Wednesday, August 26, 2009
DERIC'S DEBATE: No Individual Can Rise Above the Condition of His People
By: Deric Muhammad
I recently attended a Saturday workshop where my younger brother and Journalist Jesse Muhammad, was a featured presenter. Afterward, I decided to take a shopping stroll through the Galleria Mall to exchange some merchandise. I’d parked near the Neiman Marcus entrance and was exiting to return to my car, bags in hand, when I noticed an upper middle aged white female getting out of her Cadillac.
As she started towards the mall entrance the first person she saw was me; a clean-cut fellow wearing a custom made business suit and tie with both hands full of shopping bags. I had the white hanky in my pocket with spit shined Italian shoes, cuff links and all. But when she clutched her purse and ignored my “how you doin” I realized that all she saw was just another ni--- walking by.
It’s not like I’ve never experienced this before. Growing up as a young Black male in America I’ve had many a purse “clutched” as I walked by. And I thought that maybe it had something to do with the way I was dressed as a youth or the hole in my t-shirt because I was poor. But while a lot has changed in my life, one thing hasn’t. I am still a Black man in America and whether I wear a Hugo Boss suit or sagging blue jeans I am still subject to the “old purse clutch.”
When Harvard professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates was arrested by the Cambridge Police Department for “being upset” in his own home he fell under the same law. Professor Gates is too intelligent to believe that what happened to him does not happen to Black males every minute in America. He knows that racial profiling is a pandemic. He just did not imagine it happening to him after all the university hours he’s put in to become an internationally renowned scholar, educator, and historian.
Real talk, the professor on that day became a student again. He became a student of a phrase coined by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad that should be adopted as a law. It says that “no one individual can ever rise above the condition of his or her people.” Brothers in the hood were like “welcome to the real world Professor Gates.”
But Gates made the mistake of thinking that a certain social status, level of education, wealth and influence should have separated him from the discrimination that his people received daily. And while the hallways of his home were reportedly littered with photos of the professor taken with presidents, dignitaries and others that police officer saw him just as the old white lady in the Cadillac saw me the other day; just another ni----.
President Barack Obama fell under the same law during his recent visit to Russia. While greeting Russian dignitaries alongside Russia’s president he noticed that the dignitaries would shake everyone else’s hand but his. They refused to shake Obama’s hand. And even though he is the president of the United States of America, they saw him just like that old white lady in the Cadillac saw me.
There goes that law again. How much higher can one rise in this world’s society except to become the president of the United States? And if Obama can’t get around this law then any Black man or woman in America who thinks they can is a fool.
Not even the late-great Michael Jackson could escape the law. Once he was no longer under “their control” they crucified him in the media, hurled false charges at him, made him undergo physical strip searches and treated him the same way they’d treat a petty drug dealer on a corner in Brooklyn.
Jesus’ disciples were confused about certain statements he made to them. For all intents and purposes they felt like they’d treated the master well. But Jesus made it clear when he said, Inasmuch as you have not done this to the least of these my people you have also not done it unto me. Jesus was saying that true progress can only be measured by what we do for the least of God’s people. When the least of our people rise we all rise.
And while individual success can and should be applauded always remember that no one individual can ever rise above the condition of his or her people.