Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reality Check: African-Americans STILL Need To Have Racial Discipline In the Obama Era

Emmett Till before and after his trip down South. A reader mentioned the following news story during a recent conversation:

I said the following in response:

RESPONSE: I remember how furious I was as an undergrad when other Black students and I were singled out by campus security to have our backpacks searched as we left the libraries, etc. friends and I did NOT associate with criminals. Now that I think about it, we didn't even associate with people who weren't also college students. We did NOT associate with anybody who had friends/relatives that were gang-involved, etc. We quietly excluded losers from our social circles.

We also didn't dress like hip-hop video criminals. Our range of clothing styles were basically the same as those among the White students at the time. From preppy to punk to new wave to grunge to the "standard uniform" of jeans and a t-shirt/blouse/Izod. A couple of things stand out to me about this unfortunate tale:

(1) The invented, ghetto names (including of the BF student who's whining).
(2) The access (key card) that another (BF) student apparently granted to a killer.
(3) The apparent ABC self-presentation of the whining BF student: "The honest answer to that is that I'm black and I'm poor and I'm from New York and I walk a certain way and I keep my clothes a certain way," she said." Really now, who wants to go to an Ivy League school to encounter ghetto bums? Who wants to be bothered with that?
(4) I would really be surprised if the "songwriter"-murder suspect is actually a songwriter and not an aspiring rapper. The reporter might have said "songwriter" out of political correctness.

As Evia has repeatedly pointed out, non-Blacks have a hard time telling us (normal, "survive and thrive" Black folks) from the "acting Black" mutants. I don't care about Harvard giving Miss Chenequa the boot. Good riddance to what sounds like bad trash. And maybe other "Sheniquas" will learn to STOP bringing ghetto trash onto that campus. That is, if they want to remain enrolled in Harvard.

I don't have much more to say about these sorts of news stories. There's very little left to say that hasn't already been said. These stories will continue to multiply unless and until WE change the cultural atmosphere that surrounds our children."
This incident brings up something that I touched upon during a comment to an earlier post. I said:

"It's too long for me to get into at length, but here's another example of what I mean by this. Non-AAs are often mystified by our current knee-jerk response of supporting Black criminals.

What non-AAs often don't understand (because they did not live through it) are the historical experiences that created these responses. Things like the Scottsboro boys, Emmett Till, other lynchings and Rosa Parks. These things are stories in history books for non-AAs. By contrast, these events are part of the LIVING MEMORY of my older relatives.

My paternal grandfather escaped a lynching because he looked White. That's why he ran away from the South. My friend's grandfather founded the Chicago church where Emmett Till's funeral was held. Emmett Till's funeral was a big deal, and a common, shared point of reference.

In terms of my living memory, the parents of most AAs in my age group (40s) made a POINT of showing us old pictures of what Emmett Till looked like in his open casket when we were around 11-12 years old. And, so did our teachers, for those of us who went to Black grammar schools/junior high schools.

They did this so that we could truly understand what lynching meant. Almost every AA I know in my age group saw that horrible picture as a pre-teen or young teenager."

As a result of the photos and the explanations surrounding them, most African-Americans in my age group and older were not naive about the potentially deadly consequences of wandering into unknown, non-Black residential areas. This horrible picture of Emmett Till was worth more than a thousand words about carefree wandering into certain places.

We were also not naive about the potential consequences of any of us "showing out" on a White campus, in a White workplace, in a majority White residential area, or any other White setting.

Our parents and other relatives drummed into our heads the message that if we "clowned" and did something inappropriate in a White setting, our actions would have consequences not just for us as individuals. But also for every African-American person that came to that particular setting after us. We were exhorted and raised to not be the Black person who screws things up for every Black person who comes behind us. This was one example of racial discipline.

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, my generation of African-Americans failed to communicate this message to our children. That's why there are African-Americans (like the foolish Black female college student interviewed in this story) who are shocked that there's a backlash splashing onto them when other Blacks do inappropriate things.

Many of us want to believe that those days are over; and we're living in a post-racial country. Well . . . on some levels, yes. On others levels, NO. We need to snap out of our Obama-induced delirium and understand that we're still perceived in a category separate, apart and inferior from everybody else.

As I've mentioned before, everybody except African-Americans is in the process of becoming perceived as White. I see this in the police reports and government forms that I work with everyday. Unless somebody is blue-black in color and without a single strand of hair that could be called wavy, they are classified as "White" on these forms. This includes deep-brown East Indians. This includes Black Arabs. This includes deep-brown, Indian Latinos. This includes everybody except African-Americans.

One benefit of being perceived as either White or sort-of White, is the ability to access portions of White privilege. This is why a Korean student at Virgina Tech could kill over 30 people on campus without his actions leading to a pogrom against Korean or Asian students on White campuses. This does not apply to us. Anything any one of us does will most likely be held against the rest of us.

Just like before the Obama era. We still have a need for racial discipline.
*Note* Here's an excellent blog post about the importance of "understanding where you are."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Tools For The Filmmaker's Craft: "Rebel Without A Crew" by Robert Rodriguez

From Wikipedia:

"Rebel Without a Crew (subtitle: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker with $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player) is a 1995 non-fiction book by Robert Rodriguez. Presented in a diary format, Rebel details Rodriguez' beginnings as a young filmmaker; his stint at a medical testing facility to raise money for a feature film; the making of that film (El Mariachi) for $7,000, and his subsequent experiences in Hollywood selling the film and going to film festivals promoting it.

Later editions of the book also feature one of Rodriguez' tutorials on low-budget filmmaking ("Ten Minute Film School") and the screenplay to El Mariachi.

Rodriguez' rags-to-riches story, detailed in Rebel, as well as his vociferous support of low-budget techniques (such as digital cinematography) to allow anyone to make a movie cheaply, have made him an icon of modern independent filmmaking."

There's really no excuse. The tools are already there, if we're willing to seize them.

Read, learn, and Get Busy!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Sojourner-Artist: Make Sure There's Something COMPELLING About Your Art

One of the recurring problems that I've noticed with most so-called "positive" art is that the artists never gave much thought to how they were going to sell or promote their work. Their art usually does not have a built-in, compelling aspect to it. Many of them seem to think that the fact that their work is "positive" is enough to make it sell and become popular. Ummm . . . NO! A commenter named Roslyn (who is a published, working author---check her out at alluded to this in an earlier conversation when she said:

"Danny Glover is another one who annoys the living stuffing out of me. Twenty years ago when he was huge making those Lethal Weapons movies he had the clout to do something more substantial, but he didn't. Now he's trying to get funding for Toussaint L'Overture movie. He's irate because producers are asking him, 'Where's the white hero?' Of course they are. I'm sure they're also asking 'Who's going to watch this movie?' Black folk won't support anything without a black man in drag, and white folk certainly aren't going to see a movie WITHOUT a white hero. Back in the day, he could've gotten studio backing for a small vanity film. But now? Uh no."

"Who's going to watch this movie?" is a legitimate, critical question.

"Why would anybody WANT to watch this movie?" is another question.

Yet another critical question is the one mentioned by the columnists over at WORDPLAY, "Is the premise naturally intriguing---or just average, demanding perfect execution?"

These sorts of considerations apply to more than just screenplays. They apply to art across the board. The people who created the classical crossover group named Bond know this. That's why they selected women musicians who can "pass" as fashion models. They know that sex sells. I strongly urge all aspiring Sojourner-Artists to keep these commercial considerations in mind when creating your work. Quality is not enough. There has to be some type of compelling "hook" to your work. You have to give thought to how and why your work will sell.

Consumer behavior is fairly consistent no matter what type of product is involved. There are a handful of people who actively seek out healthy, nutritious food that is good for them. But such people are not the norm. Similarly, there are a handful of people who actively seek out entertainment products that are high-quality and life-enhancing. Again, this type of consumer is not the norm.

Most people go with whatever is readily available. And what's readily available (read: heavily promoted) tends to become popular. Whatever type of work that becomes popular then becomes even more readily available (through sequels and imitators, etc.). Most "positive" artists haven't figured out how to break into this circular process. A negative manifestation of this circular process is why African-American arts have been spiraling down for the past two decades. Trash art begets more, and even worse, trash art.

A good beginning to answering the above questions is to read the following columns from WORDPLAY:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Celebration of Real Musicians: "Explosive" by Bond

After enduring two decades of African-Americans (and others) lifting up "music artists" who can't play instruments, read music, or sing, it's refreshing to discover artists who are actually trained musicians. What a concept. I'm always excited to see people who are disciplined enough to hone their own craft instead of cannibalizing . . . err, "sampling" other people's work from 20-25 years ago.

A few years ago, I was listening to a local R&B radio station, and heard a supposedly new song that was vaguely familiar. After listening for a while, I realized that the "artist" had sampled the tail end of a DeBarge song from about 25 years ago. We've truly hit rock bottom. We've also backed ourselves into a corner with the "acting Black" madness. Other people have the common sense to adapt things from other cultures to serve their own purposes. For just one example, check out this video from Evia's blog that shows Korean church members happily "borrowing" from African-American styles of praise and worship music.

Anyway, Bond is a string quartet of classically trained musicians. After I heard this song, I felt like playing my flute after all these years! Those of you who have had some training might consider reaching for your musical instruments as well. Those of you who haven't had any training might consider taking lessons.

We desperately need a new arts movement!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Geostrategy Nerd: Biohackers--Where's Government Oversight When We Need It?

From the Department of This Is Extremely Disturbing:

Here's the link to the Wall Street Journal article that is mentioned in the post. The article's headline asks, "Is it risky?"

Need they ask?!! We see the mischief that computer hackers are engaged in. Do they really think that everybody who's playing with these organisms is looking for a cure for cancer? Are they really that naive, or just pretending?

The version of the rhyme that I learned as a small child was:

"Ring around the rosy
Pocket full of posies
Ah-choo, ah-choo
We all fall down . . . "

I didn't understand what the rhyme was about until I got a little older and asked my parents.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tools For The Writer's Craft: WORDPLAY-Screenwriting Secrets From Working Screenwriters

During a recent blog discussion a reader named BklynGirl mentioned a wonderful and helpful website called WORDPLAY-Screenwriting Secrets From Working Screenwriters at

While browsing the site, I've found references to helpful books explaining various aspects of writing good drama, such as The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri, and Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seeger.

For those of you who believe that good writing can only be done in perfect, "hothouse" conditions (not having to work a "day job," having a specially-designated writing room, etc.), I would remind you of our African-American ancestor, Dr. Martin Luther King. I would also suggest that you read his Letter From a Birmingham Jail!

I'm not talking about encouraging the children to get into the arts. We can't wait that long. African-American women and girls need new dreams right now. We can't afford to do our "business as usual" tradition of creatively listing all the perceived "reasons" why what we need is impossible. We also can't afford to follow our tradition of throwing our responsibilities off on the next generation. We can't wait any longer for the things we need in order to survive and thrive.

While we're waiting (stalling, procrastinating) the STIGMA that we have collectively attached to ourselves as African-American women is getting more repellent with each day that passes. I've noticed the trend that Evia described in her latest comment. This "We Are Dysfunction" banner that we've been waving for the past few decades is tightening into a noose around our collective necks. This noose gets tighter with each new foul image of ourselves that gets beamed across the planet. This movie "Push/Precious" sounds appalling. Right now, there's next to nothing to counteract that sort of madness.

I'm challenging all of us who are capable (that would be me, YOU, and others) to start meeting this need right now. Now. Not until after we have homes with specially-designated "writing rooms." NOW. If we are committed, then we will find ways to do what needs to be done. And not wait until it's totally convenient, comfy and cozy to do so.

Browse, learn, and enjoy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Black Women Need New Dreams and a Black Woman's Arts Movement

This essay is contained in my new book. I'm delighted to announce that The Sojourner's Passport site has launched! You can visit it at

Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!

Peace and blessings,
Khadija Nassif

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tools For The Writer's Craft: Television Tropes & Idioms

I found a delightful and helpful website last month called Television Tropes & Idioms.

While browsing the site, I've found references to helpful books explaining various aspects of writing good fiction, such as 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias.

Reading through the entries has also helped me focus my thoughts about the structure of the novel that I'm working on. My novel's setting is:

(1) "Twenty Minutes Into the Future"

(2) in a "World Half Empty."

(3) I've decided to open with an "Action Prologue,"

(4) and have at least one character who's a "Sour Supporter." LOL!

Browse, learn, and enjoy!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mini-Blog Hiatus/Dance Concert: "Oh Mary, Don't You Weep" by the Joseph Holmes Dance Theatre

Periodically, I unplug from all of the electronic gadgets (television, radio, computer, etc.). I'll be "unplugged" from tomorrow (Friday) until Tuesday morning. In the meantime, please enjoy this dance concert. See you when I get back! {waving}

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Sojourner's Path: An Extended Reader's Money Quote From Beverly

The Reader's Money Quote is a statement that is of such insight and importance that it merits frequent and loud repetition. This Reader's Money Quote is from Beverly, blog host of My Crazy Cool Life. I strongly urge everyone to check out her blog. You might learn something that could enrich your life!

While discussing the dynamics of our current situation, Beverly brilliantly laid out a technique that is essential in successfully walking the Sojourner's Path. It also happens to be one of the 48 Laws of Power described in the same-titled book by Robert Greene:


Beverly said the following [my comments are in blue]:

"I've been really thinking about this subject of African American Women loving themselves and there a few things I think each of us must be aware of as we move forward.

1. Many non-AA people are emotionally invested in our self-hatred. There are people out there (and I have met them) who receive huge self-esteem boosts at the thought of African American women (and men) feeling inferior to them. In other words, our self-hatred pays dividends in self-esteem for others. [(emphasis added by Khadija) Oh yes, and these people are highly invested in our self-hatred.]

2. African American women are (imho) almost ALWAYS seen as having low self-esteem even if it's not true for that particular individual. [Because this is the public image that many of us have foolishly presented to the world. In real life and on television. Don't get me started on the damage that has been done to us all by Black female fools on "reality" tv shows.]

I remember years ago while living in Los Angeles, a black male accused me of being jealous of white women's straight hair. Despite the fact that I wore natural hair and have NEVER hated my hair this man was convinced and emotionally invested in the thought of me being jealous of white women's hair. (smh) In other words, their emotional investment in our (real or imaginary) feelings of inferiority defy reality. Even if you value yourself, be prepared for those who will accuse you or secretly believe/hope that you feel inferior to them or some other group of people they hold in high esteem.

3. Not that any of us have anything to prove to anyone; but it is your actions that show how much you value yourself, not your words. [(emphasis added) This is the key mistake that African-Americans made during the 1960s. We talked that "Say it loud, I'm Black and I'm proud!" talk; but our collective actions never matched these bold words. At this point, non-AAs have learned to totally ignore our bluffing.]

I remember once again while living in Los Angeles, that a white women became so enraged at the fact that I wore my hair natural that she said something to me about my hair. I don't remember her exact words. But I do remember my response, which was: "I am going to continue to wear my hair like this and you are powerless to do anything about it." And I did continue to wear my hair exactly as I wanted. You see, this woman wasn't so angry about my hair being natural, she was angry about my hair being natural and me LOVING IT. Those are two hair examples (cuz folks got issues with my hair for sho' LOL); but it can apply to anything. Folks will grab onto anything and try to bring you down to size for THEIR benefit.

[Over the years, I've gotten a similar thing from a particular type of White racist about my Muslim name. They like to ask if my last name is my maiden name. The more timid racists ask my coworkers (instead of me) about this. As one of Min. Farrakhan's assistant ministers put it: "Whenever you give the former slavemaster a name that doesn't belong to him, then he wants to know how you got that name."]

4. Finally, once people realize that you as an individual African American woman has a healthy sense of self-respect and high self-esteem, with the accomplishments/actions etc to match, watch out! You will get one of two reactions...1) they will respect you and say you're the special black person (smh) or 2) they will secretly hate you and continue to harbor the belief that you feel/are inferior to them. Almost everybody believes (and yes I am going to generalize and we're talking about the U.S.A) that African Americans (especially African American women) are at the bottom of society.

Their logic often says: If African Americans are not inferior to them and their group then that must mean that they (the non-AA group) are at the bottom of society. I don't want anyone here to believe that people "out there" are going to "automatically" give us respect because we respect ourselves. This is a process. [Yes, we're counteracting centuries of negative training that these people have received from self-hating African-Americans.]

African Americans have a bad reputation for self-hatred so even if you are self-respecting you WILL run into folks who are going to test you. They are use to running all over black people and they are use to black people bowing down to them. They will expect the same from you. Be prepared. You must train people to treat you with respect. Punish them when they disrespect you and reward them when they behave in a way that's acceptable to you. [Punishing offenders will definitely speed up the overall learning curve for these other people!] That's the way you train them.

Eventually, as more of us grow and our reputation for self-hate vanishes (hopefully) this will change. But for right now, we will be treated differently than groups who are respected and must be prepared to challenge these fools."

Beverly, thank you for providing this Reader's Money Quote! You're helping to train generations of Sojourners! I can't thank you enough. Baraka Allahu feek! ["May God bless you!]

From the book The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene:

"Image: The See-Saw. Up and down and up and down go the arguers, getting nowhere fast. Get off the seesaw and show them your meaning without kicking or pushing. Leave them at the top and let gravity bring them . . . to the ground." pg. 74. The original quote said "gently" to the ground, but I want these individuals who feed off of our lack of self-respect to come crashing down! LOL!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Why We Must FIRST LOVE OURSELVES As African-American Women

This essay is contained in my new book. I'm delighted to announce that The Sojourner's Passport site has launched! You can visit it at

Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!

Peace and blessings,
Khadija Nassif

I recently received this email from a reader and she gave me permission to publish it (I deleted her name and the geographical location of her university) because it might help other young African-American women her age. I agree that it's helpful for others to hear her experiences. Here's her email:

Dear Muslim Bushido,

Hello! My name is _____________, and I'm a sophomore at a ___________ university. I read your latest post, and it really touched me. I feel the need to be honest about this (this is the first time that I'm even saying these things out loud). I'm just now--at 20 years old--learning to accept and love the fact that I'm black, or African-American.

I'm really embarrassed about this, butt here are SOOO many other girls in my position. I'm tired of all of the emotional and mental baggage that comes with not really being who I am. So one day, I just decided to breathe and LET IT GO. I got so sick of mentally tiring myself out with that crap. Reading your blog, along with Evia's and many others, really did awaken something in me. PLEASE believe me when I say that you women are a godsend--I've even told my mother about your blogs, and she STRONGLY ENCOURAGES me to continue reading.

You see, my strange relationship with all of the foolishness began at an early age--since before I can remember. My father's side of the family is so DEEPLY entrenched in colorism it's scary. My own paternal grandfather divorced my grandmother because his mother did not approve. My father has a disappointing relationship with his mom, to say the least.

My father's many family (without the presence of a male) grew up on welfare, and my father has never forgiven my Granny for that. Any woman that even resembles her on the street is a ' fat black widerbeast'. That's how bad it is. It even goes down to hair. My father was always soo happy that I had long hair, and that I wasn't too dark. His whole side of the family loves to sit around and talk about their mixed heritage--many of my family could pass for latino. I heard this day in and day out. My mother is a very kind woman, and she is my best friend. But she just puts up with so much foolishness it's ridiculous. I would never want to have the marriage she has with my father.

I have gone through a lot emotionally over the years. I had always wanted to fit in with other groups...I was a refugee. A beggar. I never quite understood why these people did not accept me until now. Through grade school, I even did people's homework and gave them lunch money to keep friends! How pathetic. I remember growing up actually feeling LUCKY that I didn't look all black. I'd witnessed other girls that did look traditional get teased, and I was glad I was never teased based upon my looks. But I still thought my life would be better if I was lighter with mixed-looking curly hair (I have relaxed hair). I was one of those quasi-mixed looking girls--i was in the middle. I wanted more attention, because I thought I wasn't as pretty as the biracial girls. This thinking is so prevalent it's crazy.

When I went to high school (I went to two), I wanted desperately to be popular. At my first school, the race du jour was Latino. Or if you were a black girl, you had to be mixed to even be considered. So, many black girls that could get away with it started lying about their heritage and saying that they were part this or that. I was one of those girls. I have Mexican family members on my father's side of my family (via marriage), so I started telling people my grandfather was Mexican. No one called my bluff, because I had really long hair and spoke excellent spanish. I was elevated among blacks, but NOT the latinos. They still did not accept me--I was a refugee beggar, and they used me, but still didn't befriend me in the end.

So then I moved to another area after my father retired from the military. The previous high school was in a wealthy county with a very diverse student body. This high school was in a poor county that was just developing (although I lived in a prominent neighborhood). This school was mostly comprised of poor blacks and whites. I was treated like royalty. I was treated better because I had money, and had long hair. It was also because I was still lying to people about my heritage, only now my grandfather was CUBAN instead of mexican (it worked better that way, because I could much more easily pass for that).

I even took that lie with me to college. This semester, I decided that I wouldn't tell people that anymore. In the end, nobody really cares what you're mixed with except ignorant blacks. I soon realized this first semester of my sophomore year. I just got tired--i got tired of the guilt, tired of the low self-esteem, and the hassle of covering up that lie with other lies about my heritage. I'm actually still scared to death that my friends parents with meet with mine, and that they'll start talking about Cuba or something!

I'm really ready to discover myself AS myself. If you want to post this, I don't mind (it will help others, ESPECIALLY girls my age). Just take my name out! Lol Thanks

This is what I said in a response email:

Hello there, _______________!

{excited waving}

Don't be embarrassed and don't blame yourself. AA self-disrespect is an airborne contagion. It surrounds most of us 24/7. All of this really should have been straightened out during the 1960s. And my generation (I'm in my 40s) didn't help the situation either---For the most part, we let the escalating colorism slide. Most AAs in my age group did and said nothing as the paper bag test escalated into a manila-folder-and-Whiter test.

I just praise God that you got through all of that and are coming to a healthier sense of self. And you're doing so early in life. There are so many of us who go to our graves being ashamed of our heritage. God is Good!

Thank you for your courage in talking HONESTLY about all of this. I will post this tonight (with your name deleted, of course).

Peace and blessings,


I've been thinking about this email tonight. I'm old enough to be this young lady's mother. It sickens me to know that this situation is the collective inheritance that African-American women in my age group left for her and others.

Sometimes younger women don't believe me when I tell them this, but the colorism was not this bad in the early 1980s. I've been speaking out about colorism since I was in high school in the 1980s. Over the years, very few other voices joined me. It has gotten WORSE since I was in high school. It has gotten a thousand times worse since the reign of Black Exploitation Television and hip-hop videos. And for the most part, women in my age group did and said nothing.

Unless we commit ourselves to cultivating and protecting our own racial/ethnic self-respect, this is the legacy that we will leave for any children we have.

*Reader's Note* If we get to 100 comments for the 1st Sojourner's Meeting post, then I'll transfer the conversation here. [I don't like having to scroll down miles of computer screen to read comments. LOL!] Until then, please post your comments to this in the section for the 1st Sojourner's Meeting post. Thank you.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sojourner's Meeting #1: First, LOVE YOURSELF As An African-American Woman

This essay is contained in my new book. I'm delighted to announce that The Sojourner's Passport site has launched! You can visit it at

Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!

Peace and blessings,
Khadija Nassif

After some reflection, I realized that those of us walking the sojourner's path need to immediately start having some conversations about the particular issues we face as African-American women on this path. And these are going to have to be difficult, grown-up conversations about some painful and complex things.

Here's why: As African-Americans, we have a history of falling into one calamity after another. When we fail to protect our ethnic self-respect, even our solutions become new, self-destructive problems. I DON'T want that painful pattern to be repeated with The Sojourner's Way.

Furthermore, DO NOT interpret any of what follows as some sort of broadside against any other blogger. Like I said, we're going to have to start having some more adult conversations. This means exploring different takes on various ideas. Disagreement on one or even more points DOES NOT automatically mean disrespect or disparagement of those with other views. As I said in an earlier post, making room for dissensus is essential to our survival. We must learn to take what is useful from a point of view and discard the rest. Without rancor.

Avoid Becoming A Refugee

As I said in The Way of The Sojourner:

"A sojourner is not a refugee. Refugees learn new routines and ways of living on the outside. But they do so as servile beggars in relation to non-Black people. Refugees have absolutely no ethnic or racial self respect. Instead of traveling among outsiders as self respecting people with their own proud history, refugees seek to lose themselves among outsiders."

Unless we make a conscious decision to find and strengthen our basis for ethnic self-respect as African-Americans, we will inevitably turn into self-hating, Black-hating refugees. This is exactly what our people have done with previous paths such as integration and multiculturalism. As a result of not securing our ethnic self-respect, many of us started "carrying water" for other people (be they non-Blacks, non-African-American Blacks, "biracials," etc.) once we got on these previous paths.

This is what our people have previously done when we sought to lose ourselves in a purely "religious" identity. Many African-American Muslims (mostly men) have already fallen into this self-hating, Black-hating trap. Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, blog host of A Singular Voice, talked about this in his excellent series "Why Blackamerican Muslims Don't Stand for Justice":

"Unfortunately, in the minds of some confused individuals "Blackamerican progress" and Islam are mutually exclusive thoughts. Because of the ‘‘teachings’’ of the past decade or so from certain imams and du’’aat - even Blackamerican ones - we now see that any talk of Blackamerican Muslims showing concern for their own community immediately provokes shrill accusations of "nationalism" or of "dividing the Muslim community."

And what is so tragically ironic about it all is that at the same time these people raise the ugly specter of ""nationalism"" - being unable to advance even a cogent definition of the term - they will in the same breath utter the completely absurd statement of "I'm not Black, I'm not African American. I'M JUST MUSLIM." However they are unable to sustain the delusion of being a racial and ethnic tabula rasa (blank slate) for very long, and waste no time reinventing themselves into the mirror image of a Saudi, Sudani, Pakistani, or what have you.

. . . "Islamic passing" expresses itself in many interesting ways. One version is to literally "pass" from America to a Muslim country by shedding their past history and cutting off family in the hopes that their children and/or grandchildren will marry amongst the natives and become Saudis, Egyptians, Kuwaitis or what have you. [Khadija speaking: Similar to the way that self-hating Black parents of "Don't call me Black" so-called "biracials" desperately want their children to pass into non-Blackness.]

Similar to "mulattos" and "octoroons" in the early twentieth century that passed into whiteness by breaking with their past and living white lives, the intent here is to make a clean and complete break with their Blackamerican culture and heritage and start new lives as "real" Muslims. Hence the mantra: "I am just a Muslim." They are not only making "hijrah" from America, but from blackness itself. Something leads me to believe that were it not for stringent visa regulations many of our brothers would have chosen this avenue.

In lieu of the above, another form of "passing" is to no longer wear "kafir clothes" and restrict ones attire to the national dress of some Muslim country - usually some kind of long thobes - speak English with a fake and broken Arabic accent (or perhaps Urdu) [Khadija speaking: As much as I like and admire her, I do recall the spectacle of Tina Turner starting to speak with an affected British accent at one point], and believe Arab (or Pakistani) women are all princesses and all black women are low and unworthy. [Khadija: This is why many of us who are making the call for African-American women to "live well" have been talking about doing what one can to increase the odds of meeting and marrying a QUALITY man, as opposed to specifying any particular ethnicity of men.] They will leave off "kafir food" (American cuisine) and only consume "Muslim food," that is, Pakistani, Arab, etc. delicacies." Why Blackamerican Muslims Don't Stand For Justice, Pt. 5. (emphasis added)

African-Americans Are NOT Ethnic "Blank Slates" Who Were Only Previously United By Superficial Characteristics. We Are A People Among Other Peoples. With Our Own Unique Shared History and Culture.

Beware of denying our African-American ethnic group's "peoplehood." Doing so leads to becoming a refugee. This mistaken idea has been the ruination of African-Americans throughout history. This mistaken idea is why, up to now, most of us have never been able to maintain our ethnic self-respect in the presence of others.

Nature abhors a vacuum. That's why African-Americans' past attempts to become ethnic "blank slates" by denying our shared history and culture has always led to being filled with self-hatred.That's why I'm on "high alert" about this topic. Be especially cautious of such arguments coming from non-African-Americans who claim the benefits of "peoplehood" for themselves while they deny it for us.

The old slave-breakers had to sever our ancestors' connections to each other by FORCE. In the modern era, people (including those who might actually mean us well, and NEVER intended to hurt us) sever African-Americans' connections to each other by MISTAKE or by GUILE. In previous eras, African-Americans were confused enough to go along with having our "peoplehood" negated by others, but no more.

Don't Tap Dance On Black Unity's Grave; Doing So Leads To Becoming A Refugee

I. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

I know that many of you are deeply angry with "Black Unity," and are therefore eager to dance on his grave. [And let's call him a guy, because he really did favor Black men's interests over those of Black women and children.] This would be unfair AND a mistake on your part. Here's why:

There's a real distinction to be made between what Black Unity was during his youth and middle age, and what he became during his senility. Black Unity became enfeebled and afflicted with Alzheimer's as he aged. In his senility, he confused the meanings of many of his values. In his senility, he also fathered illegitimate children called The Acting Black Crew.

This is why many of you are justifiably angry with Black Unity. You never got to meet Black Unity in his youth and middle age. Some of you didn't get to grow up in Big Mama's House; you were raised in the midst of a Hip Hop Crack House culture. All you ever saw was a destructive, senile, elderly guy and his illegitimate, ghetto, gangbanger Acting Black offspring.

If you're going to judge Black Unity, judge him by ALL of his actions, not just what he did after he became senile and afflicted with Alzheimer's.

In his youth and middle age, Black Unity was one of "Big Mama's" best friends and champions. Black Unity protected Big Mama to the best of his ability when NOBODY else lifted a finger to help her.

Among other things he did, Black Unity told African-Americans to stay off those buses after "Big Mama" Rosa Parks was arrested.

Without Black Unity's efforts, you wouldn't be free enough to travel ANYWHERE. Remember that.

I love my Big Mama, and I love and praise God Almighty for everybody who ever helped her. Including Black Unity. I don't forgive him his later trespasses. However, I'm still grateful for what he did for ME and countless other African-Americans. I give credit where credit is due.

In his youth and middle age, Black Unity kept the worst ravages of African-American self-hatred at bay. We all see what happened after he became feeble and senile: The escalation of the paper-bag test into a manila folder test; the near-requirement that Black entertainers be (or look like) White women's children; flyers advertising parties for light-skinned women, etc.

For all I know, without Black Unity I might have grown up to be a "hair-flipper."

II. We Said "Black" Unity When We Were Actually Talking About "Black" Unity Within An African-American Context

We've been saying "Black," but what we're actually talking about is a concept ("Black Unity") as expressed among African-Americans. The same with the concept of The Acting Black Crew.

Because we've been saying "Black" when we're really talking about phenomena that are specific to African-Americans, others have contributed perspectives that don't necessarily apply to our specific circumstances as African-Americans. This is why sometimes it helps to be specific in terms of identifying the ethnic group one is referencing.

During previous decades, African-Americans also said "Black" when what we were actually referring to was ourselves in the context of OUR particular shared history, culture, etc. as a separate ethnic group. It took African-Americans quite some time (centuries) to process the evolving idea of how we felt comfortable describing ourselves as a separate ethnic group. But at each stage, African-Americans were referring to ourselves as a separate ethnic group, with OUR OWN shared history, culture, etc. when we said words like "Colored,"" Negro," "Black," and finally "African-American."

III. Do You Have Self-Respect As An African-American Woman? If Not, Then You'll End Up Being A Refugee.

What African-Americans historically (and imprecisely) referred to as "Black Unity" was actually African-American SELF-LOVE and SELF-RESPECT. All of which is sorely lacking among African-Americans as well as among Black people in general.

From my point of view, the root of the problem is not primarily with the "Black Nationalist" ideologies that originally promoted African-American self-love and self-respect. They are more or less AS sexist as the rest of the belief systems that African-Americans have adopted over the years. I believe that the core problem is with the FUNDAMENTALISM and GROUP THINK that crept into these ideologies. Which is the same unfortunate evolution that occurs with ideologies and religion in general. [I'll do a separate post about how to spot fundamentalism, but that's for another time.]

As with Black Unity, we should give credit where it is due to what Black Nationalism did for us before he became severely mentally ill after years of intense government pressure, including state-sponsored assassinations (COINTELPRO, etc.). Black Nationalism's mind broke under the pressure, and he became a dangerous, screaming street lunatic.

When most African-Americans were worshipping an historically inaccurate, Aryan image of Jesus, and singing songs begging to be "washed White as snow," Black Nationalism said "NO" to that and talked about a Black Messiah.

When racist oppressors within the local and federal governments refused to respond to Dr. King, the presence of Black Nationalism gave these racists something else to consider and encouraged them to make some concessions to the pacifist Civil Rights Movement. In the Cold War context, the presence of a Black Nationalist "boogeyman" made the integrationist leaders' demands more palatable to White politicians.

Give credit where credit is due.

I'm saying all of this to say that nature abhors a vacuum. You CANNOT successfully walk the sojourner's path while trying to be an ethnicity-neutral, blank slate. You will end up as a refugee.

The world is filled with others who have at least some semblance of ethnic self-respect and pride. Whenever "nothing" encounters "something," the "nothing" loses out! If you try to travel among others as a "blank slate," you will lose out.

As sojourners we need to honestly work through the following questions because the answers we find determine the fate of our individual journeys and the path itself:

1. Do you feel good about being an African-American woman?

2. If not, are you going to look into your family history and our people's collective history to FIND reasons to feel good about being an African-American woman? If we search, we will find something and somebody within our family tree to be proud of. I'm not talking about "history book" types of achievements. I'm talking about the wisdom, perseverance, and courage that our forebears had. If at least several somebodies within your personal family tree didn't have those qualities, then they wouldn't have survived. And you wouldn't be here.

I'll be blunt. A lot of times, we try to do things the lazy way. The "business as usual" way. Well, the sojourner's path does NOT work like that. You're going to have to make an effort, go out of your way, and do some internal work if you want to travel the path successfully.

African-Americans are so vulnerable to becoming refugees because we generally don't make the effort to find out about our OWN proud history and true culture.

3. Do you understand that Hip Hop Crack House culture is NOT African-American culture? If Hip Hop Crack House culture and Acting Black are all you know, are you willing to find out who we were before that madness started to spread? Are you willing to walk in dignity with the best of African-American culture?

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Way Of The Sojourner

This essay is contained in my new book. I'm delighted to announce that The Sojourner's Passport site has launched! You can visit it at

Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!

Peace and blessings,
Khadija Nassif