My Dearest Son,
I’m writing this letter to you in the hopes that you are well and in good spirits. In answer to your question about why things are the way that they are as it concerns black people in America, I’m inclined to provide a little history or at least a context which should help you understand some of the circumstances in which you find yourself.
The illusion is that we are a minority people inside a larger white dominated world. This is precisely the image that is meant to be imprinted in our brains. The truth, however, that we, the people of color, are the majority population on earth. It is white folk that are the true minority population.
In the West, that is, in what is Europe and the Americas, the domination that we witness has its roots in the idea that Europeans (read white people) have the divine right to rule over the world, to subjugate the earth’s population and to ‘lord’ over the resources of the earth. Ideas are powerful. More powerful than bullets, guns and even bombs. So, this idea was given to the western world beginning with the catholic church in its proclamations by various popes known as ‘papal bulls’ that gave permission to all catholic rulers to send explorers from their shores and discover and conquer the ‘unknown’ world. The most famous of these papal bulls were issued by Pope Alexander VI giving King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella the right to unfettered access to the New World.
Once the idea was planted and acted upon by the Church, its bankers and financiers, the explorers and the various armies that would accompany these expeditions into these unchartered territories in places like Africa and the Americas, the ‘philosophy of justification’ for the subjugation of native peoples slowly but deliberately began to take shape.
It is this ‘philosophy of justification’ which assumes different shapes in the various western societies in which it appears that we call white supremacy. It makes its presence known by the laws that are enacted by the ruling class. It undergirds all social and economic relationships. This means that the rules of society are guided by the idea that white people have the divine right to determine the humanity of others.
In America the philosophy of justification for the genocide and enslavement of Native Americans and subsequently the commodification (they took away our humanity in order to make us commodities or products for sale) of captured and enslaved Africans was apparent at the first at the very first contact that Christopher Columbus had in the new world.
“ People say that you are too lazy to work, that you have no intelligence to get on for yourselves, without being guided and driven to the work by overseers. I say it is a lie, and a blasphemous lie, and I will prove it to be so.
I am going to tell you now, what you are worth. As you know Christopher Columbus landed here in 1492. They came here only for the purpose to dig gold, gather precious pearls, diamonds and all sorts of jewels, only for the "proud Aristocracy of White Spaniards'' and Portuguese, to adorn their persons, to have brooches for their breasts, earrings for their ears, Bracelets for their ankles and rings for their limbs and fingers. They found here... Indians whom they obliged to dig and work and slave for them—but they found out that they died away too fast and cannot stand the work. In course of time they had taken some blacks... along with them and put them to work— they could not stand it—and yet the Whites say they are superior to our race, though they could not stand it....
The work was so profitable which those poor blacks did, that in the year 1502 Charles the V gave permission to import into America yearly 4,000 blacks. The profit of these sales was so immense, that afterwards even the Virgin Queen of England and James the II took part in the Slave trade and were accumulating great wealth for the Treasury of the Government. And so you always have been the means of riches.”
Martin DeLaney (Black Civil War Officer and Historian) July 23,1865
So this ruling elite, all white men, went around the world claiming land and countries for themselves. They killed the inhabitants as it suited them and used those left alive to work the lands to make them rich. Their collective philosophy of justification for these crimes is white supremacy, the idea that only white people deserve to be seen as human. They colonized because of their technical advantage much of the world, in India, China, the Near East and in Africa. To white supremacist, the rest of humanity only serves to make them richer.
Fast forward to America, white supremacy is the operational philosophy of social and economic interactions. Slavery was the ‘ideal’ system for managing black life in a white supremacist framework. Today Black people are no longer slaves, however, the way in which black life is ‘managed’ is the same as when we were slaves. THERE ARE MORE BLACK PEOPLE IN PRISON THAT THERE WERE SLAVES IN 1850. For those of us that are not in prison, our life is managed in the same way as a colonized people.
What Malcolm X did was to show us that we are connected to a world wide majority people. That the efforts to free themselves from colonial domination is connected to our struggle in America to free ourselves from the same domestic colonial domination. Our Islam connected us to the larger world. We began to see that our struggles were the same as those in Africa and Asia. That the same enemy that was trying to subjugate them was doing the same to us. That their liberation was a victory for us as well, as long as we continue to struggle.
Malcolm ultimately commenting on the differences between “Black” and “Negro,” for as Malcolm would say, “Negro” had little to no coherence outside the United States; so when Black peoples referred to themselves as “Negroes,” their history went only as far back as the word Negro goes, and they had no historical legibility outside the United States. “Black,” however, stretched beyond the borders of America and tapped into a longer and deeper history that gave Black peoples a legibility outside the American nation-state.
What the Civil Rights movement did, and don’t get me wrong, those souls were brave, but what it did on the whole, was confine its issues to ONLY what was happening here in the United States and by default, ok’d the oppression of our brothers and sisters in Africa and the middle and far East by the same white supremacist ideas.
Even Martin Luther King Jr. realized this later, after the Civil Rights Bill was passed in 1965, when he said that it seems that we did all this work to integrate into a ‘burning house’. He began to make the connections that Malcolm was talking about all the time and he began to criticize the Viet Nam war, another example of white men going into another country and trying to colonize their people. So the Civil Rights movement gained a few concessions, a few rights here and a few there, but remember that THE POWERFUL ONLY GRANT CONCESSIONS SO THAT THEY CAN REMAIN IN POWER.
These concessions, integrating schools, lunch counters, having better access to vote (there are still major voting issues, especially in the south) having a black mayor and there and even a Black President, all of these concessions are meant to improve our ‘public relations campaigns’ as America looks to ‘open new markets’ in places like China, Africa and the Middle East.
“Many of you have been led to believe that the much publicized, recently passed civil rights bill is a sign that America is making a sincere effort to correct the injustices we have suffered there. This propaganda maneuver is part of her deceit and trickery to keep African nations from condemning her racist practices before the United Nations......surely our intellectually mature African brothers will not fall for this trickery.” Malcolm X
But all of these attempts at opening new markets are a smoke screen to impose their will (white supremacy) on these untapped lands or to re-impose their will in places like China, remember the Chinese kicked out the British and established their own government. And the tools they use are the institutions that are financially powerful, like the World Bank, and the IMF (the International Monetary Fund) and hundreds of other institutions that make the economies of these new but poor nations, slaves to Western Interests.
So when you look around you and see the neglect that city and state officials have towards decent wages, adequate housing and education or that one in five black men have some relationship with the penal system, it should be remembered that Malcolm once said “Racism is as American as Apple Pie”, meaning the white supremacist formula for ‘managing Black Life’ is part and parcel of American Life.
Black Christianity teaches you to accept this relationship (NAACP, Civil Rights, The Black Church, CORE,etc)
BlackAmerican Islam teaches you to understand this relationship and then resist it.
All my Love, Always