outcomes for Blacks as it has for whites. Why? The American culture is about the supremacy of America and the white race which is in conflict with Blacks no matter how well behaved or how well he or she emulates American culture. This isn’t an attack against white people – it’s quite understandable for the culture to be what it is. In fact, many other groups, while they are considered American, have not fully embraced American culture and work hard to maintain their cultural identity. This is achieved through maintaining their language, religion, and customs This approach has been extremely difficult for Black people.
Since the 15th Century, Europeans have believed it is their divine right to rule and govern African people. As part of the “Manifestation of the evil genius of Europe,” Europeans not only colonized the world, but also the world’s information, making Europe the subject of world history and defining Africa as the “Dark Continent”, characterizing its people as primitives with evil traits and desires, devoid of knowledge and culture. This is just the opposite because Africa is the “Mother of Civilization” and has a recorded history of nearly 100,000 years with Africans being pioneers in a variety of fields including science, religion, mathematics, education, and, philosophy.
One of the weapons that Europeans have used to perpetuate and maintain the big lie of European supremacy and the invincibility of White privilege is miseducation. The entire education system was designed to create an absolute and total dependency of Africans to Europeans and to produce people who would participate in the process of European colonial rule. We have been taught to reject outright anything associated with Blacks, in many cases, reveling in the hope that our oppression of each other curries the favor of the oppressor. The majority of the African world had been brain-dead, brain-damaged, and culturally comatose. This can’t be confused with Black culture.
Another weapon that Europeans have used to perpetuate and maintain the big lie can be seen in the religion of Christianity. During the enslavement of our ancestors, in the mid-1800s, Blacks embraced Christianity. This conversion hasn’t empowered Black people anywhere near the level of White people because, for the most part, traditional Christianity has supported White Supremacy. Ask yourself, if you were the Devil, where would you hide? Religion is the perfect vehicle, because once religion becomes an acceptable tradition, a lie can then be covered within that tradition using spirituality, making it virtually impossible for anyone to question the validity of what’s being taught or question the lie. The big lie in Christianity is that God, the creator of the Heavens and Earth and everything in between, is a White man and all of the people of God and Heaven are portrayed as European while the Devil is portrayed as Black. The combination of these weapons has created two different diseases: for Europeans, white supremacy and privilege and for Africans – inferiority and submission.
Any “real” solution has to include detoxifying the Black man’s subconscious mind of Eurocentric everything. The world is ruled by power not blackness or whiteness and every attempt by Africans in America, the Caribbean and Africa to obtain power has been undermined by our own people. In America, the derailing of the movement can be seen in politics, religion, and the disconnection with Pan-Africanism by confused ideologists, middle class frauds, and undercover spies. Pan-Africanism is defined as any effort on the part of African people to reclaim any portion of Africa that has been taken away, mutilated, misunderstood, or misrepresented by a non-African to the detriment of Africa. The Africa-centered connectedness is genius – we must understand that we have to make radical changes in our lives and attitudes. We have to build from within. We have to reach out to Africa and Africa has to reach out to us (Sankofa). We are African people – one nation at home and abroad – all people of African descent, whether we live in North or South America, the Caribbean, or in any other part of the world are Africans and belong to the African nation. Only through Pan-Africanism will the African nation be redeemed and restored. We must become African-centric, which is a sincere effort on the part of African people to regain what colonization and slavery took away.
Let’s examine Black culture some more. The technical definition of culture is the characteristics of a group of people, defined by everything from language, to economic expectations. Culture is the full range of all learned human behavior patterns and is a powerful human tool for survival. But, it is also a fragile phenomenon. It is constantly changing and easily lost because it exists only in our minds. Our written languages, governments, buildings, and other man-made things are merely the products of culture. They are not culture in and of themselves. For this reason, archaeologists can’t dig up culture directly in their excavations. The broken pots and other artifacts of ancient people that they uncover are only material remains that reflect cultural patterns–they are things that were made and used through cultural knowledge and skills.
Scientists describe several levels of culture that are part of your learned behavior patterns and perceptions. Most obvious among those is the body of cultural traditions that distinguish your specific society. When people speak of Italian, Samoan, or Japanese culture, they are referring to the shared language, traditions, and beliefs that set each of these peoples apart from others – language is extremely important to culture. A good portion of the global Black community speaks a language other than our native tongue. While Blacks have tried to retain their culture, it’s virtually impossible when you speak the language of your conqueror. The fact is that it’s very hard to distinguish Black people from their captives when Blacks speak a European language. No matter how strong your culture is, over time, a foreign language will dilute it.
Today in the United States, as it is in other countries populated largely by immigrants, the culture is influenced by the many groups of people that now make up the country. Black Americans are the subject of ideas and behaviors that do little to describe our vast diversity and merely cast us in neatly fitted caricatures for mass consumption. When White America gets to see the Black family and it’s troubles promoted,this makes their argument of inferiority more believable. While the election of President Barak Obama delivered an image more powerful than many could have imagined, we must not lose sight of the more general narrative of Black people perpetuated by mass media. I contend, when things are put in context, our ills are understandable and our gains are nothing short of remarkable. In fact most Americans are little informed about American history and operate at the tyranny of racial ignorance, mythology, and propaganda.
Racial ignorance continues and even though not mentioned, is the most complex issue facing all Americans. While this issue is very complicated, in my humble opinion, the legacy of slavery has crippled our ability to address the issue head-on. The descendants of the slave owners must come to understand the pain, hurt, and damage inflicted on a whole group of Black people and how the structural deficiencies entrapped millions of Black children and their families. The descendants of the enslaved must equally come to understand the distinction between this hurt and the true Black culture. In spite of the overwhelming challenges that Black people face in this country and abroad, at the core of the Black struggle in America there is clear and convincing evidence of a culture of resilience. This is why we must know our history. I’ve become a student of our history and it is very clear to me that Black culture is about achievement, greatness, and excellence. In my next article, I will discuss more about the achievements, greatness and excellence of Black America.
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