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Imam W. Deen Muhammad On The Two-Party System: Part 2

Imam W. Deen Muhammad


(Editor's note: The following interview With Imam W. Deen Muhammad was conducted by Nathaniel Omar, journalism teacher at the Sister Clara Muhammad School in Chicago, IL)

QUESTION: Now with our lack of awareness or political sophistication, what would you estimate that this has cost us as citizens?

WDM: Well, it has bought for us an inferior place in society. It has bought for us the bottom rung in the material world. We are at the bottom. We will not improve our situation until we take advantage of all the help, all the opportunity that is open to citizens of this country. Political involvement is one of the major involvements.

QUESTION: Concerning the two-party system, what problems of or limitations do you see for us as a people in the two-party system; and what do you see as an alternative or solution?

WDM: The problem for us with the two-party system is the problem I see with the African-American people, period. The problem is in accepting that it is expected of me to support the Democratic Party, and I have a racial obligation or a moral obligation to support the Democrats — accepting that I should give that support without understanding that the Democrats are like a shop where you go to buy goods.

The Republicans are like a shop also. If you don't demand anything from the shop owner or from the shop operator, they will not take you seriously. Pretty soon they will disrespect you. Nobody can be expected to respect a person who asks nothing, requires nothing, who demands nothing.

The Democrats are like people who are in a shop and they need support to keep their shop going; the Republicans also. So if we just vote for the Democrats without making any demands, then pretty soon we will find ourselves being taken for granted. That is just what the candidate for president, the Rev. Jesse Jackson is saying. He said, "The Republicans have just written us off, and the Democrats have begun to take us for granted." And he is trying to do something to change that. I think just publicizing his feelings is helping.

IT IS MAKING blacks who have been blindly supporting the Democratic Party look at the Democrats and take the position that we are not just going to let you serve our needs, we are also going to tell you what our needs are.

This is the move that seems to be created by Jesse Jackson charging the Democrats with ignoring the value of their black citizens who have been so religiously supporting them.

Now, I feel that we need to do a lot of homework, not public kinds of things, like public announcements. We need to work at home — in the neighborhoods and in our organizations. We have to not just say that these people have taken us for granted, we have to study the history of the Democratic Party in Chicago, in America, and we have to see — we have to study their relationship with the African-American people and see in what real ways have they been disrespectful to the Bilalians who have supported them.

Have we been suggesting or requiring that Democrats give attention to our needs that we ourselves recognize to be our needs? I think when we study this, we are going to see that we have not.

What we have been doing is waiting for politicians to alert us to our needs. You cannot depend on the great majority of politicians to alert citizens to their needs. The great majority of politicians are, by profession and by principle, politicians.

They should serve the needs of the citizens as the citizens themselves express those needs. The citizen has to express those needs then the politician should lend his support to the cause of the citizen.

But if the citizen doesn't call, and the politician is always calling first, and the citizen joins or comes to the support of the politician, you have a naive, uneducated political constituency. This citizen will always be at the mercy of those who want to keep the status quo.

Continued next week