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  • Writer's pictureMasjid Waarith ud Deen

Africans and the Question of Race

Updated: Oct 2, 2022

by Mikal Naeem Nash, 9-21-22

In 1962 people realized the impact of the airplane, a relatively new form of technology barely a half-century old. Boxing legend Muhammad Ali, “the greatest,” champion in and out of the ring, who had a fear of flying, was astonished that the pilot of the plane on one of his famous trips was a Black man.

In 1939 when World War II broke out, only Liberia among African nations was fully independent, but by 1962 eight more African nations had achieved their independence from their Western European colonizers.

There is such a thing as the African approach to world problems, as Kwame Nkrumah knew. More important than that is the African approach to life, Maulana Karenga maintains.

One cannot think of the African approach to problems or life without recognizing the size and diversities (e.g. cultural, ecological, religious) of the world’s second-largest continent.

Yet, despite its vastness and diversity, there is an underlying spirituality that unites all the disparate parts. This unity ushered forth from the earliest of times, Biblical and before, when Africa, more than any other continent, led the way in shaping the world to come.

With that glorious past, it was a shock to all Africans to find the continent whose peoples were now in such wretched conditions, but for millennia, protected and projected our most treasured human value, the love of freedom.

It was this love that I believe inspired Phillis Wheatley, an enslaved African woman in America, in 1774, to write, “In every human breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call the love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants of Deliverance.” She said this as one among millions who experienced the horrors of the Middle Passage.

As African nations were being colonized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, resistance came from the very start of that process as it did centuries earlier with European encroachments upon Black humanity. That is because the right and will to be free is an inalienable right extended to all humans.

The struggle against European colonialism, therefore, was blessed from the start. Yet, the struggle to democratize the world by establishing new political and economic structures was also happening, simultaneously, and Africa, because of its long history of civilizational success in nation-building was an important landscape and force that could not be ignored.

Africa had two things going for it: (1) its status as the origin of man and the cradle of civilization, and (2) its spirituality and willingness to embrace and be embraced by new ideas. Africa and its people pioneered the field of Diversity Studies.

While Nkrumah, a partly American-educated son of Ghana defended African nationalism and promoted Pan-Africanism, he did not promote black nationalism as we now often think of it in the U.S. Nkrumah once stated, “we are often accused of black nationalism or racialism in reverse. I think I can honestly speak for my government when I say that we are more concerned with a fundamental human right than with any particular color of skin; although we feel a special sympathy with those who are kinfolk to us in race or color.”

The Arabs who settled in North Africa and who did not share a common racial background with himself, a dark, sub-Saharan, proud African son, Nkrumah felt a particular affinity for. We realized this when he took for his wife a light-skinned Egyptian who to him was no less African in spirit. Nkrumah said, “we feel ourselves part of a general human community in which man as such, not his pigmentation, is the decisive fact.” Nkrumah was echoing not centuries but millennia of African-based spiritual foundations…

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1 Comment

Ron Wedlock
Ron Wedlock
Jan 22, 2023

ASA, Great article

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