[Editor’s note: With the attacks and wholesale killings of primarily Black, Red and Brown youth increasing in the United States,
the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan delivered a message of guidance and instruction to youth in cities across America on Sunday, October 28, 2007, via live webcast from Mosque Maryam in Chicago, Illinois. The following are excerpts of that address.
To order entire address on CD/DVD or MP3 visit www.store.finalcall.com or call 1-866-602-1230.]
In the Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful.
Lately, there has been a great display of anti-Black hatred in the United States of America. There have been many nooses placed in different cities and in different institutions to let Black people know that there still is a great deal of hatred for us in this society. We thank Allah (God) that Genarlow Wilson, the little Brother in Georgia, has been set free; he should never have been jailed in the first place.
We are, again, saddened that Mychal Bell has been re-arrested on something flimsy, just for the judge over his case to say to the Black people that came to Jena, La. to see about the Jena 6 that your protest means nothing. And, as this increase in violence and bloodshed and police murder of Black people is beginning to mount again, I thought that I should take a subject that I hope you will be patient with me on, called “Justifiable Homicide: Black Youth in Peril.”
The recent arrest of rap artist T.I., some flimsy set up, and the fact that it took $3 million to bail the young man out—and he murdered no one—are types of messages I want us to reflect on. Our young people pose a threat to the society, and I am not sure that our young people understand why Black youth are, in fact, a threat. The sad thing about our young people is that we, as their parents, have not shared with them the horror of what we and their grandparents have come through in order to give birth to this present generation. In that sense, as parents, we have failed our children because they are not aware, not only of an ancient struggle, but are unaware of a price that so many have paid so that these youth can go to fine universities; can go to a restaurant of their choice or stay in a hotel of their choice. They don’t understand the price.
I recently had a conversation with the legendary Harry Belafonte, who many young people probably don’t even know. Brother Harry was lecturing at Howard University, and he said the thing that hurt him was that our young people did not even know the recent struggle in the Civil Rights Movement. And that is why a movie could come out called Barber Shop, and Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. could be made light of, shocking the older people in the audience while the younger people laughed.
It is not their fault; the youth have not been informed. The sad thing is that we expect the enemy to inform them when it is our duty and our responsibility to, but we are so busy chasing a dollar. We are so fascinated by the material strength of America that we have failed to sit down with our children and teach them the horror of what Black people have suffered in America and throughout the world at the hands of a wicked oppressor.
There are no Armenians who don’t know the horror of what happened to their people from the Turks in the Ottoman Empire. There are no people who have suffered indignity that are not aware of the road that they have trod to get where they are. There is no Jewish child that does not know about the Holocaust. It is incumbent upon a Jewish parent to tell their children what makes the Jew the strong person that he or she is today and what they came through.
They not only tell their children, but because of their control of media and their power, it is we who also have to learn about their suffering so we can have sympathy for them. But when we know nothing about our own suffering, this is the reason why we have no sympathy for ourselves and for one another.
I do not want you to think that I am trying to teach hatred; that is beneath the dignity of a Muslim, or a Christian or a believer in God. But to teach the truth that might produce hatred, that is not my fault. If the truth of something makes you dislike it, then that is not “teaching hate”—that is teaching truth.
According to the dictionary, the term “justifiable homicide” means whatever is justifiable is excusable. It is excusable because it is justified by the principle of justice. The term “homicide” means the murder of one human being by another.
Whenever you put these two words together, “justifiable homicide,” there has to be a body of persons in a deliberative process that determines on the basis of fact, that the murder of a human being is excusable by the principle of justice.
Since we have been in America, we have been under the domination of a power that during slavery did not have to justify the murder of our fathers. They didn’t have any group of people to look at facts. The slave-master had the power of life and death on every Black person outside of the principle of justice, with no regard for the life of the Black male or female that was being put to death.
Black progress, White intimidation
The period of time right after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation was called the Reconstruction Era, wherein Black people made tremendous progress. The whole idea in that period—from those who benefited from our enslavement—was to put our people back into slavery and to drive deeper into our hearts the fear that was in us during our 300 years of chattel slavery. In the 12-year period from 1865 to 1877, the enemy could see that if the so-called Negro was set free and given the material to build an independent existence, he could become a serious challenge to White superiority.
Under this so-called emancipation, the freed slaves then had to be made to be afraid to make a free step. Those freed slaves who would want to make a free step; those that would challenge their former slave master by wanting to vote, purchase land, pursue education or striving to do anything but plantation labor—these kinds of Black brothers and sisters would be dealt with harshly by the former slave-masters, and there was no deliberative body that would judge our affairs with justice.
Therefore, every killing of a Black man or woman; every lynching of a Black man or woman was excusable. No matter what was done by White people to set the Black man at naught was excusable, because anything that was done to us to maintain White supremacy was in fact an unwritten law. The killing of every Black human being during the 300 years of chattel slavery and even now, 150 years up from slavery, at the hands of White people is generally considered “excusable.”
One White historian wrote: “It was almost impossible to convict a White man of a crime against a Black person.” In one Louisiana town, two White men were convicted of murdering a Black man. After they were convicted, they rose and walked out of court after the verdict was announced and no effort was made to stop them. Just think about that.
In 1890, a White man was convicted for the murder of a Black man and was fined $5 for the crime—and the judge let it be known that he would not press for collection. That is how little our lives have meant in this society. White people will pick a dog up on the highway and have the dog sit down at the dinner table, but a Black human being will be sent to prison for mistreating dogs, while White people mistreat Blacks every day and there is no penalty.
Lynching: White freedom to kill-at-will
During this Reconstruction period, White America began to engage more frequently in a monstrous form of public homicide called “lynching.” This ritualized community murder masqueraded as crime fighting, but it was actually a strategy to instill terror in the hearts and minds of the Black population. It was done to eliminate economically successful, politically active Black people and generally to reinforce Black peoples’ roles as plantation laborers.
As W.E.B. DuBois stated what the Whites feared more than “Negro dishonesty, ignorance, and incompetency,” was “Negro honesty, knowledge, and efficiency.” So, after slavery, Black people could be destroyed without harming a White person’s wealth, and made lynching increasingly popular and widespread.
Now, this atmosphere is beginning to spread again in America. I want to really make it clear to you today what we are going to face, what we are facing, as it will increase in the days ahead.
The typical lynching became no less than a Caucasian celebration; a public bonding across class and ethnic lines with veteran lynchers egging on the younger ones. White women incited their men to horrific cruelty, while children cheered on the medieval proceedings as all reveled in unity to eye witness the dreadful tortures inflicted upon Black men, women and children.
White women dressed up, White men chartered trains and newspapers announced the event of a lynching in advance. And if you could see the pictures of the faces of the lynching of our ancestors, the smiling faces in the photographs of the spectators, as one scholar points out, “These are not the faces of people who have seen justice fulfilled, but rather, these are the faces of those who have experienced a pleasurable event.”
The numerous slaughtered Black bodies mounted to such an extent that in one Texas county, a newspaper reported that vultures became a nuisance.
In some White peoples’ minds, there was also a civic necessity for these bloody public murders, which was outlined by University of Alabama Professor Clarence Caisson: “This conviction that the Black man must now and then be intimidated in order to keep him from forgetting the bounds which southern traditions have set for him.”
Even now, in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Georgia, back in these rural areas and in the north as well, Black people still are intimidated, and they keep within the bounds that White people have set for them. We are 150 years up from slavery, but fear still grips a lot of our people. So unquestioned is this philosophy of intimidation that at times,
Lynchings are planned and carried out, not under the fierce compulsion of mob hysteria, but by men who have calmly resigned themselves to the performance of a painful—but delightful—duty which they deemed as necessary for the good of society. One Arkansas sheriff said that innocent Blacks were “hung, sort of on general principles.” The sheriff said that “We kill five or six of them every year, and that makes the others behave tolerably well.”
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad saw all of this in his growing up. He saw lynchings in Georgia and he said in his speech at the Uline Arena in 1959, “America allows our sons to be lynched and then adds salt to the wound by concealing the identity of the lynchers. More, the government seeks out the lynchers, then turns them over to their fellow men, their brothers who share the lynchers’ cause and motives.”
This means that once you catch the people who did us in, you turn them over to their brothers, who let them go and call it justifiable homicide. As of 2007, there is no law on the books that White Supremacists feel they need to respect, particularly if that law would lead to our acquisition of strength or power to remove an impediment to our pathway of success.
White Supremacy reigns in American society
Every attempt that was made to legally give some relief to Black people, other White people came and thwarted that effort. Right now, we praise Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP for the historic landmark decision of Brown vs. The Board of Education in 1954, which struck down “separate but equal” and said that Blacks were entitled to equal education, but not segregated.
Fifty years later, there is no such thing as integrated education anymore. They tried to force us into their schools with busing and busing brought White folks out, stoning our little children who were just on a bus trying to go get an education. They had to bring out the National Guard in Little Rock, Arkansas to integrate a school. Fifty years later, it is as though nothing happened.
We can go to public places now; eat in restaurants; sleep in hotels and motels—that law has been passed. We have the right to vote, but check out how they handled us: If you’ve got the right to vote brothers and sisters, that is potential power in your hand. Well, what is your inclination? Your inclination is to vote for one of your own to serve you. The minute you vote one of your own in, the federal government starts plotting, sending people to these weakly paid city councilmen, mayors, offering them “this for that.”
And then, at the appropriate moment when they are about to rise, the FBI comes with a charge and many of them have gone to prison for very little or nothing except that they were Black and they love Black, and they were in a position of power. But the government itself moved to destroy that person.
For what purpose? To make Black people who had the right to vote now, feel that voting for a Black person is of no value because when we vote for the Black man look at what he does. But the Black man is doing nothing more than what White people have been doing ever since they have been in power.
White Supremacy still rules in every sphere, in medicine, in law, in insurance, in education, in science, in technology, in art, in culture, in trade and commerce. Whatever it is, White supremacy makes excusable whatever is done to keep the Black man and woman from attaining the joy of justice that makes freedom a happy experience. There is no joy in being free if there is no justice accompanying that freedom.
The present-day lynch mobs
I want Black youth to hear this message, because police authorities are the same today as they were during slavery. In fact, this is how policing began. Police were formed to catch runaway slaves, bring them back to their masters and make examples of them to throw fear into other slaves. It’s the same today. Police authorities are trained to kill, as well as to protect.
But where Black people are concerned, police legitimize their mob attacks under the name of “back up.” Police back up is often no different than the lynch mobs 100 years ago. The killing of our people, shooting them with many bullets when one would have done the job. And then, that deliberative body which is to discuss the brutal murder of our people by looking into the facts, comes away calling it justifiable homicide.
In Chicago recently, a young, Black Brother was shot down by the police and the parents are aggrieved. The police said the young Brother was running and he had something in his hands, but the witnesses will tell you, “He didn’t have anything in his hands; he was just shot down.” And the body of persons in a deliberative process to determine the facts that is supposed to address this, just says, “Well, we’re looking into it.” But when they look into it, the verdict comes back as “Another dead Negro—justifiable homicide.”
Injustice, as I said in the Holy Day of Atonement speech from Atlanta on Oct. 16, brings its natural response no matter how long it takes. Injustice has to be answered by justice, and justice demands that what a man sows, he must eventually reap. Jesus said it well—Did he say those who live by the sword will die by marches? He didn’t say that. Did he say those who live by the sword will die by massive protest, that those who live by the sword will die by prayers in front of public buildings and kneeling and begging and pleading? Did he say that? What did he say? Jesus said those who kill by the sword will die by the very sword that they used to kill others.
Is there sacredness and value to human life? Listen to me carefully, young Brothers and Sisters. Is there only sacredness and value to White life, and not Brown, Red and Black life? Is there value to a dog in this society, and yet no value on the life of a human being such that people can go to jail for mistreating a dog, and the same person who kills a Black youth can go home to dinner with his children with no feeling of having done something wrong, because in his own heart and mind, he did society a favor by killing another Black person?
What do you think God has to say about this?