[Editor’s note: The following article was written by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad out of his deep concern for the many acts of police brutality and mob attacks inflicted upon Black people. During this historic period of the Civil Rights Era, there were nationwide reports of Blacks being fire-hosed and attacked by dogs as they sought justice and equality in the South. We are seeing a reoccurrence of acts of racial violence, so this article is as timely today as it was when it was first written.]
The so-called Negroes of Birmingham, Alabama, would have been justified by the law of justice if they had killed every dog sicked upon them by the hired, tax-paid policemen, for the taxpayers did not hire dogs to police their lives and property.
And if the policemen had fired upon those who defended themselves against the bites of savage dogs that the Police Department trained expressly for the purpose of attacking so-called Negroes, they would have been justified by God and the Divine law of self-defense to fight and defend themselves against such savage dog and human attack.
Surely the American so-called Negroes would have God and world sympathy on their side if they would take the right steps or actions. The present actions being taken by them are wrong, for this action consists of demanding that the slave-masters accept their slaves (so-called Negroes) as their equals and as equal sharers in whatever the master has, such as social respect (which will destroy both as a people), and equal share in the government, decent housing conditions, and equal employment (not that they do not deserve it).
No master of anything can accept an unequal as his equal. This law of nature is divinely respected. If they (Martin Luther King and his followers) would accept the right way, which is the belief in Allah as God and Islam as a religion, and demand a place on this earth for our 20 million or more people that they can call their own, I would demand that every one of my followers join forces in a minute!
And if what they are asking for would be granted them, it would only be short-lived; nothing permanent is in it for the so-called Negroes. It would be very foolish for a leader of 22 million once-slaves to ask for temporary employment from their slave-masters’ children, who now use the 22 million for sport. (Sicking dogs on the so-called Negroes was done only for sport to see the frightened so-called Negroes run for their lives.)
But as soon as the so-called Negroes turned upon the dogs and policemen with stones, Washington, D.C., ordered the Army to intervene–not to help the so-called Negroes against the White southerners, but to help the White devils against the so-called Negroes if they tried to defend themselves. But as long as the dogs and policemen were biting and clubbing Black so-called Negroes, it was all right.
This clearly shows how much we are in dire need of unity, but the unity must be backed by a power superior to the power of our enemies. This power is in Allah and the Nation of Islam whose arms are outstretched if we would only accept them.
It is ignorant to look for heaven from the devils who only seek to take you to their doom (hell fire). They (Reverend King and followers) want the rights that the constitution offers to White citizens, but they are learning the hard way that the constitution does not apply to the Black slaves with respect to the right to vote. Certainly there is power in voting if there is justice for the so-called Negroes. But the crooked political machine of America can always keep the once-slaves, free slaves.
Who prepares and teaches politics? Is it not the White man (the enemy of so-called Negroes)? Who will the poor so-called Negroes vote for? Would it not be for a White man or a Black man whom the Whites would back? We could not hope for anything but more bloodshed at the polls in seeking justice from crooked politicians.
We are a Nation in a nation! Why not use these 22 million people’s power for their eternal salvation instead of temporary enjoyment with the same wicked people who murder our people? (Let us build our own political machine.) Unite with me and with the help of Allah I will get you what you want. And I know what you want for I am your brother.
“…IT IS NOW TIME THAT YOU AND I TAKE COUNSEL.”
Of this grief you and I must suffer, all of these burdens we must bear. It is beyond comprehension that the American government–Mistress of the Seas, Lord of the Air, Conqueror of Outer Space, Squire of the Land and Prowler of the Deep Bottoms of the Oceans–is unable to defend us from assault and murder on the streets of these concrete jungles….
The lynchers live right next door, down the street, up the alley, yet they are not brought to justice. What sane man can deny that it is now time that you and I take counsel among ourselves to the end of finding justice for ourselves?
When you stand up and speak a word on behalf of your own people, you are classified as a troublemaker, you are classified as a Communist, as a race-hater, as everything but good.
If God has revealed to me the truth of this race of people and yourself and I tell you of it and that is the truth, then don’t say that I am teaching race hatred, just say I teach the truth.
The message I bring is not for the cowards. Those of you who follow me must be ready to withstand the barbs and insults of those who come to investigate, pry, and claim that our ultimate aim is to undermine the American way of life. We have no such intentions and our critics know it.
How ironic it is that the very people who charge us with disturbing the status quo themselves go around raping, lynching, denying citizens the right to vote and talking in the halls of Congress to call you and me everything from a beast to an amoral entity.
I have no alternative than to tell you that there is not any life beyond the grave. There is no justice in the sweet bye and bye. Immortality is NOW, HERE. We are the blessed of God and we must exert every means to protect ourselves.
(Reprinted from “Message to the Black Man,” 1965.)