Thoughts On Veterans Day

While we bask in the glory of Veterans Day, under the impression that all who fought in the armed forces, did so for the same reasons, let us not forget that there has always been a segment of the population that has never been viewed as equal, abroad or when returning home from war. Mudbound was more than a movie. It was the reality of so many blacks drafted into America’s armed forces.

Let us also not forget that upon returning from war, blacks had an awakened consciousness. During World War II, Black men who were drafted into the war and deployed to Italy, France, and Germany immediately recognized the similarities between American racism and that experienced by Jews under Nazi oppression.

It is to this time in history that we trace the birth of the popular usage of the term “ghetto” to refer to the living conditions of blacks in America. In his Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea, Mitchell Duneier points out that black scholars in the 1940’s used the term Ghetto in direct response to “the rise in attention to the Nazi treatment of Jews in Europe.” In other words, black scholars used this term as a political statement highlighting the reality of the black experience.

Blacks weren’t blind to the reality of their own oppression, nor to their responsibility. Those in the Black press proclaimed, “Our war is not against Hitler in Europe but against the Hitlers in America.”

So as we remember those who fought to liberate others, let us not forget those who fought (and continue to fight) to liberate themselves.

The Term “Ghetto,” Circa 1940

The term Ghetto, as used in reference to America’s inner-citys, is inextricably connected to the Ghettos of Europe, in such a way that to understand one is to understand the other.

During World War II, Black men who were drafted into the war and deployed to Italy, France and Germany, Immediately recognized the similarities between American racism and that of European minorities, mainly Jews. In his “Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea,” Mitchell Duneier points out that black scholars in the 40s used the term Ghetto in direct response to “the rise in attention to the Nazi treatment of Jews in Europe.”

black scholars use of the term Ghetto was a political statement. Or as Raphael Magarik said in his “Understanding Americas Ghettos Starts With the First Jewish One” that:

“Black writers mined the analogy between the two ghettos, and particularly the horror of Nazi misdeeds in Warsaw, to wake American whites from their racial apathy…”

So, there are two points to be noted here. The first is that the use of the term Ghetto was used in black American literature, from the onset, as a political statement. Magarik states this was done “to wake American whites from their racial apathy.” I would add that more importantly this was done to reawaken the political consciousness of blacks enabling them to see the sacrifices and gains made by their Jewish counterparts. And secondly, although the term Ghetto has come to be used in reference to any low-income inner-city neighborhood, I would posit, as Duneier argues, that what has become a generic term has a very specific meaning: “a space for the intrusive control of poor blacks.” and although other “minorities” may live in these Ghettos, blacks were sequestered into Ghettos in the North for the same reason they were lynched in the South; Fear. And this fear persisted and transformed into law keeping blacks from bettering their living conditions. For Blacks the Ghetto became a Trap, whereas other minorities were offered an inroad to “whiteness,” as well as a pathway out of the Ghetto.

Excerpted from my upcoming book:

“The Whole Fire: The Origin Of The Ghetto, And The Creation Of Two Americas.”

Why I Became Muslim: A Prisoners Choice

I became Muslim in 2004 in the county jail. Years earlier my older brother had become Muslim while he was in CYA (California Youth Authority). When he was released I was in juvenile hall, but we would talk regularly and he would give me jewels here and there about Islam, but nothing major. Before I was released from juvi I read the Autobiography of Malcom X, which had a major impact on me.

when I came home my brother Ovy (Sadiq Aziz Amir) would sit with me and explain to me the origin of Islam and how the Qur’an is the only religious text that hasn’t been tampered with. He showed me, in what I now know was the second chapter of the Qur’an, that Islam believed in the same Prophets that were mentioned in biblical text. The main difference he said, was that Muslims believe Jesus (peace be upon him) was a mortal being, a Prophet like the rest. He told me that our ancestors were more than likely Muslim when they were brought here as slaves, but were forced to accept christianity…and honestly from then on I considered myself Muslim (just not practicing). When he moved out he left me his Qur’an…and from then on, my journey began. That was back in 2001.

It wasn’t until I was in the county jail in 03-04 that I really began to study for myself. I went heavily into Christianity seeking to prove it true, as this is what I was raised on, but the more I studied, the more I saw inconsistencies…what did it for me was learning about the Council of Nicea which is when the Bible was officially compiled under the direction of the Emperor Constantine. He arbitrarily added and subtracted certain books of the Bible that were in circulation, as well as inserted “Pagan” beliefs into Christianity in order to fit his agenda (uniting his kingdom, which consisted of a large population of “Pagans”).

It was Constantine who inserted into Christianity the concept of the Trinity (the idea of the Father, Son, and Holy spirit being One). It was this diluting of the original teachings of Jesus (peace be upon him) that nececitated the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him). One of the books that we know were in circulation as a part of the Bible, was the Gospel of Barnabas, which mentions in no uncertain terms, that the last prophet to be commissioned would be Muhammad (peace be upon him). A lot of the early Unitarian Christians who were located mainly in North Africa knew this, which accounts for that region accepting the message of Islam as soon as they received wind of the one foretold.

The more I studied, the more convinced I became. But once I read the Qur’an I knew…it doesn’t read like you would expect a religious text to read…it’s not a historical account…most Muslims in explaining their first encounter with the Qur’an, describe it as if Allah (God) was talking directly to them…and that’s how it felt…like, I knew…and the rest is history.