On being black

For me, being black means in a word ‘disadvantaged.’ The moral and emotional fabric of western civilization is based on the concept that black and inferior are synonymous. There are many reasons for this, but the most important thing is not what the white thinks of the black, but what the black man thinks of himself in the face of this reality.

Confronting this reality, my blackness becomes a reaction. I am black because the other man says I am black. So be it. I then have to establish a catalogue of those qualities that have been denied to my race and proceed by my conduct to refute the other man’s prejudices about me and my people.

From this I observe that as a black man, I have this advantage; that at least I can look at western civilization with objectivity of my choice. One can assess, judge; one has choice; to copy, to reject or to modify. Being black means having a certain concept of life, of which a major strain is of being close to Nature. But this also has a concomitant weakness in lack of technology and fear of the supernatural. These limitations – and in the modern world they are limitations – are not naturally insuperable, but understanding them is vital for the necessary conquest of them.

Over the years I have tried to find at what point the road of evolution of the black man moved away from that taken by the white man. Increasingly, I believe the point of diversion can be found in Man’s relation to God. The fact is, the black man’s God is a God of retribution; awesome, unapproachable and merciless. The white man’s God is a God of love, mercy and forgiveness. From there, it is not hard to see how the black became inhibited in his confrontation with natural phenomena, while the white felt encouraged to explore and conquer the natural phenomena that surrounded him.

Let me give an example. The black man, faced with a strange mountain, quickly turns his back on this terrifying monster, seeks out a calf from his miserable herd and begins the regular sacrifice to the god of the mountain. Very soon the mountain has become sacred and impenetrable. His white counterpart would be fascinated by the spectacle of the mountain, but his reaction would be to climb it, on its summit to dominate the landscape, on its flanks to sow his crops and in its entrails to mine for minerals. the Black man in history, considering himself unworthy of God, has tended to leave creation as it stood, easily satisfied; the white man, considering himself favorite of God, has, through the ages continually questioned creation, and never hesitated to bend it to his will and his advantage.

Where each of these divergent attitudes have led is now very clear; the technological gap, the domination of the world by the white, and the moral enslavement of the black man’s mind. Today I think we have come to realize that this bar to our development can and must be overcome. But to overcome it, we must, as a race, make fundamental changes in our attitudes, realizing that the greater enemy is within ourselves, and that plots and conspiracies against us, if they exist, are but secondary obstacles.

These are thoughts by Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, culled from Emeka by Frederick Forsyth.

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