By Hakim Abdul-Ali
I’ve been blessed to share my views, thoughts and opinions with the illustrious reading fan base of The Chronicle for over thirty plus years now. I thank you all for allowing me into the inner sanctums of your hearts, minds and souls.
Today, I’m going to discuss a subject matter called “Seeking Knowledge of Self (and Others)”, a matter that’s very important to me and is close to my state of present conscious awareness. In America, being Black, or labeled African-American, can ignite feelings of uncertainty about being proud of who you are for many malcontent and abstract minded “colored” folk residing in the bald eagle’s domain.
James Baldwin once said, “In America, the color of my skin had stood between myself and me.” If you view the somewhat current depressing state of race relations in this land, especially with the disguised appearances of many so-called Afro-descendant folk, you’d be hard pressed to find any clear thinking being of color who’d disagree with Mr. Baldwin’s analogy, a fact that remains very evident until this very day.
We should be truth seekers, and being of color living in the land of the separate and still unequal, oftentimes, leaves us with a continued feeling that we must escape the colonial miseducation traps and aimless mythological indoctrinations existing in our culture that have no redeeming values, or pertinence, to our psychological states of existence. This must be understood first if we’re to seek further legitimate knowledge of self (and others).
The late and truly soulful balladeer Marvin Gaye once said, “If you escape from people too often, you wind up escaping from yourself.” I, sometimes, wonder whether some Blacks understand that in their pursuits of an escapist dream of being accepted by a society that secret abhors them, they are, in reality, escaping from themselves without any real gain in the process.
If you’re of color, what I just said to you shouldn’t seem strange to you, especially, again, if you study and observe the political “his-stories” of many of this country’s elected leading figures and what they had to say and really, really felt about people of color. I’ll just give you a few examples for you to digest on the way to understanding why “Seeking Knowledge of Self (and Orhers)” is so vital issue in our present day community.
Take for example, did you know that The Huffington Post names Thomas Jefferson as one of the most racist American presidents? “By the time he took office in 1801, his ‘all men are created equal’ was fast becoming a distant memory in the new nation’s racial politics,” the Post explains. The 3rd president of the United States of America characterized “the blacks (as) inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind. And his ideas were used to rationalize slavery after the American Revolution.
I hope that opens up your patriotic nostrils a little as you process, maybe, just maybe, why some folk kneel and question for whom does the flag really wave for. I’ll drop a bit more on you about the mindsets of some of this nation’s so-called elected supreme leaders before this article ends, but I don’t want you to forget that “Seeking Knowledge of Self (and Others)” sometimes means that you have to have knowledge of others’ past sayings and doings in order for you to move forward effectively.
Activist Dick Gregory uttered, “A man without knowledge of himself and his heritage is like tree without roots.” And the Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad was reported to have said to his followers,”The slave master will not teach you the knowledge of self, as there would not be a master-slave relationship any longer.”
If you’re of color and know that the Black communities all across this land are divided and need to come together to establish unity and respect, then the words of all of the aforementioned Black leaders and thinkers bear listening to with depth and understanding. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “ It is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of maturity, to rise to the level of self-criticism.”
While you hopefully process some of those Afro thoughts, I’ll lay another national “his-storical” fact on you that you may not have known. Alternet nominates Andrew Jackson as one of the most evil American presidents due to his actions against Native Americans. “Andrew Jackson never met an Indian he liked or felt obliged to respect,” the publication explains. Historians report that Jackson “violated nearly every standard of justice” when he waged war on the Creek and Cherokee tribes to take their land. His troops killed huge numbers of Native Americans, including women and children.
“Long before ethnic cleansing became a term to describe the terrible war crime, Jackson perfected the practice,” Alternet reports. As president, he signed the Indian Removal Act. This law forced 46,000 Native Americans out of their homes and onto reservations in the western territories. Thousands died. And the white aristocracy gained control of millions of acres of Native American land.
Educator Booker T. Washington said, “The longer I live and the more I study the question, the more I am convinced that it is not so much the problem of what you will do with the Negro, as what the Negro will do with you and your civilization.” Also internalize that the abolitionist Harriet Tubman said, “ I freed thousands of slaves. I could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.” In closing today’s article, here’s a little homework for you to do as you to continue to “Seek Knowledge of Self (and Others)”. Check out the political backgrounds of Presidents James Monroe, Woodrow Wilson, James Buchanan, George W. Bush, Dwight Eisenhower, William McKinley, Calvin Coolidge, Ronald Reagan, Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, James Polk, even Franklin D. Roosevelt. Don’t be surprised at what you find out about their real behind-the-scenes “poly-tricks” towards various ethnic people of color. You’ll be shocked.
Writer Alice Walker said, “No one can hate their source and survive.” W.E.B. DuBois, the great Black intellectual and activist related, “I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color line I move arm and arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and welcoming women glide in guilted halls. From out of the caves of evening that swing between the strong-limbed earth and the tracery of stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension. So wed with Truth, I dwell above the veil. Is this the life you grudge us, O knightly America?”
That final question is what all citizens of every ethnicity, especially Afrikan-Americans, in this potentially great land have to ask themselves in today’s melting pot called the United States of America.
It’s now or never to “Seek Knowledge of Self (and Others)”, and for today and always, that’s, “As I See It.”