WHAT IS BLACK HISTORY?, by Dr. Steven Nur Ahmed

Malcolm X Statue2

It is Black History month and last night I attended a speech given by Julian Bond at a local community college. Julian Bond was a student of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1960. The event was held in a large auditorium. As I scanned the crowd which nearly filled the facility I observed that 75% or more of the people present were white.

The presence of white people is not bad in and of itself. But the master of ceremony was a white judge; the technicians were white men; the highest honor of the night was awarded to a white woman and presented by another white woman; the vice president of the college who was a black woman was merely introduced and then quickly ushered off stage; the questions from the audience were literally censored by a white man.

And to make matters worse the roles assigned to black people were stereotypical. The ushers were black; the dancer was black; and the singers were black. There was one young African American male who did a recitation of Dr. Martin Luther King’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’.  So after all was said and done it was the same old message, white people are in control of black people’s identity. One of the important goals of white supremacy is to control their victim’s identity.

White people were in total control of that black history event. Despite the fact the Julian Bond’s speech was sugar coated, from the top to the bottom one thing was clear. White people were in control.

White people are in total control of Black History Month throughout the United States. Insofar as they are successful at controlling such events white people are controlling and limiting the opportunity for black people to exercise their right to free speech in public forums.

My observation compelled me to ask myself some important questions. So as I sat there and listened to Julian Bond speak I did a reality check on our people, African Americans.

What is ‘Black History?’ Is it the recorded experiences of black people in the Americas by black people? Or is ‘Black History’ just another chapter among hundreds of chapters recorded by White people about all Black people worldwide?

If we peel back the layers of black experience in the United States dating from 2015 back to 1619 we get to the very core of what forces have made black people and thus our history. We find exactly what drives black people in the ‘here and nowness’ of their unique collective and individual experiences. We will find the cultural core values.

The earth has an iron core which rotates and generates the magnetic power which makes life possible on earth. Analogously, the core of black people’s unique collective and individual experiences of ‘here and nowness’ is fertility in relation to economy. If you control your fertility and have an economy you have a chance to live free.

Fertility and economy is what made life possible for black people in the United States.  Giving birth to babies is what qualifies any population as ‘fit’. The more babies, the more fit. The fewer babies the less fit. This is so because life in and of itself is a delicate biological balance between survival and crisis or extinction.

Conception and birth always keep life and thus black people one step ahead of extinction. But birth is inseparably intertwined with economy. And economy is necessary for one fundamental reason. Babies must be fed.

To feed babies, resources must be accessed. For the sake of the babies, resources must be accessed either in cooperation with others or in accommodation to others; either in conflict with others or in competition against others. Whoever those others may be.

The values of food, clothing, shelter, and means of trade like money must be sought out and obtained. Just as a hunter will pursue and capture game, the sole focus of a culture is to swarm the landscape for what it needs to survive.

Resources must be apportioned and distributed to babies who in turn must gradually learn the skills necessary to continue to generate offspring and acquire the necessities of life. All of that is what people do at the level where life is bump and grind. 

When or if black people lose their fertility and fail to learn cutting edge economic skills there will follow a gradual cessation of their unique collective and individual experiences of ‘here and nowness’. Eventually, they will fail to generate a living culture which can blossom into what we call black history. Thus at every moment we are at the fork in the road.

Black history can be either tragic or it can be what gives rise to waves of ecstatic inspiration reaching over countless generations. The choice “to be or not to be” cannot be avoided.

Most black people worldwide do not celebrate ‘Black History’ month nor even entertain the idea of ‘Black History’. In Africa, India, South America, the Caribbean Islands, Australia, and the south Pacific Islands, black people do not celebrate Black History and they probably don’t define themselves as ‘Black People’. They don’t celebrate because they have their own cultures, histories, religions, and mythologies with which they identify. What that means is that black people in the United States are irreparably cut off from all other black people in the world.

I do not mean that we should not travel to learn the many cultures past and present in which other black people live or have lived;  but rather what I do mean is that we shall never be capable of networking subconsciously with black people in other cultures throughout the world because they and we see the world through different lenses crafted by different cultural experiences over vast stretches of time. 

So we, here and now, in the United States are cut off forever. We have become cultural freaks among the societies of the world because we have assimilated more of the formless popular American culture than any other subculture in history. For example, from day to day or month to month, it is no telling what values we will be doing.  There is no telling what food we shall eat; no telling what clothing we shall choose to wear or whether we shall wear clothing at all, and where and in what we shall live or whether we shall be homeless and living on the streets.

Ultimately, there is a universal rule which applies to us as it does to all people. We shall either be self-sufficient or we shall be a population of beggars always needing to be habilitated or rehabilitated to the latest mode of what others define for us as right or moral. All of that leads to another fact.

We, black people, are as culturally unstable as American popular culture is unstable and for that reason we are culturally unpredictable; we are like an ever spinning roulette wheel turned by the hands of others.

Those two facts mean that we can predict with a high degree of certainty that we, black people, in the United States shall not achieve the degree of ethnic unity which will make for a higher collective fertility rate and for higher collective economic self-sufficiency. Parallel to that we can predict that non-black people will be in control of Black History and that in the long run we may in fact wind up being only: ‘Black History’.



dead end

A dead end lies before us. It is being shown to us by the light of our history. When we study not only the structural characteristics of the institution of slavery but also the intestinal fortitude of millions of individual Africans, that history highlights for us what was for them the reason for their survival.  It also implies what will cause us to fail.


It is common knowledge that millions of slaves endured pain of every conceivable kind. They endured the pains of hunger, thirst, beatings, whippings, rape, the murder of kinfolk and neighbors, extreme cold, extreme heat, disease, humiliation, intellectual deprivation, high infant and maternal mortality rates, physical mutilation, forced incest, child sexual abuse, and lives lived under constant authoritarian repression.  They did so for hundreds of years.


But they endured. They endured because individually and collectively their will to live was greater than the sum of all resistance to them. For every act to suffocate their humanity their will to take in yet another breath of life prevailed.  In that breath which filled their lungs they exhaled into the world a universal movement that turned history in a new direction.


If there is an argument for a morality not born of the flesh but of the spirit, one which springs forth from what in a human being is soul alone, then it must be expressed as the greater ‘ will to live’ against the lesser ‘sum of all resistance’ to it. That being true then it must also be true that African people in America under a system of total repression were not only a moral people but they were also the major moral force shaping United States history for the 100 years following the civil war.   


Their ‘will to live’ has left a wide trail in its wake. That trail was paved by the descendants of slaves. They were those generations of people constituting millions upon millions of souls who in word and in deed shouted out to the world that ‘We Shall Over Come!’ And in their train along the span of that trail followed Asians, Latinos, Women, and all others who were raised from the dead by the cry of African people ‘Rise Lazarus!’ live and walk to freedom with us here in these United States.   


No rational person would argue that today we are on a moral and social upswing. Rather now, and in the light of our past, our future prospects as a people and as individual citizens are uncertain.  Serious questions should now be asked by each and every one of us. We should ask ourselves whether or not the scale of our moral measure has tipped against us? Is it now the case that our ‘will to live is outweighed by the sum of all resistance to it? 


The social facts in support of that proposition are frightening and are rubbed in our faces daily. Our collective moral sentiments have slid down a steep slope. And if those facts are true then what will become of us? What will become of us if we do not reinvigorate the intestinal fortitude our ancestors had?  If we agree that they are our moral frame of reference, it begs the question: are we now an immoral people?


Our behavior and words are moral forces. They are no different than fire for both our behaviors and words are energies, too.  They can cause combustion.  They are forces that move about and impact things and people around them. They have weight and can cause explosions. They can shatter things and people. They can cause implosions by destroying people psychologically. These forces move at a rate of speed like all things. They gather momentum and they can also accelerate when combined with other behaviors. For those reasons we are now headed to a point in our history when the light of our past shall be overcome by the darkness of an undetermined and uncertain future.


We are approaching a dead end and we are accelerating and gathering momentum along the way.  It is the kind of challenge like no other we have ever faced. For, it has been constructed by our own hands not by the hands of others and it stands before us within us.  Now, we are the sum of all resistance to ourselves. Now we behave as though we do not want to live. We do not comprehend that what we face cannot be overcome by colliding with it. We must stop before we collide with it.


That wide trail which was blazed by so many of our ancestors has now become a narrow beaten path along which we walk.  And if we look back over our shoulders we will see that no longer do others follow us. For we are no longer moral leaders; we no longer possess the high ground.  


Asians, Latinos, women, and others have parted ways and gone on to enjoy the fruits of their labor. We are now alone; we no longer cry out ‘Rise Lazarus!” rather we whine aloud with arms outstretched and with open palms.  What we are on my dear people is a death march. It may be that our time in the United States is coming to its end. For it is a social fact that we have hit rock bottom.  Denial of that fact will avail us nothing for ‘pride goeth before a fall’.


If there is hope then it must be hope in God and a visceral ‘will to live’. It must be the ‘will to live’ which our forebears had in such abundance that they could share it with the entire world. It must be that same intestinal fortitude which drove our people to do all that they could do to make a place for themselves and us in these United States against the sum of all resistance.







From The Book: The Syllabus of Malcolm X, by Dr. Steven Nur Ahmed

Malcolm X (640x480)


     Malcolm X makes an interesting comment about the relation between time and freedom in chapter 11 of his autobiography.  Yes, he is meta-communicating to you again. He states that: “…months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned.  In fact, up to then, I never had been so truly free in my life.”  He said it was due to spiritual correspondence and the reading of books.  So, what was the nature of his experience?  The nature of Malcolm’s experience was present tenseness. Present tenseness is reality; it is freedom from the constraints of space and motion and thus it is freedom from time. You see prisoner, there is only one motion and it is backward motion; one time and it is a measure of that backward motion. Everything and the molecules and atoms of which they are composed are streaming in past tense motion.  All that we claim to sense and upon which we base our opinions is passé because of what separates us from a present tense participation in reality.  What separates us is a materially unbridgeable conscious gulf.
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In prison and despite its medieval condition, Malcolm got himself into a unique state of mind. He got himself into a state of mind that participates in the reality which up till then he had not experienced because Malcolm had never been free even before his incarceration. He bridged the conscious gulf separating him from freedom. He realized that the idea of freedom he had had was a false idea; it was an illusion. No wonder he was at first expecting a gimmick to get him out of prison. For freedom, Malcolm learned, could not be had by the motions of his impulse; the fears and erotic attachments he and other prisoners had which like a ball and chain about their ankles fettered them and the whole of humanity. It is our opportunity as a human being to become free but only if we have the courage to ‘turn our head’; the courage to ascend in it into the true temple built without hands.  For Malcolm it must have been a joyous discovery. It can be so for you, too.  All one must do is turn one’s head.

Present tenseness cannot be spoken of nor understood by terms of standard syntactical form. Syntax is the way our concepts are ordered in thought and expressed through speech and writing.  The way your speech is ordered makes it impossible for you to know that your reasoning is askew and away from the truth of present tenseness. That is so because of the inclusion of illusory concepts. In so doing it makes what is logical seem illogical and what is illogical seem logical. Many students find this a difficult obstacle to overcome when studying the science of logic. So first, we must break free from the barriers of grammar. Yes, even our grammar is a kind of prison which is a constraint on consciousness and which by social consensus limits the field of our thinking and turns our consciousness away from its opportunity for freedom.  Malcolm X learned and understood that.

One of the major falsehoods of speech is the concept ‘future’. It is a social construction. Think about it.  Had Malcolm decided to wait for his freedom by framing his freedom as a future experience to be given to him by the state prison system he would have never become a free person.  He would have never become free because neither Malcolm then nor you now can have any experience but that of past tenseness. It’s just a simple fact.   Whatever we sense by smell, touch, sight, sound, and taste is passé; it belongs to all things streaming into the past. Our thoughts about those sensations are always late thoughts about experiences of things that have changed and gone on to other forms of existence.  All of the mass in all the universes are streaming energy into the past from a point of present tenseness.  You cannot get free unless you reverse your conscious dependence on past experiences so that you can begin to know present tenseness. Present tenseness is the truth.  If you want to use the concept ‘future’ then the future must be the mind state of present tenseness. Otherwise everything, including you, is passé.

The truth is that Malcolm X set himself free. No other person could free him. His Bimbi could not free him. He could only direct Malcolm. Remember his Bimbi told him that he had a brain if only he would use it. Malcolm X began to free himself by and through his mind and his participation in present tenseness.  Remember in chapter 11 Malcolm X states that he discovered philosophy. He identifies one of them as Socrates, the Greek.  Socrates was a descendant of an Egyptian named Erechtheus.  Malcolm X states that Socrates was initiated into the Egyptian mystery schools. He was by trade a stone-mason or master mason. There is much that is implied in the short comment Malcolm X makes about Socrates.  First of all, Socrates was the teacher of Plato.  Secondly, the major account of the teachings of Socrates is contained in the Dialogues of Plato because Socrates did not write a book.  It is there, in the Dialogues of Plato, that we find the meaning of the meta communiqué of Malcolm X to us concerning present tenseness and its relation to freedom.  Let us now turn to Plato’s Dialogue: ‘The Republic’, Book VII and therein let us examine Plato’s allegory of the cave as told to him by Socrates. Socrates is the speaker.

Socrates described a dark underground den like a walled prison with cell blocks. In the cells are countless human beings moaning in anguish.  There is an opening as it were at the end of a tunnel leading from the prison where there shines a light.  Socrates then says that the human beings have been there since childhood and that their legs and necks are shackled so that they cannot move freely.  There they live in perpetual anguish. They have only a zero to 180 degree field of vision because they are unable to turn their heads around.  The children have known no other experience. He then says that there is a kind of fire. And that it projects onto a flat sheer surface a procession of images some of talkative and silent men, others of animals, wood, stone, and various materials.  He compares the scene to a puppet stage shielded by a white sheer sheet behind which the figures can be seen.  Such shackled men and women can see only those and their own shadows. Socrates interjects, ‘like us’, they have never been ‘allowed’ to move their ‘heads’.  So, what is the mind set of such prisoners?

In this allegory Malcolm must have discerned how Socrates distinguishes between both light and shadow. Those terms are not simply used by him as metaphor but rather are meant to stand for real aspects of our conscious predicament. The nature of light is such that it both penetrates into and reflects off of matter. It is a rare phenomenon in our universe. It moves at a speed of 186,000 miles per second through dark matter. Our eyes like the shutter speed of a camera are unable to simultaneously sense and our brains unable to perceive moments of full spectrum radiation. We are limited in our perception to a small range of the light spectrum as past impressions just as prisoners are limited to the full enjoyment of social freedoms, thus there is much which happens around us that we are oblivious to. Socrates speaks of shadows in the underground den not images; here, shadow is to image what smoke is to fire. The prisoners can see neither light nor imagery in their smoke filled consciousness. They experience the lowest possible degree of consciousness. The shadows stand for the lowest degree of consciousness possible; on the other hand, the opening at the mouth of the cave is a metaphor of separation as well as possible freedom and expanded consciousness in truth.

From the shadows surrounding them, prisoners draw fallacious conclusions about reality which causes a contagious chain of imbalanced thinking. Their opinions are weighted by error and the irreducible error in their reasoning process is reflected in the macabre world they construct. Their mindscape is tilted like a building set on a faulty foundation.  The echoes they hear are muffled sounds which they perceive to be music. Theirs is a world of shadow which they take as reality. Theirs is a pretentious world; they do not know that they are participating in the end. They do not know that their world is passé.

But as the allegory goes someone moves his or her head from zero to 360 degrees; they turn around. They don’t wait for official approval because they rightly intuit that it will never come from ‘officials’. They come to know that ‘officials’ are prisoners, too. Now, unbound by their shackles, they trigger a chain of consequences which expose to them the herd illusion. The freed one now sees the herd to which he or she once belonged as a shadow of huddled masses stifled in utter darkness; they neither move to the left nor the right but each are content to be a link in a chain brownnosing the rear of another in furtherance of each other’s false sense of security. The stench of course they perceive as the scent of a rose.

Malcolm X understood the allegory of the cave.  He was freed from his shackles before he was paroled.  His experience of time was exposed as illusory. He came to understand that by focusing and concentrating his mind on logical arguments above and beyond opinion he could grasp science as the subject worthy of his mental attention. He finally came to understand the passé nature of his old lifestyle. Now he knew that freedom is a state of mind and that if the mind is set free the body will follow.