The Movement for ReparationsBy The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan | Last updated: Aug 6, 2003 - 8:12:00 PM
(Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt of a message delivered by Minister Farrakhan at Plymouth United Christian Congregational Church in Washington, D.C., on August 16, 2002, on the eve of the Millions for Reparations March. It originally appeared in Volume 21, Number 47.)
In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful.
The cause for which we are gathered is bigger than all of us who are gathered and, therefore, it is incumbent upon us to submerge our personalities, even our differing methodologies, religious persuasions or the lack thereof, for the cause that is bigger than us all.
We are not here tonight because of ourselves, we are here because of those who went before us to pave the way for us. We must not be untrue to them and to those who struggled to make life what it is for us—nor should we relegate what we can do today to our children to do tomorrow. We should complete our assignment today, so that our children may work on the next phase of that assignment.
I heard Dr. Ron Daniels say, if there ever were a time that we needed unity as a people, that time is now. We are under assault from every quarter and the only way we can survive is that it must be "we" and not "I."
We will survive if we recognize our need for one another.
The brilliance sitting here and sitting out there is needed. There is not one of us who does not bring something of value to the struggle. We may not all struggle in the same way, we may not have the same length or breadth in terms of impact, but, each one of us is important to bring about a successful outcome for what we desire.
We, who are in the movement for reparations, and I’m very glad to say we, because I definitely know that the Nation of Islam is a part of that movement for reparations. We must not betray our ancestors in the negotiation for what we feel is just and justly due to the children of the slaves.
It’s not about money. It’s about what is requisite to repair the damage. I see the Honorable Marcus Garvey as my grandfather and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad as my father. Both men have impacted on my life and I think that the founders of the Millions for Reparations rally, who met in Durban, South Africa, were not just talking, but there was a spirit moving them. The spirit of those who have gone on, who are not able to be here tonight, but who produced us that we might make an accounting of ourselves in our time period.
Liberation is not a one-day journey. Neither is reparation, for reparation and liberation really are synonymous. You won’t be free without the damage being repaired. In order to repair the damage, you must make a proper assessment of the damage.
Whenever you are in an accident, and most of us have been in some kind of accident, your car gets hit. There is a carmaker who knows all the parts that he put in it and how they should function, so that when you turn the key, you get a proper reaction.
But when you’ve been in an accident, you have to stop and an assessor comes out and looks at your car, assesses the damage and tells you what is needed to repair it and make it whole.
There is no question that we’ve been damaged and there’s no question that the damage has been so severe that some have said it’s totaled: "We don’t need to repair this, we need a new thing." But the scripture says, "Behold I make all things new." Sometimes you can take a thing that’s been damaged, to prove the power of your ability when somebody says "total it," you say "no, I can bring it back." That separates the real mechanic from the student.
In the 16th chapter of Ezekiel—he’s an old prophet, but he could see. He talks about some damage, and, I thought, "I would like to look at this damage." He said, "Now when I passed by thee and looked upon thee, behold thy time was the time of love; And I spread my skirt over thee and covered thy nakedness: yea I swear unto thee, and entered a covenant with thee, "sayeth the Lord GOD" and thou becamest mine." It’s talking about something that was naked that needed covering, something that was unclean that needed washing.
In the fourth verse, it says, "as for thy nativity, in the day thou was born, thy navel was not cut, neither was thou washed in water to supple thee; thou was not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou was cast out in the open field, to the loathing of thy person, in the day that you were born. And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou was in thy blood, Live."
That doesn’t make too much sense right now. But let’s look at it a little deeper.
The only reason we are here for reparations is that nothing was done to repair the damage that 400 years of slavery and injustice had done to us.
"In the day that you were born" means that you’ve come forth out of the womb of confinement and gestation. But the day you were born, there was nobody to serve you, to cut the umbilical cord, to wash you, to swaddle you. You were polluted in your own blood. As you are developing in the womb, the placenta is a purification agency that allows good to come into the new life being formed. You are developing lungs to breathe on your own, eyes to see, ears to hear, brains to think, hands to work, feet to walk. But when you come forth, there is some attention that you need.
First of all, the umbilical cord has to be cut to separate you from that out of which you were born.
For 300 years we were confined in what was called chattel slavery. It was a period of gestation in the womb. America couldn’t go on. Like any mother, when it’s time, you’ve got to lay down and give birth to the child, or you die, or the baby dies or both die.
In 1865, they said "you are free." They couldn’t hold us in slavery, that narrow place of confinement. We had outgrown it. So the baby comes to birth, but the cord still is not cut. You have the ability to breathe on your own, to see, to think, but you are still tied to your slave master and his children, not in a proper, but in a very improper way. With nobody to serve your needs, your rights, your interests, you are laying in an open field now. Nobody to wash you with water and you are polluted in the blood of the womb. What is the blood of the womb? It’s the life of slavery that gave you a slave mentality, this terrible feeling of inferiority. There is some damage that has been done. The baby is born, but it’s born damaged. It doesn’t know where it belongs. And if it knows where it belongs, it can’t go there because the cord that’s tying it has not been cut.
In the year 2002, we are polluted by the life of slavery.
Somebody walked by and said, in a day of love, live. He didn’t just say it; he knew what to do to make it a reality. This wasn’t just a jive mechanic. This was somebody who knew that it could have been totaled but he knew how to bring it back. He said, "live." You wouldn’t say "live" if it were alive.
It was in a state of death and only a power bigger than the power of man could come and bring it back to life. He said, "When I walked by." Who is this "I" talking? It must be that I," who said, "Behold I make all things new." This is a terrible condition, something polluted in its own blood. It’s been lying there for 100 and some odd years, polluted in the life of the slave. You’ve been to college but you’re polluted. No matter how many doctorate degrees you have, they have not washed you.
I want you to hear me as your brother. Don’t get arrogant over what the White man gave us because he never gave us enough to wash ourselves, otherwise the job would have been done. The repair work would have been done. Church couldn’t repair you because you’re a n_ _ _ _r in the church. I’m not being disrespectful. But church now is an emotional experience, but not a transforming experience, neither is the mosque, nor the synagogue. Our organizations die from within as well as from without, because there is something sick within that needs to be healed.
All of our degrees are useful, but they are more useful after we have been washed. They are more useful after the umbilical cord is cut, because to cut the umbilical cord allows you to grow into yourself. It’s self-determination, not living under the shadow, nor in the shadow, of America. But living free to be what you are and who God created you to be.
Now in assessing the damage, you have to look at what happened to us spiritually, because there is a spiritual disconnect from the reality of God. You know God, you love God, but the reality of how God works, you’re disconnected from that, because you are disconnected from the law of cause and effect. You think things just happen. You don’t realize that God gives you wisdom to organize and make things happen. You are sitting around waiting for a mystery God to give you what you are quite capable, if united, of giving yourself.
You have been stripped of an understanding of the law of cause and effect, so you believe in a mystery God. Some fellow floating around in the sky and you are floating around on earth, not grounded, not knowing the value of what’s under your foot, and willing to give it up to somebody else that they can use you to build a heaven for themselves on the earth. You’re waiting to die and go someplace to get what you can get on the earth.
That’s a spiritual disconnect from reality.
The Holy Qur’an teaches us that Allah (God) will never change the condition of a people until they change themselves.
How are we going to change? We don’t know how. Somebody has to walk by and say, "live." Not only say it, but produce life, spiritually. Not only are we messed up spiritually, but the life that we lived in slavery was immoral. The enemy never wanted marriage as an institution. Make babies and let the slave master take care of them. Is that still going on? Somebody needs a washing, don’t you think? The slave master went into our women and produced all these different shades and colors and textures of hair and shapes of noses and lips. He made those badges of honor and dishonor depending upon how light you were, how straight your hair was, how close you were to the image of perfection, which was White supremacy. That had a terrible effect on us mentally that needs repair to this day.
Why do our organizations die from within? Because the enemy can easily pit one of us against the other, because we’re so filled with jealousy and envy. When somebody appears to be more talented, we feel we must fight with him or her, rather than join him or her and help him or her.
Then, there are those of us who have been educated on the principle that the more you know, the more money you can get for what you know, so knowledge is not for cultivation. Knowledge is for you to gain the creature comforts of life oftimes at the expense of others. Somebody needs a washing here.
We’ve been here since before the Mayflower. Here are people that came after the Mayflower, on the Mayflower, and take advantage of what America has to offer.
We’ve been here longer than anybody else, except the Native Americans and those who brought our fathers here in the beginning, and what do we have to show economically for the knowledge that we possess and the money that flows through our hands on a yearly basis? That’s why a monetary solution alone will not work. The mentality of the slave is such, that if you gave him money, within a month it would be right back in the hands of the former slave masters and their children.
You have spiritual damage, mental damage, emotional damage, psychological damage, political damage. Did I say social damage? Did I say scientific damage? We’ve been so damaged that the prophets referred to us as dead. Ezekiel offers a picture of us as dried bones in a valley. The bones could hear great teachers and they would shake and they would rattle, but they wouldn’t do anything. You have had some of the greatest teachers that ever walked the earth.
In today’s newspaper some of the families of victims of the horror of 9/11 were suing the governments of Saudi Arabia and Sudan and some royal family members for several trillion dollars. They sued because of 3,000 deaths and buildings coming down. Thank you very much. You’re making our case for us. Because, if 3,000 people White, Black, Brown, Red and Yellow, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, who died in buildings, on airplanes and at the Pentagon deserve trillions of dollars, then put that on the scale of what some scholars say we lost in the Middle Passage coming into slavery. The money figure is staggering to fix this car.
That’s why nobody wants to talk about the level of reparations. They’ll talk about raising a monument. "Let’s have a museum for Black people." Don’t you settle for that. Elijah Muhammad, whether you agreed or disagreed with him, said to me one day that he wanted us to have 8 or 10 states. Let them move out and leave everything. Don’t tear anything down. Leave the institutions, leave everything there and we will move in. And then we want you to take care of us for the next 20-25 years, until we are able to go for ourselves. Now don’t say you (Whites) can’t do it, because you’ve been taking care of Israel for 54 years. And Israel has not contributed to this nation like we have.
Now don’t go off half cocked, "That Farrakhan is at it again." The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, "Perhaps I know that they won’t give us one state, not even as small as Rhode Island, but that doesn’t stop me from asking." He said, "I want my people to know what justice looks like." Justice is not a White woman. I’m not saying that you can’t fall in love. But what I am saying is we cannot accept their daughter as payment. We cannot accept their son as payment. We cannot accept your weak attempt at affirmative action as payment. We cannot accept welfare as payment. Brothers and sisters, when you add up what we have suffered and what we have contributed to a country, that to this day denies us the principle of justice, such measures are insufficient. Whites may say, "well, ya’ll ain’t never going to get nothing from us." I wouldn’t be so quick to say that. I saw what you did to O. J. Simpson. He got through the court all right. He was pronounced not guilty. But you couldn’t be satisfied with that. You brought him back to court and found him responsible. You started stripping him of whatever money he had that he didn’t hide because you said no, he’s not guilty, but he is responsible.
The present generation of Whites is not guilty. But we have to ask, are you willing to accept responsibility? You say, "Well, I didn’t do anything to those people" No, but you live a privileged life because of something that happened to us.
And to the Whites who would be heartened by these statements, I would love to dialogue with you. I want you to understand what responsibility is, because this is not going away.