Marcus Garvey's Rehabilitation of Black Men. Part Two






In Chapter II of A Dialogue:  What’s The Difference? Garvey continues his thesis of mental emancipation through the conversation between the father and son. Garvey argues that the success of the race will occur "when the Negro recovers himself and starts to think independently and particularly in the direction of building for himself, even to the extent of creating his own improved civilization, he will find that there is absolutely no difference between him and the white man."



A Dialogue:  What’s The Difference?

By Marcus Garvey



Chapter II

Son:

I intend to ask your advice, father, on many things affecting my life, for I have come to realize that one profits very much by experience.  You have had more experience than I, therefore I ought to profit by what you honestly tell and teach me.



Father:

I see you are becoming very philosophic, my boy.

Son:

Yes, father, I also think that it is a good thing to start life with the right philosophy, and if I can get an honest introduction into the right philosophy my life will not be lived in vain.

Father:

I am indeed glad to hear of your decision.  I shall do everything to properly advise you, so that your mistakes in life, if any, may be reduced to a minimum, for it is the things we know not of that hurt us most; for the things we know can be properly measured, negotiated or handled from our best judgment, but when we are entirely ignorant we are at the mercy of that which is.

Son:

I quite appreciate that, and that is why I am so anxious to gather information from you to help me in my journey through life.  I am really desirous of knowing more about the contact between black and white; I want to find out if there is any positive and irremovable handicap that would prevent the blackman rising to the same eminence as the white man.

Father:

In my first conversation with you I hinted that there was absolutely no difference but that which is mental.  Mind is the thing that rules and the black man to-day falls below the level of a white man only because of the poverty of his mind.  He has somewhat subjugated his mind.  He has surrendered it to his environments – environments that have been created for him through an exterior civilization.  The white man’s civilization is an improvement upon other civilizations, and the Negro has been brought within its pale or under its influence and it has succeeded in humiliating and denying him all initiative, but when the Negro recovers himself and starts to think independently and particularly in the direction of building for himself, even to the extent of creating his own improved civilization, he will find that there is absolutely no difference between him and the white man.

Son:

Must I take it that the Negro will ultimately emancipate himself through the development of his own mind?

Father:

Yes, all emancipation is from within.  That is to say, real emancipation.  As a man thinketh so is he.  That means that the man must think for himself and make himself.  A race is only a congregation of individual men, so as a race thinketh so will it be.

Son:

You mean, therefore, that when the Negro race as a whole starts to think in the higher terms of life there will be a real racial emancipation?

Father:

That is so.  Unfortunately at the present time the Negro’s mind is confused.  In America, for instance, the American Negro wants one thing, in the West Indies the Negroes there want another thing, and in Africa the natives are quite different even in their separate and distinct tribal outlooks.  There is no unit of purpose, there is no common objective with Negroes as with the white man.  As for instance, the white man has a dominant idea of control. He feels he must govern, that no one is above him.  Such a feeling inspires him to its accomplishment and so he is a ruler everywhere you find him.  The Negro is not yet as bold as that to desire absolute control, he is satisfied to be subservient and so it becomes very easy to reduce him to the various conditions in which he finds himself to-day in America, the West Indies and Africa.  The white man is not afraid of responsibility, he is not afraid of any risk, he is adventurous, he is bold, he has daring in his blood.  It is this kind of character that gave us discoverers like Columbus, Raleigh, Drake and great conquerors like Napoleon, Nelson,  Wolfe, and warriors like Charlemagne, Attila and the Green {Greek} and Roman heroes.

Son:

You believe the, father, that the Negro has been too self-satisfied.

Father:

It is more than that, my son.  He has been too lazy and careless with his own life.  It is the duty of man not only to protect his own life but to protect the existence of his tribe, his clan or his race, and when it is considered that mankind has always been in universal warfare against each other, leading to tribe against tribe, clan against clan, race against race, nation against nation, it seems suicidal that any tribe, clan, race or nation should become indifferent to the activities of others to the extent of not preparing itself against invasion, attack or subjugation.  To do this you must know, you must understand, you must have good information of what others are doing, therefore you must be adventurous, you must go out to seek your information, you must take chances.  The Negro has not been doing this and so those who have indulged in this kind of adventure have surpassed him and have ultimately enslaved him.

Son:

So there is a great deal of work to be done in recovering ourselves.

Father:

My boy, we have not even started yet.  To-day we are hearing much of unemployment among the white races, of the lack of opportunities in industry and so forth.  That is true and that can be explained through the fact that the white man has been a builder for the last one thousand years at least; he has been building his kingdoms, his nations and his empires; he has been building his towns and his municipalities, he has been building his institutions and adding to the growth of his civilization.  He has almost reached the apex.  There is hardly much more for him to do in the realm of industry.  He is now occupied chiefly in the discovery of new things, elemental and scientific.  You can very well understand, therefore, that there isn’t very much for him to do, but the Negro who hasn’t built any nation, kingdom or empire, nor laid the foundation of his industrial and commercial marts is in a different position.  He has still to start where the white man started hundreds of years ago, so that if the Negro were conscious of himself he would not accept the conditions imposed upon him of being unemployed.  He would find much to do building for himself.

Son:

But where could he build, father?

Father:

He could build just where he is.  There are more than two hundred million Negroes in Africa with a continent that is large and resourceful.  Let him build there, let him build his own nations, let him build his own civilization, let him show the world a duplicate in Africa of what exist{s} in Europe.  The Negro in America has the opportunity of even building where he is if he will think seriously and lay down a proper programme.  He forms a part of the American nation.  He is socially ostracized.  Of the 48 States of the American Union he doesn’t boss or control one.  If the American people refuse to absorb the Negro on equal terms the Negroes could colonize themselves in America and particularly in certain sections of the South, and build themselves such a political, industrial and general economic power that they would be considered a real factor in American national life.  Fifteen million Negroes in a population of one hundred and twenty million people in the United States ought to be able to exercise a great influence upon American public opinion.  In the West Indies the Negroes form the majority population in each of the islands, yet these Negroes have very little influence and power.  If they were thinking right they could build up where they are a powerful political influence that would probably see them one day a free and independent people.

Son:

But would the white man tolerate such ideas and progress among Negroes, father?

Father:

My son, you must understand this.  It is not what the other fellow will give you –you must take; it is what you want that you must have.  The white man has no more right of interfering with the black man’s progress than the black man has to interfere with the white man.  Nature or God made black and white free human agents and as such they have a right to the possession of all that nature gives, and when one man interferes with the rights of another and that other submits, he is a coward, he is a fool, and God, nature and all men must be against him.

Son:

The theory then, father, is that the Negro should be self-reliant, self-expressive and self-willed.

Father:

Yes, this is not only a theory but it must be a practical fact.  The man who is dependent upon someone else to do something for him never gets anything done, and any black man who is foolish enough to think that somebody else is going to do something for him, thorough and complete, to his benefit, is but a fool.

Son:

How wonderful it must be, father, to have the ambition you have suggested.

Father:

Ambition, reasonable ambition, is the making of the man and the making of the race.  The individual or the nation that has no ambition has no true destiny.  It is a positive fact that the majority of Negroes to-day lack ambition.

Son:

But it must be aroused in them, father.

Father:

Yes, but it is a difficult task.  The average Negro has submitted for so long in slavery and in general serfdom to the dictates of the white man that he has almost lost hope and confidence in himself.  That is why in America it is hard to organize the Negro and still more so in the West Indies where they have no racial consciousness at all.  The American and West Indian Negroes were slaves for hundreds of years, and the subjugation of that period seems to have taken out of them all the old African courage and nobility; but scattered here and there among them you will find a few noble and courageous men and women who are doing everything possible to arouse these lethargic and almost unconscious people to a full realization of themselves.

Son:

Then there is great hope in that respect, father?

Father:

Yes, my son.  Nature has peculiar ways of speaking to her children in periods.  The cycle of things has brought about certain changes, and these changes must affect the Negro as everybody else; probably the white man more than anybody else is doing his best to organize the Negro to a consciousness of himself.  The burnings and lynchings in the Southern sections of the United States, the economic oppression in the West Indies, and the inhuman and brutal treatment of the nations of South Africa and in other parts of the continent, and their general exploitation tend to bring out among them a consciousness that probably would not have been evident under any other circumstance.  This may be God’s way of bringing the Negro out of his bondage.




***


[1] Hill, Robert, and Bair, Barbara. eds. Marcus Garvey Life and Lessons. Berkley: U California P, 1987.
"A Dialogue:  What’s The Difference?" is also from Marcus Garvey Life and Lessons.


***




Exonerate Marcus Garvey

To be delivered to President Barack Obama


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