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W. Deen Mohammed Weekly Articles
Reprinted from the Muslim Journal


Muslim Journal

The Peculiar Circumstances Of African American

Imam W. Deen Muhammad


Editor's Note: The following is excerpted from Imam W. Deen Muhammad's April 13, 1986 address at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York.)
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. I was reviewing the history of slavery in the Encyclopedia Britannica and in one chapter dealing with what is called the peculiar slave system it tells us that America's slave system was unlike any other condi­tion of slavery that existed for man in history. In its nature, and its attitude toward the enslaved it was drastically different from any other slave system in the history of man.

The Genetic life

Who experienced that? The genes that are in me right now. The genes that represent the core of my genetic life right now. Don't think of your ancestors as back there in the 1700's or 1800's. Understand that man has upgraded his understanding of human genetic life and those people are buried and gone but the genes of those people are in us right now. That is why long time after the man has done a work and gone, some people who read about this man, will say of another man. "Hey, he got traits like that man." That is why many people believe in reincarnation, but it's not reincarnation. The sperm puts it there. It doesn't have to come back. Doesn't that make sense? It is as clear as crystal.

I got the genes of my mother Clara Muhammad in me right now. I got the genes of my father Elijah Muhammad in me right now. I got the genes of Willie Poole, called Wali Muhammad, my grandfather. in me right now. Curtis Evan. my grandfather on my mother's side. I got his genes in me right now. I got all of those people's genes in me right now. The same applies to you.
I got the genes of Adam in me right now. It didn't go anywhere it has passed on exactly as his genes were made by God. They are in me right now. They're in you right now. That is why you can put a man in the dark, but you can't keep him there if he's got the spirit from his better ancestors. If he responds to the genes and the better spirit of his ancestors, you can't keep him in the dark. You say, "How did you get a light? There wasn't any way out of this place. How did you get a light?" God is the One who lights from within.

A peculiar people

There are many things peculiar in our situation as a peo­ple. The situation of our enslavement, the nature and degree of cruelty we have experienced while we were enslaved. It is a peculiar experience for human beings here on this earth. But that is not all we have to look at when we are looking at peculiarities. We also have to look at our own behavior. We are a people that have a peculiar behavior. And our peculiar behavior is the result of the ef­fects of the peculiar experience behind us. Though the pre­sent cultural environment which works against natural function of human life, contributes much to our peculiar behavior as a people, and as individuals. I believe it is more that peculiar past experience behind us: the ugly pages of history: the enslavement of the African-American, that makes us act the way we do.

This odd way of behaving, is seen also in our choices as a people. Where in the history have you read of terrible treatment coming to a people by their superiors then after they were freed, they walk arm in arm with the people that enslaved them'? They joined their religion, accepted their concept of God, even though- their concept of God did not admit their race. Walked into their religious houses, bow­ed and prayed and kneeled before the images that were in their master's religion, that doesn't admit their own im­age. That doesn't admit their ethnicity. Doesn't admit their race. There is no African-American image in their symbols. There is no African-American in their heaven. The heaven is filled with Caucasian angels, European Americans or European angels. The image is in their own likeness, but they invited us to it, and we went right to it. We joined their religion. We lifted up their image over our black suffering lot. We lifted up their image and said. "This is the Savior. This is the Lord. This is Jesus, this is the Lord." I am not knocking Jesus. Jesus never saw the pictures they painted. So forgive me if I seem harsh.

I was reading a book on English composition once, and the author was trying to help the would be new writer learn how to write. He said something that caught my at­tention. "Quality means a lot, but the best writers will tell you that if you are faced with a dilemma, and have to choose between quality and substance, choose substance, and forget about quality."
I would much rather have somebody talk to me about substance, than to talk to me in a lot of flowery language, academic language, overly exaggerated language. Talk to me for hours and haven't said anything but just left me with a whole encyclopedia of words. Nothing but fancy rhetoric, I am not knocking education. I study the dic­tionary all of the time, and always try to improve my vocabulary at least by one word a week.

Make choices for ourselves

I think it is very peculiar in the behavior of the African-American that he has gone all of the way for everything that his oppressor has established for him. Now you may say. "Well, they are not oppressing us now." That is right, but they will respect us more now if we establish more independence in terms of making choices for ourselves, by ourselves. They respect us more now if we had the courage to follow our ancestral spirit, the best of our past, and grow into something more uniquely ourselves. They will have more respect for us now, if we had a more legitimate ethnic pattern.

I think that it is very strange, especially for those generations who will read our history fifty or one hundred years from today. that we came from Africa before it was named Africa, before Leo Africanus or Scipio Africanus. That whole continent was named from white explorers, and white conquerors of Africa. And practically every state over there bears a foreigner's name. These are the facts.

What I am describing is not only a situation that we have to address, even our motherland has to address it one day. And there are some people who go around explaining the low spirit and low state of the African-American man and his descendants, and they charge that our condition is because of the white man's dominance. No, no, no! That is only part of it. Our condition is also the result of our con­fused sensitivities. We need to work for home life. Homelife for the race. Homelife for the family. Homelife for the individual, where there is a spiritual context. A set of principles. A set of sensitivities. A network of sen­sitivities shared by all of us to make us a people. to give wholeness to our life.
We need to do some philosophical thinking. We need to go back to what DuBois said, "The extent to which we will progress in the future, depends on the extent that we will go in teaching our children to think for themselves."