E-Letter To Walter Williams Re: Were Blacks Better Off Under Apartheid? (Part 2)
Today we continue with the second portion of our e-letter to Walter Williams regarding his recent column, "Were Blacks Better Off Under Apartheid?":
In that sense, Mr. Williams, I am somewhat surprised at the manner in which you approach the subject of South Africa. I would have thought, according to many of your past writings, that you would see great value in Blacks having the opportunity to take the reigns of power and to guide the ship, so to speak, that they may know what it is like to have full responsibility and power to determine their destiny. How can Black and White be interdependent in the long-term, if Blacks do not have their own experience, first, at being independent? While you are very skillful at explaining where Blacks go too far in pointing to Whites as the source of all of their problems, you shy away from the logical next step - that Blacks be granted an appropriate time period where they are held accountable - to the same standards of right and wrong by which they have judged their White oppressors. To walk a mile in the moccasins of another has an incredible liberating and maturing effect on any person who has been made to experience a great deal of pain from another. No amount of pain suffered unjustly exempts an individual from accepting some responsibility in their own repair. Self-governance makes that duty abundantly clear. Blacks must turn inward, for a period of time and examine, analyze and work to correct any deficiencies that they carry within, even those for which they are not responsible. Those who are guilty of the crime of wounding Blacks in Africa will fall under the law of justice and the consequences of their act. As I wrote to you earlier, Whites, in doing what they did to Blacks suffered due to the delusion that they experienced as a result of the belief that they are the center of everything. And, as I wrote before, Blacks operated under the illusion that this was reality. Coming out of that state of delusion and illusion can best occur when Blacks and Whites form a more balanced relationship. Self-governance is a means by which Blacks can fully experience the responsibility of self-preservation and the evolution toward "perfection." They could not have that experience as slaves or colonized people. As they grow into this role they will increasingly become critical of one another, irrespective of color, kinship and tradition. Eventually the importance of color will diminish and the colorless standard of right and wrong; and effective and ineffective will dominate. But that process begins with self-examination and self-analysis while in power, that the principle and practice of the Black liberation struggle may be compared and contrasted and any inconsistencies acknowledged and corrected.
As Nation Of Islam Leader, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad once put it in reference to Blacks in America, in his classic book, Messsage To The Blackman In America, "If we want freedom, justice and equality, we must look for it among ourselves and our kind, not among the people who have destroyed and robbed us of even the knowledge of ourselves, themselves, God and our religion."
Many Whites afflicted by White superiority and Blacks diseased by Black inferiority have a negative knee-jerk reaction to words like these. But it is this type of critique and bluntness that is essential if both mindsets are to be destroyed. Contained in what the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is saying is a powerful principle and process that would lead to the eradication of racism. Note what Mr. Muhammad is saying, " If we want freedom, justice and equality, we must look for it among ourselves and our kind..." If this proposition is accepted by Blacks, including yourself, it would not cause our minds and hearts to long for the days of colonialism or apartheid or cause the question that you have posed to arise, but rather, it would cause us to demand from Black governments in Africa that they aspire to the fullest manifestation of the 3 elements that produce peace and eliminate dissatisfaction in a society : freedom, justice and equality. Mr. Williams, what you suggest would abort the process of our full maturation into whole human beings, as you hint that Blacks post-apartheid after less than a decade are already disqualified from evolving into expanded realms of these three critical principles that guide effective government. Although I don't believe that was your intent, your disqualification is really a denial of a human right.
In the eyes of God and natural law, the oppressed are never justified in only pointing out the wrongs of their oppressor. The ultimate test of the oppressed's state of repair is the quality of government that they would preside over, if they, by the grace of God, were brought to power. The Holy Qur'an beautifully describes this principle in the 7th Chapter, verses 128 and 129, in reference to the plight and potential reversal in fortunes of Moses and the Children of Israel who are described as oppressed by Pharoah and the Egyptians:
128 Moses said to his people : Ask help from Allah and be patient. Surely the land is Allah's - He gives it for an inheritance to such of His servants as He pleases.
129 They said: We were persecuted before thou camest to us and since thou hast come to us. He said: It may be that your Lord will destroy your enemy and make you rulers in the land, then He will see how you act.
In his commentary on these verses, Maulana Muhammad Ali (the translator of this version of the Holy Qur'an) writes, in part, "Their being made rulers in the land was conditional upon their doing good..."
Well, Mr. Williams, we indeed are seeing in Africa and in innercities in America how Blacks are "acting" after having been made the "rulers." And it is not always a pretty sight. But in suggesting a return to a subservient role, you are denying Blacks the experience of "looking for freedom, justice and equality, among ourselves..." as the Honorable Elijah Muhammad described, decades ago.
There also is another aspect to your piece that warrants attention. It is the manner in which you do not seem willing to connect a critical aspect of the legacy of apartheid to the "worsening" condition of Blacks in South Africa, since Nelson Mandela became president of the country.
In keeping Blacks from their social equality, White South Africans denied Blacks full access to the blueprint by which they ran the country. In keeping the oppressed group from seeing how the White rulers ran all of their affairs, Blacks began the post-apartheid era with a deficit. Many Blacks argue about the cash and land deficit, which was substantial, but the greatest deficit of all was the knowledge deficit that Blacks faced, having been kept apart from the affairs of Whites and having been intentionally kept illiterate. And any person that is illiterate can be used as a tool, and also a slave.
Mr. Williams, this subject of the knowledge deficit that I am referring to is a deep one and one that Blacks will have to come to terms with as they grow simultaneously dissatisfied with vestiges of the legacy of colonialism and slavery as well as the mistakes and errors that have characterized Black rule. This is true of both Africans on the continent who have had opportunities to govern in the post-independence era as well as Blacks in America's inner cities who find themselves plagued with unsolved problems all while it is Black faces that run and maintain the visible reigns of power.
Blacks are going to have to realize that while they were emancipated in America and freed from direct colonialism in Africa they did not "depart" with all of the substance that Whites had when they governed. Nor did they depart from that subservient position with a grasp of the governing models and historical record of their greatest economic, political and technological accomplishments, prior to having become slaves and subjects of colonialism. Indeed, Whites held some of the knowledge of what they used to rule, back from the Black masses, and new Black leaders, either by concealment or through continued lack of access to their most private social affairs (i.e. in America, membership to the Shriners, private golf clubs, exclusive universities) and the denial of leadership positions in the most powerful of institutions ( i.e. The Vatican, The IMF, UN, The Federal Reserve, Oval Office, leadership positions in political parties).
Many Whites and Blacks are made to believe that all that is needed to produce equality in terms of knowledge is equal access to higher education. But that is a misnomer, as much of what is taught in universities contains cultural elements that are harmful to indigenous students looking to lead their countries of origin. In essence, the academic paradigm is designed to train students to hold jobs and not run governments. To see how this plays out in Africa all one has to do is see how many of Africa's leading economists are persuaded to aspire to jobs at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, as opposed to applying their learning to designing economies that over time would be increasingly independent of the West in terms of aid and multilateral conditionality. Academia is not where the key to understanding the science of governance rests. Only in the actual places of power and time spent with the actual rulers and reviewing the body of knowledge through which they preside can the necessary education to maintain an acceptable level of governance be found. This is especially true if one accepts the premise and fact that Whites have withheld knowledge from Blacks, and prevented interaction with oppressed groups, for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons for social exclusion are racist in a cultural sense, while others are racist in a political and economic sense, deeply grounded in a desire to maintain control over Blacks, even if by a physically distant relationship. To think that racism only plays itself out on the street among lower class Whites and Blacks and not among the circles made up of the most knowledgeable and powerful Whites is disingenuous, na´ve and ultimately serves to deceive.
The problem in Africa in my estimation, is that rather than learning every single detail from their former masters in reference to the science and process of governance, Blacks dove head first, during and after the independence effort into socialist and Marxist ideology, without fully understanding its worldview and where it is inconsistent with African indigenous beliefs and nature. Nor did they understand the very best of Karl Marx's thesis and its liberating potential for Africa. Indeed, rather than reconnecting with the origin of the core pan-African principles of the Yoruba, Dinka, Nuba and Zulu belief systems and the specific knowledge which Blacks and Afrocentrist scholars say ancient Egyptians and Kushite empires lived, and governed by, the leaders of the Black independence movement largely discarded the useful and principled elements that characterized White rule and ignored their rich tradition from which they came. They also, as yet, have not fully incorporated the illuminating principles of the Bible and Holy Qur'an into their efforts at governance and conflict resolution.
On the surface many reject that such a fact-finding, information-gathering and historical study is necessary to proper governance by Blacks in Africa. But we vehemently disagree and think that the results of neglecting such an approach are visible in the slow progress that Africans are making in their experience with independence. And the problem starts with the fact that Blacks on the continent and abroad have not looked inward and to their belief systems for guidance in how to maneuver in the relative absence of their former masters. What is needed, as Minister Farrakhan has eloquently described in his Study Guide # 20, "Closing The Gap," is a mental and spiritual placenta by which knowledge, systems and experience can be filtered.
Here is a portion of a response given by Minister Farrakhan, to a question posed to him by Nation Of Islam theologian, Minister Jabril Muhammad, regarding this world's political system:
"When a baby is conceived, it is conceived in a system that is already working. It feeds from that system as it is developing an independent system. It takes from a system already in existence. Through the placenta, it purifies as much as it can to feed on to grow itself into a new creation coming from that system. But now, it is developing an independent system that will take on a life of its own. I believe we are to grow like that."
Without that placenta, Mr. Williams - that protective paradigm - the Black world still at times languishes, unclear of what is divine, scientific and proper, or evil, unprincipled and improper. Without a clear worldview that is in harmony with their nature, and verifiable through recorded history, Blacks are unclear as to what is Eurocentric, Afrocentric, derivative or original. The problem is a basic one, and comes before adopting the right policy (a point that many liberal and conservative intellectuals and policymakers in the West refuse to accept or consider). Without a placenta by which to extract the principles and what is best from the womb of the existing dominant system, the growing but underdeveloped oppressed life, is poisoned and leaves the presence of the womb vulnerable, improperly developed, and still dependent on those outside of itself for its sustenance. In pain and disgusted by the premature life that you are looking at Mr. Williams, you recommend that we consider a return to the womb. But that is not possible. I say to you as it is written of Nicodemus in the Book of John, chapter 3 verse 4: "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"
No, we can't go back to apartheid, Mr. Williams. But as long as Blacks are still, in many respects, dependent upon the system of their former colonial masters, we should extract, with the aid of a placenta (constructed from divine and indigenous elements), what is necessary for our nourishment. As Jesus emphasized to Nicodemus we can be born again with a renewed Spirit. Remember, I explained earlier that apartheid was more destructive spiritually than it was physically.
If the best of what Whites have used to rule is combined and/or compared with the rich tradition of African belief systems and the core principles of the Bible and Holy Qur'an, Africa has the opportunity to create a model of government that could become an example for the rest of the world. That is why we have so much hope for the OAU's recently established African Union, popularly known as the "United States of Africa." And why, in my opinion, you should too.
Why not give South Africa and the rest of the countries on the continent at least 80 years, Mr. Williams. That would be fair, would it not? And in keeping with the best of conservative principles, and history, no?
I write this with deep respect for you and in recognition of your brilliant mind and your value and importance to our family - particularly in the Western Hemisphere and in Africa. I hope that you receive this writing in the spirit of sincerity and reflection in which it was written.
P.S.- Below is an excerpt of the transcript of Sunday's appearance on Meet The Press by Former Saudi Arabian Chief of Intelligence, Prince Turki al-Faisal. Though not totally applicable, I think the exchange between host Tim Russert and Prince Al-Faisal captures the essence of a major point that I hope and pray I have been able to make clear to you.
Here it is:
MR. RUSSERT: Americans read newspaper articles about women soldiers in Saudi Arabia not being able to drive and have to dress a certain way and it disturbs them, because they think we're there as a partner with Saudi Arabia, we're they're there to defend you against Saddam Hussein. The Saudi Institute did an analysis of some of the rights that are available to women in your country and I'll give you a chance to respond: "Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women must-by law -surrender their lives to fathers, husbands, brothers, and other male relatives. ...Saudi women...need the approval of their male relatives to receive legal identity or even acquiring a mobile phone. ...Saudi women are not allowed the following without permission of their male relatives: The freedom to accept marriage proposals...consent to surgery (scores of women have died in labor because no male relatives were available to sign the consent), register in college, apply for a job, or attend court..."
When will the kingdom treat women as full citizens?
PRINCE AL-FAISAL: You know, Mr. Russert, the kingdom is a very young country. It went through a very rapid rate of progress. We covered in 70 years what countries like yours took more than 200 years to do. And we have our ideas and our principles, and those are based on Islamic law. And in Islamic law, we believe that all the rights of all people, whether they be women, men, children, grandfathers, are guaranteed in those rights. The unfortunate thing, as happens in many countries, in the practice of these rights, there are shortcomings. I ask you, Mr. Russert, when did women get their rights in the United States? Your Constitution is more than 200 years old. When did black people get their rights in the United States? It took time for social progress and bonding to allow for these things to take place. And the thing, I think, about Saudi Arabia that is important is that we are convinced and committed to develop ourselves and reach levels of progress that are attained by others. So it might take some time, but it is there in the progress.
Wednesday, February 6, 2002