click here for pt 1
You would think I would have it in for my teachers from my elementary days. After all they were the ones to first plant this seed of racism in my soul. But, I actually owe them a great deal of gratitude.
The biggest problem among black people in the US, in my opinion, is not hate from without, but hate from within. My school’s agenda was to offset this hate by instilling in each child a sense of cultural longevity, a foothold in history, a foundation, a legacy, and a Motherland: Africa. The primary objective was a knowledge of self. The premise being once you know yourself you’ll love yourself, and once you’ve fallen in love with yourself it would be exceedingly difficult to do harm to yourself or to bring harm to your people. These are things that most other cultures and races take for granted, but had been systematically stolen from African-Americans. Self-hate wass one of the results. So, like some kind of rootless, homeless culture whose history began seemingly in chains and cotton fields, instructed to pledge allegiance to the flag of their oppressors, African-Americans lunged into the 21st Century.
Yes, I was blessed, as I mentioned before.
But, the seed of racism inside me was there to stay.
My school couldn’t fertilize it, though. They were missing an essential ingredient to get me to really embrace it: That all-important why. Why were white people evil? Without the why, it just didn’t hold water. So, I was able to intellectualize my way through much of their propaganda, unknowingly holding on to what was useful and burying the rest.
However, out in the streets, I ran head-on into an organization that had some fertilizer, that at least attempted to answer the why. They are an off-shoot of the Nation of Islam, known as The Five Percent Nation of Islam, or The Nation of Gods and Earths. Once exposed to their teachings I had gotten exactly what I was looking for: an answer to the why.
You might not have heard of The Nation but if you’ve heard of Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Wu-Tang Clan, and many other Hip Hop artists, then you’ve heard of some of the most prominent members. In fact, Rakim was one of the reasons I was most proud to be a part of the Nation. I could write a whole book on my experiences with The Nation (and probably will someday.) If you want to know the specifics about them, though, I suggest you check out those links above.
I would spend my entire high school years as a member. But, this posts is not about them, per se, only how they impacted my personal code, the granite rock I brought to Japan with me. So, I’ll summarize the racial lessons I learned from The Nation as thus: The original man is the black man, and the black man is God. The white man is the devil, grafted from the original man, and evil in every way. The duty of the original man is teach those who are ignorant knowledge of self.
Yet, again, the white man was evil, only this time I was offered explanations for their evil nature that actually made me stop and think, predisposed as I was to do so.
I performed my duties as a “Civilized man” (what we called ourselves), diligently. I had changed my name, studied my lessons, and became an exemplary Five Percenter (another name we went by). I was righteous and militant, a Rebel without a Pause! Like now, I soon had students of my own, but instead of peddling English, I was spreading The Nation’s doctrines. I knew them all backwards and forwards and could hold my own and travel safely through most any black community…The Nation was EVERYWHERE in New York!
I think I began to second guess my affiliation with the Nation when I lost a friendship because of it.
My friend, Chris, I mentioned earlier, was white, and, as you might expect, wasn’t too keen on my membership in a group that looked on him as a devil. You see, I was leading a double life. A teenage reverse-poser, I was. Pretending to wholeheartedly believe that the white man was evil. And, naturally, it came to a head one day, when Chris walked by as I was “building with the Gods.” He was an arrogant dude, Chris, and pretty fearless actually, considering the environment he grew up in, and though I had warned him against it, he called me by my “Government” (legal) name, a sign of disrespect among the Five Percent. My “brothers” didn’t take kindly to that and put me in a position where I would have to stand up for what I had been preaching or stand up for my friend.
I’d like to say friendship won out that day…but I regret to inform you that peer pressure was the victor. That and the fear of what would be done to me if I did turn my back on a mob of young sociopaths from the hood, as it were.
Chris never forgave my betrayal, rightly so. And, if you’re reading this, Chris, please know I regret it. I was a dumb kid trying to be something I wasn’t. Sorry, Dude.
Anyway, by the time I graduated from High School, after 5 years of enrollment, I faded out of the Nation…and into Uncle Sam’s Force for Good around the world. Yep, in order to pay for college, and for a little adventure away from home, I joined the Army.
America, fuck yeah!
Fort Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina, Tank Hill…me and 50 some-odd boys from ‘hoods and ghettos, trailer parks and farms, plains and praries all over the States. Half Black, half White, a sprinkle of Latino, a token Asian, all shapes and sizes, predjudices and predispositions, talents and temperaments, heteros and homos, hormones and…you get the picture. The huddled masses, all thrown together in a melting pot for 10 weeks.
Yep, and a little adventure is just what I got.
…to be continued