“You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man”Fredrick Douglass
When Fredrick Douglass was taught to read by his Master’s wife, she was scolded by her husband and forbidden from teaching him any further. Master Auld explained:
“If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master-to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world…if you teach that nigger how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and unhappy.”
Upon hearing these words, Fredrick Douglass decided and determined within his heart that no matter what, he would learn how to read. And he did! He then found himself wishing he was dead and contemplating suicide. His master was right, learning to read had made him unfit to be a slave. The only hope keeping him alive was that one day he might be free. The idea of freedom consumed him, and his every waking thought was how to escape. And, eventually, he did!
To be enslaved requires one to be ignorant, unconscious, hopeless, and unaware. The enslaved is compelled to participate in the compulsory self-betrayal of his or her spirit and inner truth. There is no other way to survive enslavement. The most elemental part of your being must die so that you can live through it.
White society understood then as it does now that critical thinking, self-reliance, hope, and consciousness in the Black man(woman) is the greatest threat to their survival. During the antebellum period, forbidding slaves to learn to read and write was the way they kept us hopeless and ignorant.
We are no longer forbidden to read and write. In fact, the Civil Rights Movement made it so that we could damn near do anything and go anywhere white people did. In my 13 year career as an accountant, on many occasions I took note of the irony that I was sitting across the table in boardrooms from people my grandmother would have only been credentialed to clean houses for.
Today, we are kept ignorant, unconscious, and hopeless in a much more covert manner. So much so that we are unaware of our own ignorance, unconsciousness, and hopelessness. White Society keeps us mentally enslaved (with our permission) with the deluded illusion that we are now indeed free. And furthermore, we are lulled to submission with the lie that we no longer have a white enemy to fight. Whatever they sell, we buy. And we pick up everything they put down.
No, we are not subjected to the physical labor of chattel slavery or relegated to the back of the bus. No, the act of a lynching is not a regular, state sanctioned occurrence. But are we FREE? Or have we been negligent with what we determine to be freedom…
Are we free in our minds, hearts and spirits? Are we healthy, happy and whole? Does the white man still dictate our every move? Are we free thinkers, self-determined, and self-reliant? Or do we rely on the government, politicians, the news media, and the healthcare system to tell us how and what to think and what to do and how to take care of our bodies?
If you think you’re free, who am I to tell you any different. But I do have one question. What makes you unfit to be a slave? What are you doing, thinking, reading and intuiting to be unfit to be a slave?