“A people without knowledge of their history and culture is like a tree without roots.”
— Marcus Garvey
In my eyes, the great Garvey was right on! Professor Mahmoud El-Kati teaches this, the Erasure Principle. Our Black history, traditions and language, our culture….our peoplehood, has been…erased.
Even the history books in the finest educational institutions of today suffer from this principle. How, for example, did Columbus “discover America” when the indigenous people (Native Americans) were already here?
Malcolm X, speaking about how slavery erased our history, asks us, “Who are you? What was your name? What language did you speak and what did you have?” He tells us that the answers to these questions form the basis for our identity.
That is powerful. Who answers these questions for us, and how they answer, matters. It helps form our identity, to define who we are in the world.
It is wonderful to hear Black people spreading the love saying, “We come from kings and queens!” Every time I hear that, I think to myself, “How many of us can name one?” I don’t mean that to be rude — I just mean it to be real.
Your parents can’t give you what they didn’t have. If they have manners, it is likely you will be raised with manners; if they don’t, chances are you won’t. A Yoruba proverb advises us that “The ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people.”
We need to beware: If we don’t know our history, neither will our descendants. We are working for the Erasure Principle. Some of us are doing the work for the ideology!
To resist, we must commit, this minute, to a collective education of self, a feeding of the mind as the first and most magnificent step toward our own liberation! We must commit to a collective hunger to answer the questions for ourselves based in a history steeped in truth.
This truth-based history must rightly and honestly honor the contributions of Black people, a history that speaks to our consistent resistance and not to alleged acquiescence to our condition. It must be a history that speaks to the unpaid labor, the lynchings, and the rapes of African Americans, as well as the long-term consequences of the practices of Willie Lynch.
We are not unaware of what is being done to us. We just want to resist adjusting to it; this was the wisdom of Steve Biko before he was killed fighting apartheid.
According to the Minneapolis Urban League publication “The State of the African American Community, 2006,” Black boys are seven times more likely than their White counterparts to die of homicide. Our babies are still paying in blood four centuries — 400 years — after our ancestors were brought here to build America.
It doesn’t have to stay this way. For a little, we can gain a lot. We can win against the ideology if we stick together. If we learn, teach, and resist!
What the ideology says (old, bad legend handed down over centuries): Blacks are like crabs in a barrel when money is on the table.
What you know: Blacks have been economically segregated since our enslavement. The ideology wants you to believe it’s because we are inferior. Really? Check the facts!
How many programs have been funded to fix your problems? Are they fixed? How many Black businesses do you see across the U.S.? Do you really think it’s because we don’t know what we’re doing?
Economic segregation: Emancipating the slave to fight in a war that really wasn’t about his freedom. Free to do what? No place other than the plantation to live, never even saw a dollar before: economic segregation.
What the ideology says (Psychology Today, June 2011): Scientifically, Black women cannot be as attractive as White women.
What you know: They lie to us! Dr. Maya Angelou puts it best: Our beauty comes in vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate brown!
What the ideology says (Willie Lynch Speech of 1712): Divide them by light and dark, old and young, male and female. Make them trust and love only you and distrust one another. This is a foolproof method to control the slaves.
What you know: Despite a few confused people, we have never yielded to the oppression forced on us. We have always resisted, and we don’t have to suffer from the disease of supremacy!
Learn. Teach. Resist!
In my eyes, Dr. King had it right: “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”
Can you dig it?
Lissa Jones welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.