“Seest thou not that Allah sends down rain from the sky? With it We then bring out produce of various colors. And in the mountains are tracts white and red, of various shades of color, and black intense in hue. And so amongst men and crawling creatures and cattle, are they of various colors. Those truly fear Allah, among His Servants, who have knowledge: for Allah is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” [Qur’an 35:27-28]
Muslim American leader Imam W. Deen Mohammed strongly discouraged accepting “Black” as a label to describe us as a race or ethnicity.
Speaking in Harlem, New York, in April 1984, Imam Mohammed shared, “Sometime, I wonder why the whites like to call us Black and them white? Then it came to me. They are speaking to a reality that we would like to ignore or shut our eyes to. That reality is that we lack, we lack the means, supports, etc., to establish our race in America. We are people lacking. Do you know that B.L.A.C.K is ‘B-lack’? We say Black but it’s ‘b-lack,’ be lacking. We are be lacking in so many ways. Now, that’s not our language, that’s English. I wonder how come they like to call us Blacks? I’ve been talking to them, and I say, ‘Why are you calling me Black?’ I show them something that’s darker than me. I say, ‘What color is that?’ They say, ‘Dark brown.’ I say, ‘How come I’m Black and that’s dark brown and I’m lighter than that?’”
Below are a few salient points to ponder when discussing whether the descendants of Africans in America should describe themselves by more than a mere color.
Is the color “Black” sufficient to describe us as human beings when we are so much more than a mere color? Doesn’t our humanity and dignity demand more?
Is it even possible for the color “Black” to adequately capture the three-plus centuries of chattel slavery and the 100 years of Jim Crow we suffered and survived as a people?
Additionally, when we consider the fact that the actual color of our skin is not “Black” — but more like Joseph’s coat of many colors (shades) — that one color cannot properly describe. No color can describe our greatness. Our skin color is not Black, as that of a black ant; and this is true for even the darkest of our people in America.
Who are the intellectuals of our people who decided that we should call ourselves “Black” as a race or ethnicity? ”Black” has no geographical locality, heritage or history. It is a cheap label that leads our children into race-based inferiority.
The Irish come from Ireland; Chinese come from China; French come from France, etc., so why are we reduced to a mere color? Our existence did not begin or end with slavery. It was the slaveholders who first called us Black, so we argued to be called “Negro,” which is “black” in Spanish. Oh, well!
Other ethnic groups only accept being described as a color in certain circles that necessitate color descriptions. But the group pride is not in a mere color; they know — and we should know — that our best description is in our human excellence. Each people’s history places them on a trajectory toward their destiny. A skin color is not a destiny. Allah made us more than a skin color.
Michael “Mikal” Saahir is the resident Imam of Nur-Allah Islamic Center. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 317 753-3754.