In unity, we can accomplish much. Think of the 20 million of your and my kind putting one dollar a year aside for ourselves in a national treasury toward the day of want. Suppose we laid aside one dollar every month against the day of want. Look at the millions that we could build up for ourselves within a few years. Suppose all of you who are wealthy would spend your wealth to build up a better and more economic system among your own people. It would do much to aid our people. Do not put your wealth in the taverns and gambling houses and on race horses and other sports. Then, you would not be so easy to push over when the day of want arrives.
There is no need for us, millions through the country, spending our money for the joy and happiness of others. As a result, as soon as they throw us out of a job we are back at their doors begging for bread and soup. How many clothing shops do we operate in the country? Very few! Yet, all of us wear clothes. Who made our clothes for us? Who sold them to us? We have thousands of grocery stores, but what about our naked bodies? Should we not have more stores to sell our people clothes? Should we not sell our people everything they want or need? But no, we give all the money out of our pockets to the slave-master. We are satisfied in doing so. There are millions of us. We do not have enough factories to weave clothes for our people here in America. Think over that. Where is our shoe factory? Where are our cattle that we are skinning to make shoes for our people? These are small things, but we want equality with a nation that is doing these things.
We boast that we should be recognized as equals. Let us make ourselves equals. We cannot be equal with the master until we own what the master owns. We cannot be equal with the master until we have the freedom the master enjoys. We cannot be equal with the master until we have the education the master has. Then, we can say “Master, recognize us as your equal”.
Today you are begging the master, the slave-masters’ children for what? You are begging them for a job. You are begging for complete recognition as their equals. Let us be honest with ourselves. According to history, we cannot find where the master made his slave equal until the servant made himself worthy of equality.
I am with you to go on top. We cannot go on top with weight that is hanging on us. We cannot charge the white man with our faults. We are supposed to be, according to his own teachings, free. We are supposed to have been freed from him approximately 100 hundred years ago. Have we exercised that freedom? We must answer that we have not availed ourselves of that freedom. If we have not availed ourselves of that freedom which he says he gave us, why should we think hard of him about the way he treats us? This may be a little hard to swallow.
Our fathers, in the days they were set free by the slave-master, had no knowledge of how to go for self. Today, you are educated. You claim that you have equal education. Then, why don’t you take a walk? Before we can be justified in accusing the other man, let us examine ourselves first. I do not say that our fathers are the ones to blame for their ignorance, and neither are you. Neither they nor you are at fault. The root of the cause can be placed back into the laps of the slave-masters. When the slave-masters say we are free and continue to say that we are free, should we take a free step? We charge the slave-masters’ children with mistreating us. Suppose you tell a man that he is free. “Get out of our house and go into your own house”. But the freed slave says, “No, no, I’ll work for you. I’ll serve you as a servant if you will allow me to remain in your house”. The man of the house tells you, “I will not give you a new suit this year. I’ll not pay you today for any work. Go home and sit down”. Why should you say that man is not treating you right? Why say to that man, “I have a job the same as you”. Has not he offered the door to you?
If the slave-master did not mean that you and I were free, we should have them admit it. You remain as a free slave to your slave-master. You demand that he recognize you as his equal. You are making yourself look small in the eyes of the world. If every so-called Negro was fired, what would you do? Would you unite and go to Washington and demand that the government give you a job? You would be foolish enough to do that! If they beat you by the thousands, what right have you to say that he should not lash you? You have made yourself his slave. You continue to preach a doctrine of remaining with the slave-master. You are still called by your slave-masters’ names. By rights, by international rights, you belong to the white man of America. He knows that. You have never gotten out of the shackles of slavery. You are still in them. You are still in authority over your wife as long as she goes in your name, regardless of her separating herself from you. If she has not gotten a legal divorce and freed herself from your name, you are still in authority over her by law. Likewise, you are still under authority of the chains of your slave-masters. You have not tried to free yourself from them. You have not exercised the freedom that they claim to have given you.
Today is the day of decision. We have lived here more than 400 years. That, you know according to prophesy, is the prediction of our stay among these people. That time has expired. The time is up. The decision is being made for your departure and mine. It is most important to God Almighty, Whose proper name is Allah, that I speak to you according to the time that we are living in now. Today you are standing face to face with the alternative of accepting your own or forever being erased from the earth as a people. No one is trying to make you see this importance but your own. Why so you not see? You are blindly looking toward the slave-master to tell you this. How can the master tell the slave, “Look, slave, your day has arrived. You should sit in the seat of authority”. We cannot beg for jobs anymore. We cannot build a future on a job that was given to us by the slave-master 400 years ago. That day has arrived. He has no more work for us to do. He is not willing to tell is that. The time has arrived when deep within his own heart he desires you to go out and find a job for yourself. He will forever be burdened. The burden will get greater and greater as long as he tries to carry you and me. It is time for a separation of the two – black and white. Allah, God, is calling for a separation!
(Republished from “Message to the Black Man in America,” 1965.)