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Envy And Jealousy: Black Leadership's Worst Enemy?


Too often in commentary on the subjects of politics and economics we leave out important root understandings of human nature and spirituality that absolutely determine "political" and "economic" outcomes between people. Many write and speak as if the determining factors in the success or failure of a political economy are the strength of a particular model, ideology or theory, in abstract form - divorced from the condition of the heart, mind and soul of the human beings who ultimately are the focus of all political and economic activity.

This is important to consider, especially in Black America, because many of our economists and political scientists seem to think that economic and political models in abstract form matter more than the personal development and self-improvement of human beings. Of course many don't outright state this. But the implications of their theories and analysis quite frequently reveal that they believe that government programs or free-market forces in and of themselves result in community development.

We disagree and believe that all community development has the self-improvement of the human being along moral and spiritual lines, as its base. We believe that relying upon government programs and supposedly free-market forces before individual self-improvement and community development takes place is like pouring water into a container with a hole in the bottom of it.

And unfortunately we think the best proof of this problem can be found in the community of Black people who have all of the models, ideologies and theories that one could ever need to build a political economy - Black leadership.

But for all of their intellectual brilliance and "political" and economic" insights, these same leaders have failed to produce one thing: unity among themselves - in its most proactive and independent form.

That in and of itself is an indictment of their approach to leading Black people and people of all colors into unity. If they can't produce unity among themselves how can they generate it for their core supporters and the rest of the world?

Of course not every Black leader internally suffers from this disease but every Black leader suffers from it externally, and as a result, so do Black people, as envy absolutely prohibits the development of personal, inter-personal and operational unity necessary to the full development of the Black community.

When we say unity we don't mean that everybody becomes the "same". We mean that everybody in Black leadership and the organizations they represent would begin to organize themselves as members of one human body.

If you read the constitutions of most Black organizations you see the same objectives and aims and purposes.

Why then, don't you see unity in their work towards these objectives?

In this sense Black leaders could learn a great deal from the study of anatomy.

Every human body is designed to have a head, neck, chest, legs, arms, feet, toes, eyes and ears. These body parts are "united" in aim and purpose and do not compete with one another. If they did, the human being would die.

Paul wrote about the interconnectedness and unity of the human body, which teaches powerful spiritual lessons with complete political and economic relevance:

1st Corinthians 12: 14-26 14

14 Our bodies don't have just one part. They have many parts.

15 Suppose a foot says, "I'm not a hand, and so I'm not part of the body." Wouldn't the foot still belong to the body?

16 Or suppose an ear says, "I'm not an eye, and so I'm not part of the body." Wouldn't the ear still belong to the body?

17 If our bodies were only an eye, we couldn't hear a thing. And if they were only an ear, we couldn't smell a thing.

18 But God has put all parts of our body together in the way that he decided is best.

19 A body isn't really a body, unless there is more than one part.

20 It takes many parts to make a single body.

21 That's why the eyes cannot say they don't need the hands. That's also why the head cannot say it doesn't need the feet.

22 In fact, we cannot get along without the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest.

23 We take special care to dress up some parts of our bodies. We are modest about our personal parts,

24 but we don't have to be modest about other parts. God put our bodies together in such a way that even the parts that seem the least important are valuable.

25 He did this to make all parts of the body work together smoothly, with each part caring about the others.

26 If one part of our body hurts, we hurt all over. If one part of our body is honored, the whole body will be happy.

Why can't Black leadership and Black organizations follow that wonderful example?

In short, in our opinion, there are two major factors which impede the unity of Black leadership on this issue, one of these factors is the dual force of envy and jealousy, with envy being much more serious and deadly.

To take us into how these spiritual diseases affect Black leadership we refer to a recent writing from Nation of Islam Minister Jabril Muhammad, a theologian. His comments are directly relevant to the problem of the lack of proactive and independent unity among Black leaders. He wrote in the Volume 20, number 14 edition of his weekly Final Call column "Farrakhan The Traveler":

"There has never been a Black leader in America who has not suffered from those whose hearts are diseased with jealousy and/or envy.

Given both the depth to which we have fallen, and the depth of the depravity of our former slave-masters, opposition to any Black leader, working to lift us from hell, will intensify in proportion to that leader's nearness to the Almighty God.

Given the condition of the people of America, the maximum degree of opposition is to be directed to those directly chosen by the Divine Supreme Being, to reeducate, reform, and free Black people of America.

A major factor in this opposition is the exploitation of jealousy and envy, which already exists, in Black people. We must know the history of Black people in America, to understand that deadly form of jealousy and envy, which has plagued us as a people during our stay in America. Think into this.

Human beings always make comparisons between human beings and between things. Without the ability to make comparisons we would have no science; humans could never become civilized; progress would be impossible.

It is not the comparisons that are evil, in and of themselves. It's why and how we make comparisons that determines whether or not jealousy and or envy arises in our hearts. Jealousy and envy are among the worst spiritual diseases which we must be absolutely freed from if we are to see the best part of the hereafter. These diseases are love killers! The Holy Qur'an gives terrible warnings to those of us who "blow" our salvation due to these diseases.

It's impossible to grow into one's own divinity-which also means growing ever closer to Allah-except to the extent that we remove envy and jealousy from our hearts. After we have heard and read about these spiritual diseases, it is still up to each person to do this service for themselves."


Minister Muhammad's point in the last sentence is crucial. Every Black leader who has envy in their heart for another leader has to take the initiative and responsibility for removing this disease from their own heart. No government program or free-market force can remove envy from the heart of an individual.

This process is largely, but not totally, a personal exercise that absolutely impacts an entire community, nation and world and which ultimately can determine the success or failure of any program that has liberation, freedom, justice and equality as its objective.

It is envy that blinds one Black leader from seeing the divine significance in another Black leader's mission and message. But how is this so?

We will end this introduction to examining this problem by referring to an 18-year old writing on the subject from Minister Jabril Muhammad. In May of 1982 he wrote:

"...what is it about envy that blocks, impedes, or blinds a person from seeing that which is not only good and timely but good and timely in the ultimate sense in that it is divine?

What is envy? What are its roots? Why is it so destructive? Dictionaries are of little or no help in defining the state of mind and feelings that the word envy represents. If you ever probe the study of morality, you will find that the extent to which evil influences vital issues is generally avoided by most writers, teachers, politicians, and scholars in all fields. Envy wears many faces or disguises.

Have you ever considered that it is all but impossible to depict a person who is posing by him or herself, in a picture, in a way that tells the viewer that the person is envious? If you were to draw an envious person, how would that person look? It is very hard to do-if not outright impossible-due to the fact that envy in a person cannot be detected apart from that person's relation to the other that he or she envies. This is not always easy to see.

Envy is an emotion that is directed towards another. Without the other (a target, a victim) envy cannot happen. You can show fear, happiness, anger or grief with far greater ease than you can show envy, in such as paintings or sculpture. It is no easy thing to portray the mind of a person who despises another for having a reputation, or some skill, which the person who envies may or may not lack, to some degree, but who rejoices at the other's loss of such assets, even though that loss would not mean a gain for the person who envies.

It is fully my intention to go further into this quality, which has absolutely no redeeming features, and in no way can be a characteristic on which one can build brotherhood."

Consider all of the above juxtaposed to this statement from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad: "...on matters of economics there is entirely too much distrust among us. We trust everyone but ourselves. We, therefore, have to build or produce trust in ourselves in order to do something for self and kind."

Is there any connection between envy and distrust among Black leaders and our current economic condition?

If Black leaders do not overcome envy, as an example for their organizations and the masses of Black people, we as a people will never be able to sustain any political advancement or economic empowerment.


Cedric Muhammad

Thursday, January 11, 2001

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