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Whose independence?

By Richard B. Muhammad and Starla Muhammad, Final Call Staffers | Last updated: Jun 27, 2017 - 2:34:39 PM

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Protesters chant outside the Hamilton County Courthouse during a demonstration calling for justice in the murder trial against Ray Tensing, June 19, in Cincinnati. Tensing, the former University of Cincinnati police officer, is charged with murdering Sam DuBose during a routine traffic stop on July 19, 2015.

Freedom celebrations and Black America’s suffering

Flag waving, cookouts, fireworks and parades are staples of the July 4 celebrations that punctuate America every year.

Black folks will be among those celebrating, eating, drinking and sometimes waving flags.

But before the inception of this country, Blacks have never been fully included.

And amending the condition of Black folk to make them full-fledged Americans remains a long way off: Blacks die earlier, suffer more poverty, serve harsher prison sentences and would need over 200 years to achieve the amount of wealth Whites hold today.

The contradiction between a nation that declares itself to be bastion of democracy, individual and human rights and the plight of Blacks is not a new observation. “Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?” asked abolitionist Frederick Douglass in an address July 5, 1852 in Rochester, N.Y. His speech was entitled “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”

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Frederick Douglass Photo: Library of Congress

“This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. … Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?”

Before Mr. Douglass’ powerful oration, the contradiction of Black life in America versus her stated principles and beliefs was enshrined in the founding document of the nation. Blacks were designated as three-fifths of a human being for the political benefit of their slavemasters.

Roland S. Martin, host and managing editor of TV One’s News One Now daily morning show, argues for some 398 years this question has haunted Blacks inside of the United States. Oftentimes, he added, there is a mistaking of the type of struggle. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights leader, rarely talked about equality, said the award-winning journalist. Blacks have always wanted the same things that Whites have enjoyed, not special rights, provisions or laws, he said. It has been a simple desire for Black babies to come into the world with the rights as White babies, said Mr. Martin.

But the constant fight in America, just two years before the 400th anniversary of enslaved Black landing in America in 1619, the struggle continues, he noted. Should Blacks keep battling for another 400 years? “I can’t put a time on it,” said Mr. Martin. But, he stressed, as Frederick Douglass said power concedes nothing without a demand and agitate, agitate, agitate—Blacks will not quit. “Every generation has to be freer than the previous one,” he said. “But have we reached freedom? No.”

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Amirah Phillips speaks in favor of a planned flag-burning event at Fort Greene Park on, July 1, 2015, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The event, organized by activist group Disarm NYPD, was meant to raise awareness of racist violence in the United States.
“It is just simply our reality,” he said.

Black men and women continue to deal with extrajudicial police killings, a legal system that disproportionately punish those with darker skin than those without, and a general bias and stereotypes that are perpetuated daily in all forms of media.

The rise of Donald Trump, along with a rise in strident anti-Black sentiment, has peeled back layers exposing deep American divisions.

The sentiments of freedom, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which are principles espoused by so-called patriotic Americans are disingenuous ideals at best when it comes to Black people, said Damon Jones, New York representative of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America.

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Members of the Hallowed Sons motorcycle club speak against a planned flag-burning event at Fort Greene Park on Wednesday, July 1, 2015, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Photos: AP/Wide World photos

“When we think about being independent, they don’t want us independent because we could do more being independent and we could be powerful people being independent, so they suppress that,” said Mr. Jones.

He gave the example of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose peaceful and non-violent protest against police abuse and racism by taking a knee during the National Anthem last football season drew support but also angry backlash from critics. Mr. Kaepernick who guided his former team the San Francisco 49ers to an NFC championship as well as a Super Bowl appearance, has yet to be picked up by any team this season. Many, including Mr. Jones, feel the outspoken activist-athlete is being “blackballed” by the NFL for his strong, unwavering stance.

Blacks in Law Enforcement of America is calling for a boycott of the NFL until Mr. Kaepernick is signed.

“He is a conscious brother and he’s speaking out on the rights of people and they are suppressing his consciousness and for Ray Lewis to say ‘you want to be an athlete or an activist,’ that’s slave-minded thinking,” said Mr. Jones. Ray Lewis is a former linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens and is currently a sports analyst.

“That’s saying either you want to be a slave or you want to be free and independent and Colin Kaepernick is making that decision to be free man, and there’s consequences with that,” Mr. Jones said.

“Even when we’re not directly threatening them, we’re threatening a system that they have benefited from over the years,” he added.

“Give me liberty or give me death, all those sayings that they quote when they (Whites) were trying to liberate themselves from the king in Britain, and let’s remember they were the terrorists to Britain back in those days in 1776. So, all those issues that they were addressing, Black people are addressing those same issues right here in America. It really makes America hypocritical because when they talk about those values around Independence Day and being independent, when we talk about those values and norms for our own people in America, they look at it as anti-American,” said Mr. Jones.

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49ers Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick take a knee during the National Anthem Sunday night, September 2016.

When Colin Kaepernick took a knee, it was viewed by many as anti-American and anti-Veteran but yet the National Anthem was pro-slavery, he continued.

“They twist it and they don’t really want us to come together as a people, even in 2017. I think Independence Day we should look at ourselves,” added Mr. Jones.

“How can we be independent as Black communities? How can we be independent of the police department and patrol our own communities and keep our own communities safe? We have to look at those institutions with ourselves to be independent in our community. How do we get independent economic development within the Black community? How can we get independent schooling for our children?

“All these social institutions are a part of public safety but in the Black community these institutions are falling apart,” he explained.

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Dr. Boyce Watkins
“Are Black people free? No, we’re not as free as White people,” entrepreneur, author and businessman Dr. Boyce Watkins stated bluntly when interviewed by The Final Call. “That’s never been true and I don’t think it will ever be true as long as this is the White man’s country and as long as the majority of the economic power lies in the hands of those of the majority.”

“The Fourth of July 1776 is not a day worth celebrating for Black people because you’re really celebrating somebody else’s freedom and not your own because we know Black people were not even free in 1776,” he said.

“In terms of politics, our freedom is severely impeded by the fact that police are able to murder Black people and not be forced to pay any consequence for it,” said Dr. Watkins.

“And what White people must understand is that this threatens the stability of the country in which you live because when you allow a police office to murder a Black man without penalty, you’re convincing more and more assimilated Black people to deviate from their belief in the American dream. They don’t feel the country is as fair as Whites claim it is and it’s not,” said Dr. Watkins, whose online Black Business School offers courses in financial management and economic empowerment.

The vast majority of freedom relates to individual and collective economics and this is an area Blacks can play a role. Blacks must fight their own American Revolution, explained Dr. Watkins. “I don’t think we have to have a revolution that involves bloodshed. I don’t think anybody benefits from that, but we are going to have to have a revolution that requires us to shed many of our very weak and sloppy economic habits.” Cowardice is also a trait that Black people are going to have to shed where we are afraid to claim our stake in economic society, said Dr. Watkins.

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“Most of us get up and go to work for a White man that hates our guts. Most of us can’t do what we want in our lives because we’re not where we need to be economically and I can tell you that when I learned to tools of economic freedom, that’s when I truly started to feel free as a Black man.”

Blacks must look at themselves internally ask themselves how much they are willing to sacrifice for their freedom, added the former college professor.

Studies have shown that the wealth gap between Blacks and Whites is larger than its ever been. The average White family in America is approximately $142,000 in savings and assets. For Black families, that number is only $11,000. The average wealth of White households has grown 85 percent over the last three decades. For Blacks and Latinos, this number is 27 percent and 69 percent, respectively. In fact, it would take roughly 228 years for the average Black family to build the wealth of the average White family.

But while others talked about joining on to America and fighting for inclusion, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, patriarch of the Nation of Islam, offered a clarion call and solution for freedom, justice and equality. “Whose independence? Since 1776 you, Black man, have been worshipping the 4th of July along with the real author of the 4th of July ... (the White man) as a day of Independence for themselves,” Messenger Muhammad observed in his monumental book, “The Fall of America.”

“Now, the history of the 4th of July shows that it is the Independence Day of the American White man. They wrote the Declaration of Independence for themselves. The White man did not put anything in the Declaration of Independence for the benefit of the Black Man, who was the servitude-slave of the White man at that time,” he continued.

“The joy which the Black slave experienced on these holidays of the White man was due to the Black man getting rest from his labor and the days which the White man had set aside for celebration. That is all the Black slave was rejoicing over ... that he did not have to work that day.

“But, you are free now; and you do not need this for an excuse for your worship of the 4th of July. There is no further need for us to worship the gaining of the White man’s independence. Let us take a look again at our own Black independence and how it came on this same day of the 4th of July ... at the Coming of Allah (God) Who came in the Person of Master Fard Muhammad, to Whom praises are due forever, on July 4, 1930.

“The significance of His coming to us, on the Independence Day of the White man, is very great. It is their day of great rejoicing. As with former peoples and their governments, their destruction took place when they were at the height of their rejoicing.” (See full excerpt.)

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The solution to the problems Black face in America is not integration, but separation, said Messenger Muhammad. And it is separation in fulfilment of scripture, he declared.

“On August 14, 1862—nearly a century after the Founders put the slavery problem on him—Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president, called in to his office a delegation of five Washington pastors who were former slaves. The following is what Mr. Lincoln had to say:  ‘You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races.  … Your race suffers very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence.  … If this is admitted, it affords a reason, at least, why we should be separated.’ However, these pastors rejected President Lincoln’s proposal of ‘aid for separation,’ because these were pastors that loved their master, and they didn’t want to be separated from their 300-year enemy; they did not wish to be separated from their open enemies,” said the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan during his historic 52-week lecture Series “The Time and What Must Be Done” in 2013.

“And unfortunately, it is the same today with a certain class of our people: They don’t want to be separated. They don’t want to build a nation of our own. They don’t feel the pain of the masses of our people; they have hope that ultimately ‘all will be well’—sentencing every new generation to more and more deprivation and degradation,” said Min. Farrakhan.

Student Minister Dr. Robert Muhammad, Southwest Regional student representative of the Nation of Islam, and told The Final Call America is going to be judged according to its own words. These words are in the Declaration of Independence and according to the Bible, “whatever a man soweth the same shall he reap.” 

“We have reached the point during the course of human events where now it becomes necessary for Black people to dissolve the spiritual, economic, political and social bands which connect us to White America,” he said.

Blacks can blame Caucasians for their part in their pain, slavery, suffering and death, explained Student Min. Robert Muhammad, “but since the coming of God, many of those excuses have been removed and much of the onus is on us for not obeying God, His Christ the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and their apostle, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.”

Black people were warned years ago to do for self or suffer the consequences and we now suffering those consequences, he continued.

“We were told integration is sin, yet we continue to want to integrate yet America today is more segregated then it was years ago. We were told that the factory doors would shutter one day and that America did not have enough jobs for her own, more or less for at that time the 22 million now the nearly 40 to 50 million of us.”

Even wealthy Blacks and those who enjoy and value nearness to Whites should not be unmindful of scripture and the separation of the children of Israel from pharaoh. “They are so enamored with the wealth of pharaoh and their position of nearness to him they will suffer the wrath of God along with our open enemy if they don’t repent and help the masses to their God-given position,” he said.

(Final Call contributor Brian Crawford contributed to this report.)

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