Message To The Community
Rahim Islam is a National Speaker and Writer, Convener of Philadelphia Community of Leaders, and President/CEO of Universal Companies, a community development and education management company headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. Follow Rahim Islam on FaceBook(Rahim Islam) & Twitter (@RahimIslamUC)
Even though we are a part of the entire Black human family, Black men in America are unlike any others in the world because of what has happened to them in America. I believe that every Black man, woman, and child has and continues to sustain damage by the culture and climate of American white supremacy. This white supremacy is structurally embedded within the legacy of the American institution of slavery. Not only was this the most brutal and heinous crime perpetuated against the Black family, but also was one of the biggest crimes perpetuated against humanity. America has never paid for this most egregious crime and as a result, Black America remains at the bottom of the economic ladder and without its own identity.
The majority of American institutions and systems continue to oppress and suppress the freedoms and full American citizenship of Black people. This is because the legacy of slavery is deeply rooted in the economic disparities that were created when our ancestors were enslaved and economically exploited while the oppressors were able to capitalize and build a wealthy and powerful American economy that they own completely. The playing field, which is working on “auto-pilot,” is absolutely skewed to support white people and to oppress Black people under the false and restrictive concept called standards. These standards are based on an even and level playing field that was not even addressed until the 1960s when the civil rights legislation was adopted.
Unfortunately, even the civil rights efforts were undermined with the implosion of the minority set-aside (i.e. set asides, affirmative action, etc.) and today everyone has hijacked the social and economic corrections that these laws were supposed to address. Today, minority represents Native American, Latino America, Disabilities, Veterans, Asian America, Handicap Americans, White Woman, and now the LBGT community. With the exception of the Native American, none of these groups has come close to the orchestrated and severe damage inflicted on Blacks by the United States of America. While our civil rights were important, they should have been a prelude to the real fight, which is economic reparations and that will not happen automatically; it will only happen when we make it happen. In America, your economic position defines your participation and therefore our trajectory.
In addition to the economic disparities that the Black community faces, which is rooted in our start in this country, is the IDENTITY CRISIS that we have inherited. I have written several articles regarding the socialization of white supremacy and Black inferiority that as always been a part of American culture. White children are generally taught to believe that they are superior to Black people (even the most liberal white person has a hard time supporting Black independence. They feel they must do it for us. Black children are taught through a negative association that everything Black is inferior including our mother homeland of Africa. This concept is deeply entrenched within everything that is communicated about the word Black (i.e. language, concepts, religion, traditions, etc.).
Although slavery in America officially ended nearly 150 years ago, there is a general belief that the effects of slavery no longer exist. However, if that were true, you could say that the Black man in America was inferior because by all statistical measures, the Black man solidly dominates every negative demographic and is nearly invisible in every positive demographic. This is true because the same mind, attitudes, and norms that allowed slavery to thrive, flourish, and last for nearly 400 years exist today. It is absolutely appalling and pathological that those who promote that racism does not exist or is not institutional and therefore lethal are today’s racists. Our venomous history has affected all of America, but it has been most severely damaging on the Black community, not only economically, but also with the devastating loss of our Black identity.
How did it happen? How did America steal our Black identity? It was very easy and very simple. Adopting and utilizing a barbaric form of slavery that went from “breaking” the slave to the “making” of the slave did it. Under both approaches, slavery involved the most horrific physical and psychological treatment by intentionally separating us from our past and structurally devaluing the institution of the Black family and the role of the Black man. Even today, the Black family is in a downward spiral and the concept of Black Man is an oxymoron (we usually have to place “good” in front of Black man to denote a “real” man). When the sociological strategy of “divide and conquer” was utilized against our ancestors to teach their children to accept white supremacy and their fate as slaves, then you have “made” a society of perpetual slaves. During the 400-year duration of slavery, the black identity was stolen.
The process was so perfected that the Black man, even when free, is unable to connect the dots and determine why progress in America has been difficult to achieve and unreachable. In fact, many of our most educated have supported an approach by which success is only measured by what white America says success should look like. This has taken us further away from our own strengths. We have allowed our children to accept success by how close we are to white people or white thoughts. Getting away or out of the “hood” is the stated or unstated goal of every Black person even though we are more segregated in this country now than before integration.
I called it the “Lottery Approach” or the “Illusion of Inclusion.” With the lottery, there is a general understanding that, even though I have no shot at winning the lottery, I will purchase a ticket anyway. This system works because a winner is declared and advertised which gives us all hope, but what the people do not really understand is that there were hundreds of millions of losers. Utilizing a foreign and subversive identity that honors, loves, respects, and measures closeness to white people that, at the same time, promotes self-hate and distrust of its own people and expecting to achieve independence is like playing the lottery. We all have been taught how we are to behave if we want to achieve success in America, how to get along. What has it gotten us? Unfortunately, educated Black people have spent so much time trying to gain acceptance by white America, not knowing that American culture has no equal role for Black people. No matter how you slice it, the general American belief is that we are an inferior group and their hands are clean. The Black man does not understand how he thinks, what he thinks, how he feels and what he feels and the origins of these ideas; they are not our own. The Black identity and Black culture has been stolen and the result is a Black Identity Crisis.
The Black man has been made not to understand the damage that is done when you no longer speak your native language, follow your original religion, teach your history, define your purpose as the Kings and Queens and architects of nearly everything we value as humans and/or connected to your motherland and the Black culture. This culture that connects us to our past (ancestors) and mandates that we prepare a better world for our future. With all of the disparities that Black people face in this country none is greater than the economic disparity. We live in a capitalistic society and our ability to win on that front is directly tied to our ability to think as a group, which means we must restore our identity. In spite of the theft of our identity and the current identity crisis that we suffer, we can turn this around if we follow the right leadership. In part two of this article I will provide basic and doable solutions that we must begin to do on both the individual (micro) and group (macro) level to restore our identity and culture to combat white supremacy and oppression.