A Black Bedouin’s Perspective: Trade as Dawah – The Take Away For Black American Muslims Today

Islam spread through much of the African continent through trade. In this observation is an important lesson for those descendants of Africans existing in the Americas. Those who seek to encourage the spread of Islam in their communities in the West will find trade and commerce as highly potent means to do so. Not only will using trade as Dawah entice more wanderers to the guidance of Islam, but it can also shield the believers from the pernicious whims of the non-believers that surround them. Here are some proofs, correlations or observations about the saliency of trade as a form of Dawah in Black Muslim America.

 

The Way to A Man’s Heart is Through His Stomach

The adage that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach is applicable in more ways than the one in which it is often used. If a man is being fed he’s far more susceptible to advice because generally when a person is eating his mouth isn’t doing much talking. And when the mouth isn’t doing much talking, the ears tend to be slightly more receptive to what others may have to say.

If the Black Bedouins can find a way to be the source of sustenance firstly for themselves and then secondly to the unbelievers they’d find people more receptive and sympathetic to their calls to Islam. This will require first that the Black Muslim community develop a way to wean themselves off of being employed by non-believers. How many of us have had to hold hands in office prayers where the supplications were offered in Jesus’s (Pbuh) name? Or have been scheduled to work amidst pagan office parties? Or have had to work during Jumma? Or have been forbidden to wear hijab in the work place? Etc., etc., etc. As long as we are fed by the Kuffar we’ll continuously be at their whim and continuously be besieged by their beliefs and influence. But if we make the initiative to be the employers rather than the employee’s we could supplant the erroneous influence of the non-believers with Tawheed and help assist more souls away from hellfire and towards paradise.

 

Your Dollar Supports What You Love

Most people understand the importance of their dollar. Few understand that by handing their dollar over to a vendor, they are not just enabling that particular transaction, but enabling that vendor and everything he believes. So when we as a Muslims give our dollars to disbelievers we are enabling and supporting their disbelief. We’re in fact empowering their disbelief over the Muslim who does believe, with whom we could have spent our dollars. It is highly important that we spend our dollars with Muslims whenever possible and that we only spend our dollars with the Kuffar under extreme duress. The reason for this is that as Muslims we should love and support belief in God and His Messenger (pbuh) and do our best to frustrate the capabilities of disbelief. A simple way to stop disbelief is to make it unprofitable. If we as Black Muslims decided to steadfastly trade amongst ourselves, others will see the sustenance and brotherhood that Allah (swt) has provided us and would want to take part in it and thus become more susceptible to dawah. If we give away the power of our dollar to the unbelievers we empower them to influence us in every aspect of our lives, especially religion. If we love Islam we must spend our dollars with the Muslims. If we love Allah (swt) we must spend our money with His faithful. If we love the Prophet (pbuh) we must spend our money with his community of believers. If we love Michael Jordan or Ralph Lauren, Chic-fil-A, or Chipotle we’ll give them our money and God will leave us at their mercy.

Creating Something of Value — Developing the Black Muslim American Economy

Again money is necessary for the Black Muslim community to create things of value that can be traded amongst themselves and encourage the disbelievers to enter the fold of Islam. The Masjid as the most salient institution of the Black Muslim American community will have to take the initiative in seeing this particular aim to fruition. The Masjid will have to evolve and become more than just the center of spiritual and social life but also the center of the economic life of the believer as well. And it could easily do so by replacing the role that many commercial banks play in the life of Muslims today. Masjids could redevelop their infrastructure in order to allow for the safe keeping, accounting and storage of cash and valuables of the believers, with the agreement that such valuables and cash would be extended in the form of halal loans to members of the Masjid in order to induce Black Muslim entrepreneurship and develop the Black Muslim American Economy. Masjids could themselves invest or start halal businesses to provide their communities with employment and necessary services. In this sense Masjids could emerge as not just places of spiritual, or social centers, but financial centers that offer halal securities that their entire community could invest in and prosper from.

Envision a masjid with four floors. The lowest underground floor houses the vaults and safety boxes that house the community’s wealth. Above that on the ground level is the securities and exchange floor where a ticker displays the halal companies being traded and where petitions for halal loans are reviewed and approved by experts in Islamic finance. Above that, on the second floor, is a floor for social gathering, where rooms for studying, segregated weddings, Walimas,  Eids, gyms etc, are available. And above that on the highest floor is a place where believers can gather and ask God to continue to bestow his bounty and sanctify all the sustenance he grants them below.

Perhaps an emphasis on strengthening the Black Muslim Community’s ability to engage in trade and commerce will strengthen its ability to give meaningful Dawah. In the same way that trade with Arab Muslims helped convince many of our African ancestors of the truth of Islam. At any rate the ideas and opinions expressed above are those of a layman. If any scholarly opinions or ideas contradict them those of the scholars, the inheritors of the Prophet (saw), take precedence over that of a layman. If I communicated anything of any good it was from God. If I communicated anything that was useless or of evil then it was from myself and the shaytan.

Faithfully,

A desert dweller

A Black Bedouin’s Perspective: Islamic Culture and Its Application on Black American Muslims

Islam vs. Culture….???

Islam is perhaps one of the most comprehensive religions known to man. The Holy Qur’an and Sunnah provides guidance to almost every aspect of the believers lives, from matters as consequential as how to dispense ones inheritance, to matters as minute as how to use the restroom. The Sharia, to the delight of the believers, is all encompassing. God’s law is not a shackle however, in fact, the very nature of the Qur’an and Sunnah allows for maximum ease and applicability to the lives of humans across cultures and regions. The fact that God has decreed that everything on earth is permissible except that which is forbidden shows the Sharia’s tendency towards the permissible rather than the forbidden.

Culture: defined as the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a social group, is permissible. The scholars are in consensus of the fact that the culture of a people, so long as it is in keeping with the spirit and laws of the Qur’an and Sunnah, is permissible. Why then is it the case, that rather than doing the necessary leg-work and cultivating a distinct Islamic culture in keeping with the social forms and material traits of their own social group, that Black Muslims tend to exhibit a serious case of cultural laziness by adopting 21st century Arab culture? A culture that in many ways neither directly reflects the Qur’an nor the blessed Prophet (pbuh).

For instance Black American Muslims tend to observe the modern thobe or Qamees as a sign of piety or right guidance, when the thobes and the qamees that the Prophet (pbuh) wore were very much so different from the thobes that modern day Arabs wear today. The Scholars are again in consensus that it is preferable for Muslims to dress like the culture they come from. Many Muslims fervent in emulating the Prophet (pbuh) struggle with this ruling. Especially when the Prophet (pbuh) tried to distinguish the Muslims from the disbelievers in many instances. From my layman perspective, neither of these two principles are in contention with each other. Islam is a religion of moderation. Black American Muslims simply need to use our cognitive faculties to emulate the Prophet (pbuh) thus making ourselves distinct from the unbelievers, while adopting articles of our own community and culture so that we aren’t entirely alienated from the social norms that make us, us, quite frankly.

Taking this course would benefit the Black Muslim American in several ways:

  • It would help to repair the cultural dearth in the Black American Muslims Community.
  • It would carve out a cadre of scholars from our own community that can help guide us in developing our distinct islamic culture.
  • It would create a level of unity and uniformity that would allow Black American Muslims to easily recognize us and associate us with our own contributions rather than contributions from a foreign community.
  • It would strengthen Black American Muslims economically.

Culture = Material Wealth

How will developing a distinct Black American Muslim culture benefit Black Muslims economically you ask?

Commerce in large part is dictated by tastes. And tastes in many ways are dictated by culture. You’ll see very little camel meat in your regular supermarket in the States because the American tastes, culture, and thus commerce tends away from camel meat. If Black American Muslims went to the Qur’an and Sunnah as well as factoring the permissible things in their own society that are unique enough to be considered both of that society and distinctly Islamic, they could create markets and industries in which they themselves can corner. For instance our culture of dress based on heavy western influences is very piece driven. Black Americans and Americans in general wear several articles of clothes depending on wheather, occasion etc. It almost completely contradicts the singularity that many eastern cultures of dress adopt in clothing such as Kaftans, thobes, etc. If we took the piece driven nature of our culture, brought it to the standard of the Qur’an and Sunnah, and then made it distinct from the disbelievers, we could initiate a distinct Black Muslim American custom of attire. We could do the exact same thing for food, incorporating within our permissible dishes many of the foods that the Prophet (pbuh) encouraged us to partake in. In doing so we would be adding richness to the community of believers.

Besides the material forms of culture such as food, clothing and shelter that Black American Muslims can develop there are several traits or customs that we can adopt that would be completely specific to us. For instance, it would be a blessing in my layman opinion if it became a stereotype that Black Muslim Americans tend to trade with each other more than the average person in any other community. If Black American Muslims developed a characteristics or trait of doing business with firstly, other Black American Muslims in their communities, then secondly other Muslims in general and then lastly under only the most serious duress unbelievers, that would be a great trait of brotherhood that we could develop and advertise to the rest of the world. And it wouldn’t be racists, because we’d simply be manifesting our cultural preferences. We don’t shop at the shwarma restaurant because we have our own Black Bedouin dishes that we prefer. We don’t purchase thobes from extremely rich oil producing Arab countries that have never even sent a date in charity to places like Philadelphia or Baltimore, instead we purchase our own Black Bedouin cultural clothing from other Black Bedouins and strengthen our ability to establish our religion in the land we inhabit. Hopefully in developing a distinct Black American Muslim culture we can create the level of sustenance for other Black American Muslims, who are in much need of it, so that we can have more time and resources to worship God properly and not be compelled to adopt unislamic practices because our resources are dominated by infidels.

Islam Predominates Culture

Obviously there are things that are non-negotiable. We must learn Arabic, we cannot cut our beards, we must be covered according to the Qur’an and Sunnah, we cannot adopt music, etc etc etc. I’m simply saying where we can insert our own discretion let us do so. To substitute our own thinking and norms with that of the Arabs when it is not obligatory for us to do so, is the definition of mental colonialism. That was not the intention of the Holy Qur’an or the Prophet (pbuh) to turn the entire believing world into one big Arab colony. We are allowed diversity amongst peoples and to deprive the Ummah of the beauty and richness of our particular difference would be an injustice to Black American and non-Black non-American muslims alike.

Scholars Predominate Laymen

All the above statements were made by a Muslim layman. They are not to be taken as a religious ruling. If there are any religious rulings that contradict the above statements or any scholarly opinions that contradict my statements they should take precedent in the minds of the believers. Listen to them and not to me. If I have said anything good in communicating this it is from God. If I have communicated anything bad it is from my own misunderstanding and the encouragement of the devil.

Sincerely,

A desert dweller

A Black Bedouin’s Perspectice: How To Put The ‘Black’ Back In The Congressional Black Caucus

INTRODUCTION

The Congressional Black Congress has been a BINO (Black in name only) organization since the early 70’s. One need only look at the caucuses mission statement to see the deficiency of melanin in its objectives:

“To empower America’s neglected citizens and to address their legislative concerns.”

Ok, I have pretty shitty vision, but I’m positive there isn’t any Black in that mission statement. Due to the current demographic and economic trends Blacks have become less and less a political base worthy of courting, especially for Blacks who intend on becoming (or remaining) legislators. But this doesn’t mean that Black legislators are entirely out of options for advancing Black ambition, if they really wanted to. Although Black isn’t politically sexy anymore, and the demographic can be relatively pacified with rhetoric and symbolism, it is still apart of the caucus’ name, and by that logic alone the caucus should endeavor somewhat to materially advance the position of this group. Also, if the caucus isn’t aware, it has almost zero legitimacy with the Blacks with whom they are a namesake, and perhaps even less with the people they purport to empower. So if universality assures you obscurity and a lack of legitimacy, why not just trade obscurity and illegitimacy to others for the benefit of being both recognized and legitimate with your people? I personally despise domestic politics. I find it way too complex and undignified, so I don’t want to condemn or unjustly criticize other desert dwellers who are exploiting their position to eek out a living in a harsh environment. But when you dawn the vestiges of leadership, one should possess a spirit of reflection, and ensure that one is providing the best form of leadership possible. Here are my recommendations for you who aspire to do just that. Hopefully they can help put the ‘Black’ back in the Congressional Black Caucus.

LISTEN AND ASK

In all of human history it has never been easier for those who govern to listen to those they govern (shout out to Keith B. Alexander). With all the technology governments possess to gauge the sentiments of the people they govern, the CBC seems rather ineffective in staying in touch with Black voices. The CBC could perhaps poll more and organize more referendums in order to first understand where Black ambitions are today, before they take steps towards advancing them. Do Blacks want more assimilation into the American economic system, with the double white unemployment they are guaranteed? Or would they like more freedom from that economic power structure so they can trade goods and services in market places that are not over saturated with wider American competition? Does Black America want to wait another 43 Presidents before they can have one that looks like them? Or do they want to branch off and create some political dynamic where their leaders don’t have the conflict of being the nations President, or a Black President, where those two concepts are always one in the same? These are a few of the questions the caucus should ask in order to help define and promote Black ambition as Black Americans see it today.

GET RECOGNIZED

So there exist two America’s. A Black one and a White one. I don’t need to defend such a statement on my own; every socioeconomic indicator speaks to my point. There does exist within the territorial borders of the United States two Americas, yet only one is internationally recognized. I’m sure you can guess which one. It isn’t the Black one, that’s for damn sure. The CBC could gift Black America with a valuable power, if it procured international recognition for Black Americans within the United Nations. For instance, Palestine a country with just over four million people has Permanent Non-Member State Observer status within the UN, which affords them influence among the world’s community of nations. Why shouldn’t Black America, a nation of 40 million be afforded such access as well? Black foreign policy isn’t American foreign policy. It almost never has been. Yet from the world perspective it’s one in the same, because we don’t have a voice to convince them otherwise. The only other nation that has Permanent observer status is the Holy See… I won’t begin to discuss how undeserved that is, in comparison to the obvious claims that so many other nations possess. Honestly, if the CBC would only organize to petition the UN for Permanent Observer status, I don’t know of a non-European or non-north American nation that would not vote in favor of such a petition. Even a very conservative projection of votes would still produce a favorable vote for Black American observer status. Imagine if the CBC could call down international sanctions on wider America the next time (and I do mean next time) a black male is unjustly gunned down by law enforcement. Such a power could be just what Black Americans need to peacefully coexist in America, or just what they need to muster the courage and ambition to go it alone. Either way it’s quite a necessary power to have.

EVOLVE THE VISION

The Continental Congress is the quintessence of how an American legislature should operate. Compromising, competent, aware, and effective. Unfortunately for Black America, we weren’t invited to participate in such a Congress. We don’t have ownership to a history that is supposed to be ours, in a nation that purportedly belongs to us. The Congressional Black Caucus can write Black America into the annals of history if they envisioned themselves as the Black Continental Congress, rather than a welcoming club for new Black legislators. The aim of the Congressional Black Caucus can be so much more than what it is today, if it only had the vision to see itself as the facilitator of Black ambition. Imagine! It’s 2016. Nine White male law enforcement officers shamelessly beat a young Black woman to death. Black America is in a mournful clamor. This clamor soon boils over into near revolt as it is just announced that all nine officers have been acquitted of all charges. The Congressional Black Caucus in sensing the deep dissatisfaction that Black Americans share for their government kick into action. But it’s a different action than we’re used to. No, there are no organized marches. There are no symbolic speeches or conferences. There is no locking of arms. No kumbayas. The CBC kicks into action and does what it is supposed to do: legislate. But even this legislating is different; it possesses true leadership and true vision. The CBC, in protest, begins to convene in Atlanta, Ga rather than Washington, D.C. Secretly they hold sessions to organize a volunteer liberation force and work with other sympathetic nations to procure arms and military support. They form a committee designed to organize and issue war bonds to support the liberation effort and they also form a drafting committee to develop a document that announces the end of over four centuries of Black American subjugation under wider American tyranny. Imagine if our Black leaders were to take such measures to facilitate Black ambition? There would be nothing more American than this. It is the American way to depose tyranny whether by one person to many, or by 245 million to 42 million. The CBC can put the Black back in their name by evolving their vision so that it facilitates Black ambition and American tradition.

IN CLOSING

At a time where being a ‘Black leader’ is extremely unpopular, the Black caucus can either totally detach itself from its name, or attempt to lead a demographic desperately in need of visible, formal, and organizational leadership. Whether the CBC is ready or willing to step up to the plate of the recommendations laid forth above is for it to decide. Perhaps the current policy of merely assuring Black nominal survival is more in line with Black legislators agenda’s. But I feel that this Black generation, unlike Black generations of old, are not interested in merely surviving. This Black generation is interested in thriving, and realizing the fullness of all their political, economic, and social ambitions. The person or entity capable of facilitating Black ambition will undoubtedly wield extraordinary influence and affection from this Black generation. Those who obstruct Black ambition will invite this Black generation’s scorn.

Cordially,

A desert dweller

A Black Bedouin’s Perspective: Why Black Americans Are So Un-American

Introduction

White Americans do not value or respect Black Americans because Black Americans, quite frankly, are not American. Now before my assimilationist, Black containment minded readers begin a campaign of cyber vitriol, let me explain. The American dream is the narrative of the American people; it quite literally defines what it means to be an American. This definition is not rooted in qualifications as much as it is rooted in values and shared experiences. But Black Americans share very, very little in the way of commonality when it comes to their wider American counterparts. Here is a descriptive, although not exhaustive list of all the attributes of Americanisms that Black Americans lack.

Love Of Absolute Freedom

One can seamlessly put on a very clear and poignant argument to support the fact that Black freedom has been qualified since the very beginning of Black existence on American shores. Surely the degrees of freedom that Blacks have experienced since their arrival to the U.S. has ebbed and flowed in one direction or the next, but unlike much, or all, of their wider American counterparts there has never existed one particular period where Blacks have experienced complete unqualified freedom from every external influence that vie to control their lives. For example, Blacks, after the civil war and the end of slavery, were never allowed any political choice as to how their future would be organized. Instead they were pulled into the American power structure without so much as an inquiry to gauge whether they wanted to exist there or not. It was, by definition, a form of colonialism, yet instead of carving out full or partial political control over a country, the U.S. again thought it appropriate to govern Black lives and exploit it further politically and economically. Sure, former enslaved Blacks, (in some settings under certain guidelines) were now capable of choosing where and for whom they worked, but they were never given true political freedom to organize their own lives and decide their own destiny. In truly un-American fashion Black Americans largely accepted this new qualified freedom. Imagine if after the American war of Independence the British said (queue British accent) “You know what yanks, you’ve whipped us. Bravo! You can now do whatever you want as free subjects of the British crown.” Ummm would that not have defeated much of the point of the war? Wouldn’t anything short of absolute freedom from Britain, belie Patrick Henry’s famous cry, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” While this maxim in favor of absolute freedom is engraved in the hearts and minds of wider Americans, Black Americans don’t readily see absolute freedom as a necessity that warrants the loss of life, much less comfort. We have largely, for centuries sold all our liberties for the mere possibility of surviving. This divergence in ideals makes us irreconcilably different from American values and ideals.

Vengeance

Vengeance is mine sayeth the American people. Almost all of the noble acts of gallantry and American patriotism we celebrate today were precipitated on the back of an assault to American interest, be they real or imagined, significant or insignificant. American people are very vengeful people. Whether it’s the Boston Massacre, the Chesapeake Affair, the Alamo, the Maine, the Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, or 9/11, when American grief turns to anger, and then anger to resolution, whether they bring their enemies to justice or justice to their enemies, justice will be done. What perplexes and scares the living bejesus out of wider Americans is that Black Americans do not largely possess the same thirst for vengeance or justice as they do. I assure you, you would be viewed as a madman (specifically by Blacks) if you were to extol Black American vengeance for wider American atrocities with mantras like; remember our enslaved forefathers, remember Rosewood, remember Tulsa, remember Jim Crow, remember the lynchings, remember Emmitt Till, remember MLK (his dream as well as his nightmare), remember Malcolm X, remember Fred Hampton, remember Assata Shakur, remember Amadou Diallo, remember Trayvon Martin, remember Eric Garner, remember Michael Brown, remember Freddie Gray…. What wider Americans cannot understand (and what some Black Americans can’t understand either) and what is the source of some of the defensiveness and enmity that wider America possesses for Black Americans is that Black Americans as a whole have never sought to serve justice on their wider American counterparts. They’ve never taken it upon themselves, in any resolute way, to bring wider America to task for the centuries of injustice and oppression that Blacks have suffered at their hands. Black America has primarily sought to exist, in any normative and comfortable way within wider American dominance. They have not for the most part sought to exit or destroy that wider American dominance. Like the bully who cannot respect the scrawny kid who largely acquiesces to his persecution, wider America cannot fully respect people who conform and often ratify their own subjugation. They can’t fathom the idea that Black Americans would be willing to proverbially turn the other cheek. So when a woman clutches tighter to her Fendi purse at the sight of a Black man walking down the street, it isn’t because she’s afraid that the man is innately violent, it is because she knows that Fendi bag was bought from her peoples extraction of that mans labor and rightfully belongs to him and if the shoe were on the other foot her people would steal such a purse (and more than likely kill such a man) in the name of justice and vengeance. When a man shoots an unarmed Black man because he thought he looked threatening or menacing, it is really just the guilty conscience of that man guiding him into irrational overly defensive acts. This lack of vengefulness highlights the fact that Black Americans do not share wider American ideals.

Self-Interested Rational Actors

There is an old adage that Americans don’t spend a $1 in charity unless their positively sure they can make $100 back in return. Okay, I made that up, but that doesn’t immediately invalidate the merits of such a statement. American people are very self-interested rational actors. We don’t fight in wars where there aren’t insatiable markets to conquer or where there aren’t oceans of oil (and other resources) to control. This isn’t inherently a bad thing. In many ways I believe the world would be far better off if everyone took care of themselves and their interest with the same kind of vociferous, one track minded determination that American people often do. America does not make international deals or treaties with other nations that subordinate their own interest. Most people don’t. To be a rational actor one must negotiate with the goal of advancing ones own interest to the exclusion of others. Black Americans for the most part are not rational actors. In Black decision-making and policy initiatives there seems to be a frightening need for ecumenicalism. In recent years it has been harder and harder to even strive for Black objectives without attaching some other goal or interest to validate it. ‘Black and Brown communities’, ‘urban issues’, ‘inner city problems’ these forms of deflective language dilute and conceal Black ambition and self-interest. Wider America almost never seeks permission from another group to advance its objectives. Often times it advances its interest in spite of others. Black Americans as a whole have hardly ever behaved in such a way, thus illustrating how disconnected Black Americans are from wider American ideals.

Idealism

When was the last time you read a Black magical novel? Or watched a “Lord Of The Rings” type fantasy film created by a Black filmmaker? I know!  Never. The reason for this lack of imagination is due to the fact that, Black Americans unlike wider Americans are totally anchored in the harshness of reality. They are almost totally incapable of conjuring worlds outside the ones that they currently inhabit. This is entirely understandable and psychologically validated. Just study Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and it’s easy to see why. How could a people struggling to master their current existence dream of an entirely separate one altogether? It’s not impossible but it becomes far more uncommon to procure dreamers from such a population. Also, when you live in a country whose policies are designed to stifles much of your vision, it becomes all too evident why Blacks are so very pragmatic. However, this is probably the deciding factor as to why Black Americans don’t share American values. Americans are above all things dreamers. Margret Thatcher once said that the British define themselves by their history, where Americans define themselves by their future. No other sentiment can be truer. Vision, foresight, prospecting, imagination, idealism is the hallmark of Americanism and the American Dream. For instance, George Washington, the legendary almost deified founding father we know him as, was already very rich prior to the war of independence. But he understood that if he could cut the middleman (the British) out of his business, he would not only be even richer, but he would also have the ability to be the first executive of possibly the greatest republic on the earth since Rome. Being a wealthy Virginian planter was one thing, but being a founding father, was a whole other prospect. All the founding fathers were in some way already well off and firmly entrenched as the leadership of the colonies, but their single-minded vision for something more, along with their foresight to see themselves as more than the upper echelon of the under crust of someone else’s society, elevated them to the very mold of what it means to be American. Black Americans on a whole, based on their past responses to wider American oppression, possess nothing of this quality. Black Americans lack the ability to dream. Reality is their prison. As a whole they are unable to conjure up a world where they aren’t oppressed. Where they exist free from their traditional enemies and free to pursue all their hopes and ambitions. For Blacks what is now shall always be, and if a change is affected it will be affected on them, and not by them. This more than anything is the reason why Black Americans are viewed as foreigners in what ought to be their own country.

So… What Does It All Mean Basil?

By now you might realize that not sharing wider American values is perhaps not the worst thing in the world. But I think what holds Black Americans back is that, of late, we don’t recognize this difference. How can a group of people sharing almost polar opposite irreconcilable values share a country? A split is inevitable. The question is do Black Americans want to prepare for this split? Do we want to control our destiny and win the freedom to be who we actually are and not what we are told to be? These questions are obviously ones for us to decide.

Ours,

A desert dweller

A Black Bedouin’s Perspective: Lee Harris, On Black Political Autonomy

Lee A. Harris, Political Autonomy as a Form of Reparations to African-Americans , 29 Southern University Law Review 25, 28-29, 50-56 (Fall 2001)

Lee A. Harris is a brilliant sociopolitical problem solver. He is a Memphis city Council member representing district 7, and I doubt he gets much national credit for the sheer dynamism of thought that he brings to the table when considering American racial problems.

I have read extensively, authors who have studied and commented on the concept of reparations, from Randall Robinson to Clarence J. Munford, but none seems to have captured wider America’s attention like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2014 article entitled: “The Case for Reparations”. In this work, Coates extols the necessity for reparations by documenting the much already storied racially organized inequities in American society. Where Lee A. Harris goes a step further and displays his true brilliance is that he, 13 years before Ta-Nehisi’s article, illustrates for America a glimpse of what the implementation of real reparative policies might look like. Harris recognizes that the debt that America owes to its Black population is nearly insurmountable in dollar figures, but he does advocate another, in my opinion, more luminous solution: Black Political Autonomy.

Harris, keenly and clearly, defines political autonomy as statehood. This may seem a self-evident comprehension of what political autonomy means, but the idea that Black Political Autonomy unequivocally means statehood has suspiciously escaped much of many African-American civil rights leaders. As a political scientist, it is all too clear to see that the separation in values, history and socioeconomic standing between U.S. and its Black citizens justifies, if not necessitates, a partition in political organization.

While even submitting such a thought into the realm of Black Political consciousness may have one labeled as a radical or fantasist, I’d offer that such a separation in body politic is neither more radical nor fanciful than Pakistan’s separation from India. Or Jewish independence from Europe. Or Taiwanese separation from China. Or Scottish hopes of independence from the U.K. Or Ireland separation from the U.K. None of these instances of disunification is predicated on the basis of ill will or idealism. When a relationship has run its course and no longer benefits both parties involved, a separation may be worth considering. The problem with Black American political thought is that such a notion hasn’t been seriously considered since the early 20’s. Perhaps its high time African American’s consider political autonomy through statehood as a means for achieving their much stifled, much repressed, much contained, political aspirations.

Sincerely,

A desert dweller

A Black Bedouin’s Perspective: The Saudi Arabia Of Culture

The Saudi Arabia of Culture

I’ve been preaching to deaf ears (my peers) for what seems like a minute now, that if Black America were a country it would be the Saudi Arabia of culture. And that’s no idle boast. It isn’t racial chest beating or bravado. Indeed Black America is the greatest purveyor of American culture. Whether it’s American food culture, American music culture (especially American music culture), American dance culture, etc. etc.,. Black America is the primary breadwinner of American cultural currency. But the Black population as a whole has not benefitted disproportionately from the cultural resources that their people generate. Like Saudi Arabia has oil, we have oceans of culture from which to draw our wealth, but also like Saudi Arabia our primary commodity has been steadily devalued of late from competition and other economic factors. Our primary consumers (wider America) has created alternative sources of entertainment, fashion, and art, all products that at one time, was almost exclusively sourced from us. Also like Saudi Arabia’s oil, our ocean of culture is rapidly running out. We have to diversify what we have to offer in the way of culture in order to continue reaping from our age-old primary export.

The Commodity of Culture

But what is culture really? What a nebulous thing to export and supply? Sure you can tell it when you see it, but how does one measure the impact of such an indeterminable produce as culture. And how does one attribute such an end product to one group of people? Doesn’t everyone take bits and pieces of what everyone is doing to create what ultimately ends up being American culture?             Well if you ask Webster, Culture is defined as: the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time. This definition allows for culture to exist in myriad of things, be they tangible or intangible. And by definition these tangible or intangible elements of culture ought to be exclusive to ‘a particular society, group, place or time.’ While all segments of American society do contribute to American culture most are able to manipulate their beliefs, customs, arts, etc., so that they remain at the helm of their culture and so that they, rather than others, benefit disproportionally as a result of the promulgation of this said culture. No group in America has shown more impotence in controlling their own culture than Black Americans.

Exclusionary Power

From my experience I’ve observed what seems to me the key power that a group must possess to maintain control of the pieces of culture they produce. That power is plainly the power to exclude and Blacks are pretty much powerless to exclude others from cashing in on the culture they curate. I believe that this element of powerlessness is due to the fact that when blacks create culture they largely create it for altruistic or self-fulfilling purposes and do not typically place a high value on their products being exclusive to them. For instance, hip-hop is very much so a black cultural product. However, the founders created the art form without devising any real means to exclude outsiders from benefiting from it. In fact, it was designed expressly as a platform of expression for all people. Such is true for all other black musical art forms. Compare that with classical music for instance, which has a very high barrier of entry and often excludes a large segment of the non-rich, non-white, non-educated portions of the population.

Setting The Standard

How, in America, is any group legally allowed to deny another access to their cultural creations? Isn’t that segregation or reverse racism or some other form of evil that makes this country all too uncomfortable to consider? No, it is actually called standardization. Groups in America encrust within their cultural products standards specifically to exclude others. You can’t be a maestro of classical music unless you can read music. You can’t get into law school unless you pass the LSAT. In order to qualify for the Geneva Seal the entire watch movement must be jeweled with rubies set in polished holes, including the going train and escape wheel. None of these standards augment the actual quality of the product. There are people with an intimate understanding of classical music without the ability to read music at all. The LSAT doesn’t actually gauge whether you are capable of learning law, and for a great chunk of American history it wasn’t even used. And rubies add no functional benefit to a watch’s time telling capacity. These standards are entirely exclusive in nature, aimed at keeping the ‘other’ out.

The Custodians Of American Soft Power

Why don’t Blacks standardize their own cultural products? Why aren’t their specific guidelines for what constitutes hip-hop culture, so that when Iggy Azaelea puts out songs like ‘Fancy’ we can clearly inform her that, that does not qualify as part of our genre. Why aren’t there specific standards for what makes urban clothing separate from all the other forms of clothing, so that when Chanel decides to create their new line of $200.00 Urban Tie Caps, we can easily call them on the bull and let them know it’s actually a durag and they ought to be had for under $5.00. While altruism is a noble element of our culture and creating culture to validate ones own existence in a society that is often hostile is essential, it still does not belie the fact that offering services for free in our day and age is tantamount to slavery. Whether it’s an intern working at a large firm or 12.5% of the American population, one ought to get paid for what one contributes. Especially when your services are bolstering the soft power of the most cultural powerful nation on the planet.

Shaking Our Cultural Dutch-Disease

Perhaps making black culture more exclusive will help put more American dollars in Black pockets. Yet in the same vein, making a culture that espouses openness and equity more closed off from the wider world at large, can possibly distort it. So much so that it lacks the popular draw it possesses today. We still possess enough juice to figure out where we want to go. We ought to, however, start thinking more pensively about what the future of Black culture will look like. How we intend to treat ourselves for the current case of Dutch-disease we face when it comes to our vast wealth of culture and how we plan on stretching this resource so that future generations can eat from it.

Yours,

A desert dweller

A Black Bedouin’s Perspective: Since We’re Taking Ish Back

Woke up to #TakeBackHoward. Before I begin I want to make clear, that I’m not one to look down on anyone asking for more. I know a lot of my peers disparage those such as fast-food and retail workers looking for salary hikes. Where I come from (River City, Va) we don’t do that. Hindering in anyway someone wanting more of anything, is in our lexicon, by definition, hatin’. And in the Great State of Virginia, real ninjas do their best to avoid being labeled haters. Add to that, the fact that hatin’ is really an ill place to spend ones energy. Since when does someone getting a raise take butter off your toast? Why not stand in solidarity with the people that want more money and ask for more compensation for all the hard work you put in? So yeah, that’s how I feel about that kind of thing. I don’t intend on hindering anyone who aspires for more. Like the wise man Katt Williams once said “Do you [and] get your money boo-boo.”

But this #TakeBackHoward thing, although admirable, seems to lack a lot of the ambition I like to see striven for from my young Black counterparts. Youth are always supposed to be on the vanguard of radicalism, in all cultures and demographics. They are how society pushes the envelope. They don’t settle, and they’re far too impatient to wait until tomorrow. So while #TakeBackHoward sounds dope and all, why are we, as the black American educated and antsy youth looking to take back just Howard? Do we think that, that’s all we’re owed? How about the line of credit that our ancestors extended to this country in labor, innovation, blood, sweat and sacrifice? Are we trying to take that back too? What about the centuries of stifled dreams and aspirations, the discontinued freedom and heritage? Why don’t we want that back as well? Or how about the wealth of our communities, on both sides of the Atlantic, and everywhere else, where we were raped, and robbed blind, by a people who found it so convenient and profitable to visit upon us every manner of evil thinkable upon the earth. When are we going to take that back?

I’ll answer that question plainly for you. Never. Want to know why? Because it would require us taking it from white people, and not the people we’ve become far too accustomed to taking from (our people). It would require us to break white laws and show irreverence to white institutions and perhaps visit violence on white bodies a level of radicalization that we don’t even entertain thoughts of, much less approach anymore. Like I said in the beginning, I’m not trying to hate on the initiative. It is right and it is justified. But why stop there? Every inch, of every acre of this country that was watered by our blood, our oppression, and our struggle, is ours and ours exclusively. How about we justify our forefather’s (and foremother’s) pain and sacrifice by taking that back as well? But I digress, big up #TakeBackHoward.

Yours,

A Desert Dweller