This book is a compilation of lectures given to a Canadian radio audience in 1967. These speeches focus on the future of the Civil Rights movement as it becomes part of the more expansive humanitarian movement.
Impasse in Race Relations
He starts the lecture by explaining the role Canada played in the liberation struggle. Canada was the last stop on the Underground Railroad. In the fugitives, slaves coded songs; it was symbolized by the word “heaven or north star.”
He then moved on to a discussion of the Civil Rights Movement and broke the movement down into two phases. The first was the unified resistance against the legal institution of Jim Crow. Once Jim Crow ended, many whites felt the struggle was over. The relative place of black people improved. The whites that were satisfied saw no need for equality between the races.
The second phase of the Civil Rights Movement is now underway. The focus now is not on law, but building a moral revolution. Also, many repressed feelings are surfacing. The first is the prejudice of whites; now that there are more interactions with other races. The second is the repressed rage of many blacks.
The repressed rage manifested itself in riots in the North. Many whites saw these riots as evidence that black people were fundamentally not able to handle freedom. Many blacks saw the riots as the first stages of an armed rebellion to take over the government.
King holistically analyzed the riots. The rage black people exhibited in the riots was caused by years of failed policy. Poor policy decisions caused discrimination, slums, unemployment, and poverty. The crimes on Blacks are derivative. Even when Blacks serve in the military, they return home to be treated as second class citizens. To build a more egalitarian society, there needs to be a government focused initiative to end poverty. King explicitly asks for a jobs program and Universal Basic Income.
The riots were also caused by frustration in the inability of the Civil Rights Movement to affect change in the Northern cities. Marches have little effectiveness in bustling cities that are used to large gatherings of people. King admitted the movement must devise new methods that are also non-violent.
When King used the term “The White Man,” he explains he does not mean all white people. Many whites had aided him in the Civil Rights Movement. The term “The White Man” is a shorthand to represent the black man’s adversary. Not only people but policy and value systems.
Conscience and the Vietnam War
This lecture was given after the famed Riverside Church speech in which he first denounced the Vietnam War. He addressed his critics asking why a civil rights activist would get involved in the peace movement. In the speech, King not only explains how the two issues are related, but how one that fights for equality in America can not turn his back on the freedom struggles of people across the globe.
There was three main criticism given by King for the Vietnam War. The first was spending for the war diverts funds away from social programs to aid the poor. The second was the poor do most of the fighting when they don’t even have full democracy at home. Finally, one can not advocate for non-violence in their movement and condone state-sponsored violence.
Ultimately, the USA was on the wrong side of history. King admits the National Liberation Front were no paragons of virtue, but only 25% of their soldiers were communist. Their opposition, the Ngo Dinh Diem government, brutally suppressed dissent. The United Buddhist Church, the largest non-communist political organization, was included in this suppression. The USA is motivated to support moneyed interest and the former colonial powers. The Vietnamese can not trust America while they destroy their country and rip apart families.
No American can sit on the sideline on the issue of Vietnam. We are required as Humanists to protest. The only question is what type of protest. This opposition will be under-girded by a revolution of American values centered around wisdom, justice, and love. Communism is ultimately a judgment on the failure of capitalism to meet people’s needs.
Youth and Social Action
The current generation is the first to live under the threat of nuclear war. This threat made ventures such as the Vietnam War risky with no apparent reward insight. America had lost its purpose, and the youth felt this disillusionment.
There were three groups of young people in Dr. King’s estimation. The first is the conformists. They understand the current system is untenable, but they have not entirely given up on it. The second group is the radicals. They understand the urgency for action to induce systematic change. However, they don’t have an ideology, and they are also not committed to non-violence. The last group is the Hippies. They seek to escape and disengage in society. When they participate in protests, it is a form of escape, not a catalyst for change. King correctly predicted the group would not last long, and many will move into communes away from the larger society.
Without a larger purpose to society, material growth has become a means to its end. The marriage of Big Business and the government has left many feeling alienated. Alienation is walking death, and it is especially damaging for the young.
Social cohesion will be regained when a new moral mission is undertaken. The hippies can provide their commitment to non-violence. The radicals will bring their urgency for action. Practical problem solving will be provided by the conformists. The new commitment to purpose is desperately needed because we are running out of time.
Non-Violence and Social Change
King begins with an ethical defense of civil disobedience. Most of his critics disagreed with his tactics because he was, ultimately, breaking the law. He uses the metaphor of a fire truck going through red lights. The urgency to put out a fire matters more than obeying traffic law. In the same way, ending segregation was an urgent need and law had to be broken for the greater good.
In the same way, people were attempting to understand Civil Disobedience. They wanted to understand the race riots happening in the North. Many whites saw the riots as proof that Blacks could not assimilate into society, and they were naturally bloodthirsty. Dr. King rebuts this idea with facts.
The riots did cause millions of dollars in property damage, but no white people were killed. Most of the deaths during the riots were blacks shot by the military. The looting and theft were motivated by a need to rebel against a system of oppression and not personal greed. Many of the loiter returned the merchandise after the riot, which proves they only wanted the thrill of taking something they couldn’t otherwise buy.
The rioters were rebelling against a system and not motivated by a blood lust to kill whites. If they wanted to kill whites, they would have killed them. They didn’t fear death or retaliation because they could be killed for looting. The riots were ultimately a warning. If nothing changes systematically, violence could be worse next time.
King also addressed critics that said non-violent direct action would not work in the North because Blacks in the North were more violent and too sophisticated. This idea results from a common stereotype that Blacks in the South are docile and slow. In reality, violent personalities often channel their anger constructively through Civil Disobedience. In fact, during the Chicago campaign members of the street gang Black Stone Rangers march with King and stayed non-violent. The same was true of people that had violent personalities in the South. However, new tactics need to be devised to address social injustice holistically.
The next phase of the Civil Rights Movement will be international. The first stage would require 3000 volunteers into a non-violent army of the poor. They would receive months of training in non-violent direct action to prepare for an occupation of the mall in Washington, DC. Their focus would be to advocate for policies to lower unemployment and increase wages.
As for the international front, King worked toward reducing military intervention and increasing foreign aid to developing countries. He goes as far as saying 3% of Gross National Product should be going to international aid. Developing countries are poor because of exploitation from the West, not an inability to manage their countries.
He also calls for economic sanctions on countries that aren’t practicing humanitarian values. South Africa was explicitly needed sanction until Apartheid ended. Only a united effort to apply pressure to Capital will lead to conditions of change.
Christmas Sermon on Peace
In this sermon, King explores what it means to have “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” To him, this phrase was an affirmation of the sacredness of all life. It also is a commitment to love over hate.
To better define love, he goes through the ancient greek classifications of the word. The first definition is “eros,” which is the ascetic romantic love for the divine. The next definition is “philo” which is an intimate love between friends. King wants the audience to practice and understanding of goodwill for all man mimicking the love of G-d, “agape.”
There is also a difference in agape love and liking someone. Liking is superficial and spawned from positive interaction. One can’t love someone that slanders, attacks, and dismisses him. Love understands redemptive goodwill. Not retaliating with physical force, but Gandhi’s “soul force.” The King movement will wear down their enemy with their ability to endure hardships.
In this speech, King says one of his most often misconstrued quotes:
“Toward the end of that afternoon (March on Washington), I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had had, and I must confess to you today that not long after talking about that dream I started seeing it turn into a nightmare.”
He then explained how he was frustrated at the continued violence against black people when fighting for freedom, black systemic poverty, and escalation of US interventionism. He ends by doubling down on the original “I Have a Dream Speech” saying he will not lose hope. King never gave up on integrating America. Instead, he expanded his mission to help the poor all over the world.
There are two very misconstrued quotes from King. The first is “My Dream turned into a nightmare” from his 1967 Christmas Eve Sermon broadcast on the Canadian Broadcast Channel. The other is “I have integrated by people into a burning house.” Most use these quotes as proof that toward the end of Dr. King’s life he abandoned integration for black separatism or black militancy. Looking at both of these quotes, more rigorously will help us understand what King meant.
The exact quote from the Christmas Eve Speech was:
“Toward the end of that afternoon (March on Washington), I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had had, and I must confess to you today that not long after talking about that dream I started seeing it turn into a nightmare.”
In this speech, he explains his frustration at the amount of violence blacks have encountered in the Civil Rights Movement. But his frustration led him to double down on his philosophy of integration. In the speech, he goes on to say that hope is what keeps people alive, and he would never lose faith in the cause.
The 1967 Christmas Sermon is just one of five Massey Lectures. The Massey series was something the Canadian Broadcast Channel did to showcase significant contemporary thought leaders. If one reviews the entire Dr. King Massey Lecture series in the book Trumpet of Conscience his philosophy on social justice is thoroughly explained. He sees the first stage of the movement as removing the legal basis of segregation. The movement was now in its second phase, world-centric humanitarianism. In this movement, the focus was on empowering all underprivileged people all over the world. He espoused global egalitarianism manifested in his opposition to the Vietnam War.
The second quote on the “burning house” comes from a story told by Harry Belafonte. Here is the quote from The New York Amsterdam News:
According to Belafonte, King responded, “I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply. We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know we will win, but I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house. I’m afraid that America has lost the moral vision she may have had, and I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears the soul of this nation. I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house.”
Belafonte added, “That statement took me aback. It was the last thing I would have expected to hear, considering the nature of our struggle.”
Belafonte said he asked King, “What should we do?” and King replied that we should, “become the firemen.” King said, “Let us not stand by and let the house burn.”
So again, Dr. King did not want to evacuate the house. Instead, he wanted us to be agents of change and harbingers of a new moral code. A full retelling of Belafonte’s story is consistent with what was expressed in the Massey Lectures.
However, the best way to understand if Dr. King gave up on the idea of would-be evaluating his last efforts in organizing. He died while building “The Poor People’s Campaign.” In 1967, King announced a plan to bring thousands of poor people from across the nation to a new March on Washington. Their first meeting in March 1968 had leaders from many trade unions, civil rights organizations, and academia. This effort was a multi-racial, multi-ethnic initiative to fight for class issues. They pushed for an economic bill of rights that included social programs, the elimination of slums, and a full-employment initiative. Nothing in the campaign singled out blacks or abandoned integration.
- The New York Amsterdam News“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: I fear I am Integrating My People Into a Burning House” 01/12/2017 http://amsterdamnews.com/news/2017/jan/12/dr-martin-luther-king-jr-i-fear-i-am-integrating-m/
- Santa Clara University Website: “Harry Belafonte Reflections on Peace” https://legacy.scu.edu/ethics/architects-of-peace/Belafonte/essay.html
This blog post is from the first half of Essay on Untouchables 3: Politics.
From Millions to Fractions
Untouchability is not a legal term. It is also not determined by physical features. It is a social concept that ostracizes a group. Dalits, the group that suffers from untouchability, have accrued disadvantage through generations. Birth determines untouchability. The condition can’t be changed.
Ambedkar lists the number of Dalits (Untouchables) in India as 50 million. The figure came from the 1931 census. The Indian government conducts a census every ten years.
There was no mention of caste in the first Indian Census of 1881. There was an attempt to add a caste question to the 1891 census, but the effort failed. The census of 1901 was the first successful attempt to add a question on untouchability. That year an untouchable was defined as one that most of the native people believe is untouchable. In 1911, there was a ten-question test to determine if one was a Dalit or part of the depressed classes. The questions involved if one eats beef or receives religious directive from a Brahmin. Many opposed the test on the basis that it perpetuates the idea of caste. The opposition did not win, and the question was on the 1921 census. Finally, the 1931 census confirmed there were 50 million Dalits pr one-fifth of the population.
The number of Dalits became vital after the formation of the Simon Commission. The group was formed to study and determine how best to rule India. One of the efforts they were undertaking was increasing the political power of Dalits through a reserved electorate. A reserved electorate would allow Dalits to vote for a select number of seats. The electorate and the candidates would all be from the Dalit Community.
The Lothian Committee in 1932 also attempted to win Dalits an appropriate amount of political representation. The effort to increase Dalit political power was opposed by various provincial committees that tried to make the case that untouchability no longer existed. The provincial committees believed the British wanted to reduce Hindu political power by splitting their share in government between touchables and untouchables.
There were also factions of Indian society that could benefit from an electoral reservation for Dalits. The first group is the economically underprivileged of India referred to as Backward Classes. They wanted to join the reserved electorate for Dalits. If this were to happen, the reserved voters would have more people from the Backward Classes than Dailts watering down the Dalit vote. Dalits would have supported a Backward Class reservation from the portion allotted to Hindus but not their own. The Backward Classes insisted on getting a reservation from the Dalits. When the Dalits refused, the Backward Classes joined the Hindus in their denial of untouchability.
The second faction that could benefit from an electoral reservation for Dalits, is Muslims. If the Hindu electorate split between Dalits and Hindus the relative power of Muslims increases. Muslims did not support the electoral reservation because they were pushing to have a larger representation in Parliament than their number in the population, which is called weightage. Hindus would only agree to weightage if they had an overwhelming amount of power in Parliament, and giving more power to the Muslims would not upset their majority. Seeding power would be beneficial to Hindus if it prevents the Muslims from splitting into their own country. The second reason Muslims opposed having a reserved electorate for Dalits is that many Dalit Muslims would leave the Muslim political contention to join with other Dalits. Indian Muslims still practiced caste, just not as severely as Hindus. The following quote from Ambedkar can be found in this essay:
Although Islam is the one religion which can transcend race and colour and unite diverse people into a compact brotherhood, yet Islam in India has not succeeded in uprooting caste from among the Indian Muslamans (Muslims).
Misinformation hampered future efforts to account for Dalits. Hindus began telling Dalits that the government planned to institutionalize untouchability. Dalits were afraid to register as such, thinking they would never be able to pass as a caste Hindu. Dalits would often attempt to pass as caste Hindu to avoid discrimination.
Ambedkar reiterates the need for Dalits to agitate at the end of this essay. If no one speaks out, there will be no way to increase Dalit political power.
The Revolt of Untouchables
Dalit resistance came in two stages. Before 1920, Dalits concentrated on protest and petitioning the government. After 1920, Dalits realized that petition the government has little success. Also, the national government declared that all public utilities and institutions were open to all citizens regardless of caste. Dalits moved toward Civil Disobedience and Direct Action.
One of the first civil disobedience campaigns was getting the ability to use roads near a temple called Vaikom in Travancore state. The campaign forced the government to move the road far enough away from the temple to allow Dalits to travel on it without polluting the temple.
The second great campaign was formed to grant Dalits access to Chawdar (Chavdar) Water Tank, located in Mahad, Bombay, in 1927. This tank revered as a reservoir for caste Hindus in the city. No one knows who originally built it, but it was declared public property in 1869. Dalits would frequently come to Mahad to shop and conduct other business. They would have to bring water from a well from a neighboring Dalit town or pay a caste Hindu to fetch water. In 1924, the city of Mahad adopted the laws allowing all citizens access to public facilities or institutions, including the water tank. However, the threat of caste Hindus violence kept Dalits away from the water tank.
Ambedkar organized a conference in Mahad in March of 1927 to discuss and organize around Dalit rights. On the first day of the conference, the 2,500 people in attendance felt frustrated in their ability to access water. Only Hindus could retrieve water from the tank, and they charged a premium price. On the second day of the conference, Ambedkar decides to take matters into his own hands.
After a rousing speech, Ambedkar entreats the participants in the conference to take water from the Chawadar Water Tank. The Dalits were energized, and all went with Ambedkar to the tank. This mass protest caused the Hindus to gather paralyzed with shock at first. Then the Hindus unleashed terror on the Dalits that participated in the protest.
After the protest, the Dalits realized what they were up against and decided to double down. A second conference was called for December 25th -27th, 1927. At the same time, the Hindus chose to fight back by petitioning the local Magistrate to forbid Dalits from using the water tank.
The Magistrate refused because the Hindus never proved that they had exclusive use of the tank. The Hindus then went to state court to establish their exclusive right to use the water tank. Ambedkar and a group of Dalits contested. At the beginning of the trial, the Hindus ask the court to issue a restraining order on Ambedkar to prevent him from returning to the tank. Ambedkar received the order days before the December conference.
With the trial in recess, Ambedkar leads the December Mahad Conference. On the first day, he decides to have a public demonstration of the injustices of the caste system. He burned a copy of Manusmirti, the religious book that codifies the caste system. Ambedkarites still commemorate the Burning of Manusmirti as a holiday.
The next order of business was deciding if they would disobey the restraining order and drink from the water tank in protest. The Magistrate communicated he would uphold the state-mandated restraining order. After careful deliberation, the group decided to comply with the restraining order to give themselves the best chance of winning the court case. It turns out that it was a good decision. Ambedkar won the court case, and Dalits were allowed to drink from the Chawdar Water Tank. Ambedkar cautioned over celebration as Dalits needed to continue fighting to prevent untouchability from being recognized nationally.
The December Mahad Conference went on to express the vision of the Ambedkar movement. The conference created a manifesto that declared equality is the birthright of all Indians. No one had a right to remove that equality without due process of law. The law was created to secure this equality and must be respected by all people. The caste system, as detailed in Manusmirti was explicitly created to disadvantage Dalits. Those in this conference vow to oppose all literature, modern or ancient, that promotes the caste system. Those in the conference also vow not to do the jobs mandated by their caste. Specifically, transporting dead animals and cleaning homes of the dead.
Ambedkar makes sure to attack the idea that Dalits brought scorn onto themselves by eating the dead animals they transport. Many attempts to claim the Hindus repulsion at Dalits were justified because the practice of eating rotten meat is disgusting. Ambedkar reminds the audience that Dalits would only eat rotten meat if they have no other options. The cruelty of the caste system prevents Dalits from finding any other work. Also, the law mandates they participate in scavenging to keep the only housing they were allowed to live. Legally mandated work for no money is no better than slavery.
The Dalits must be strong to not obliged the work their caste mandates. The civil disobedience Ambedkar prescribes would serve two functions. The first is to increase self-esteem and self-respect. The second is to strike a blow against the Hindu Social Order. The current oppression only last because Dalits comply.
Held At Bay
Hindus view the advancement of Dalits as a personal attack. As the situation stands now, the Touchables are above the Untouchables. They are not one people. They are people from two different nations. By resisting caste, the Dalit seeks to elevate himself and the perceived expense of the Touchables. The Touchables will use any means necessary to maintain the status quo.
One example of this ruthlessness of caste Hindu oppression was in the immediate aftermath of the Chawadar Water Tank demonstration. It began with the Dalits exercising their right to tank water for the city reservoir during the Mahad Conference. Once the caste Hindus in the area saw the demonstration, a rumor began that the Dalits would soon enter the temple. Two hours after the water tank rally, the conference members were having a community dinner. A mob of Hindus attacked the Dalits with sticks. Many of the Dalit leaders kept their brothers from fighting back, stopping a much larger riot.
After the conference ended, Hindus from Mahad sent messages to government officials from the districts where conference delegates lived. Hindus assaulted many of the conference delegated on the way home or once they returned home.
Another example of oppression happened in Dholka Talvka, Bombay when Dalits attempted to integrate a school. Many of the Hindu parents did not want their child sitting with Dalits. They pulled their children from the school. The tension from the integration efforts led to a Brahmin to attack a Dalit. The Dalit men of the community protested at the police station to ensure something would be done. When the men were away, Hindus attacked the Dalit section of town. The Hindu mob included women. There was also another force of Hindus waiting to ambush the men after their demonstration at the police station. The ambush plan was thwarted, but Dalits still sought redress for the attack on their women and children. To further frustrate the Dalit’s effort, the Hindus poured kerosene in the Dalit well. The Dalits only had this one water source.
The Dalits appealed to Gandhi through Harijan Seva Sangh, Gandhi’s organization that promoted Dalit Civil Rights. They did nothing. Not only did they do nothing, they forced the Dalits to remove their complaint from the Magistrate and promised them no harm would come to them. Dalits had no way of enforcing Gandhi’s promise.
After reflecting on the incidents detailed above, one must wonder why Dalits are always on the bottom of the hierarchy. Ambedkar proposes a few reasons. They are a minority and scattered throughout the country. Also, the idea of caste has infected the mind of Dalits. Even within the Dalit community, there is a Caste hierarchy. There needs to be a common ethos to unite Dalits.
One example of a minority community with a unifying ethos is the Muslims. When a Muslim was attacked, the group unites in retribution. Much of the reason Hindus treat Muslims better is fear of a blood feud starting between Hindus and Muslims. The idea of a unifying ethos does not stop and India’s border. Muslims from other countries would not be afraid to defend their brothers in the subcontinent.
One way Hindus can exact revenge on Dalits is through violence. If the Dalits go to the police, the police rarely act. Most of the police are caste Hindus themselves. Even if they investigate the infraction, it is rare other caste Hindus would testify against their own.
However, the much more effective form of Hindu reprisal is the social boycott. Dalits own minimal economic infrastructure and depend on Hindus for employment and commerce. If a Dalit is seen at a protest, he can be fired. If he is not fired, Hindus could refuse to sell him goods. Both firing someone from a job or refusing to sell products to Dalits is legal. The only recourse for Dalits is political action.
Their Wishes Are Laws Unto Us
When Hindus are asked why they oppose the advancement of Dalits, they don’t reply with how it physically harms them. Hindus respond that it is an offense to their Dharma. Dharma means the privileges, duties, and obligations of a man as a member of the Hindu community, caste, and age group. Manusmirti sets each person in their station in life, responsibility, and benefits. A Smriti is a religious holy book for Hindus. They have several, but of all of them, Manusmirti is the most prominent and influential.
Manusmirti codifies who is inside and outside the social order, called Chaturvarna. Chatuvarna is a hierarchy with the Priest class at the top and the Menial class at the bottom. Those outside of Chaturvarna are called Bahayas, excluded. The denotation of Bahayas is the Western equivalent of being a non-citizen. Bahayas were never meant to have rights under the social order.
Bahayas are the present-day untouchables. To illustrate how the denotation of outsider plays out in current times, Ambedkar uses the example of the Balais. Balais is a sub-group of the Untouchables. The local caste Hindus attempted to force the Balais to confirm to caste rule. The Balais refused and the Hindus retaliated. Balais were not allowed to get water from village wells or cross land owned by Caste Hindus. Not being allowed to cross land owned by Hindus put some Balais cattle farmers out of business because the property of Caste Hindus surrounded their land. These draconian laws force Balais to leave local municipalities they had occupied for centuries.
It is important to remember at the time of the persecution of the Balais there was no legal enforcement of the Caste System. Ambedkar illustrates how custom could be more powerful than the law. Every social group has habits in how they act, feel, and value various things. Even when a new individual joins the group, they are pressured into conformance. To challenge the group norm could lead the new entrant to become an outsider himself.
To counter the power of Chaturvarna propagated by custom, laws must be passed to destroy the Caste System actively. As one can see, the Protestant Reformation would not have been successful without laws separating church and state. Laws were also needed to make state superior to the church. Without an active degradation of church authority, it would have regained its place as supreme authority.
What Dr. Alim got right
He is a superb advocate for holistic medicine and improving overall health in the black community. The Hoop House concept is an actionable plan to address the problem of food deserts. Urban gardening will not only improve the nutrition in underprivileged communities; it will increase fellow feeling amongst those that participate in the effort. The root of good health is nutrition. In a community with little money for health insurance, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In addition, the building of hoop houses will not require government help.
He also brought an awareness of Ayurvedic medicine and Yoga to the black community. Without Dr. Alim, many black people would not have been exposed to any eastern medicine. Other avenues to eastern medicine are price prohibitive for poor people.
Advocacy for prostate cancer awareness is also vital in the black community. Because we are oppressed anything that can threaten virility can do severe damage to our psyche. Back in the 1990s when his work started losing a prostate could mean the loss of the ability to get an erection. Even the rectal exam could make men feel emasculated.
The economic devastation of Iraq through government sanctions was a subject few would discuss. Dr. Alim shined a light on the subject and urged Blacks to do what we could for those overseas. The act of discussing the US embargo on Iraq shows a glimmer of a world-centric perspective.
The most significant campaign of Dr.Alim’s life was the Dopebusters campaign. He provided a community solution when the government decided to underfund police in DC. Most stood by and watched DC neighborhoods fall apart. Dr. Alim created a program to at least retard the cancerous growth of crack.
Is Dr. Alim racist or antisemitic?
No evidence could be found of Dr. Alim advocating violence toward anyone for any reason. Also, there was no evidence that he prevented someone from improving their life due to race. In fact, in the Yale speech, he said NOI member that has a weapon can be expelled from the organization. He repeatedly said that the NOI is a peaceful movement and any vengeance will be taken out by Allah. So to equate him to the Ku Klux Klan or neo-nazis is a stretch.
Most often he is accused of supporting Steve Cokley’s conspiracy theory on Jewish doctors spreading HIV to babies in Africa. After evaluating the evidence presented he never confirmed the conspiracy only said the Cokley is a reputable researcher. Dr. Alim never evaluated the claim for himself. To hold Dr. Alim responsible for something, another person said that is not even in the Nation of Islam would be unfair. Dr. Alim said HIV was created and spread by the US government.
The worst statement Dr. Alim made was about Mayor Barry saying he “should not bow down to the Jews.” This statement is insensitive, yet not promoting violence to Jews directly or indirectly. So the statement can be considered a gaffe more than evidence of hate toward anyone.
In Dr. Alim’s work, he partnered with an Indian American and a Chinese American to create Abundant Life. Later he worked with Dr. Freddie Ulan, a white man, on Nutritional Response Testing. So he has worked with people outside of his race and faith for most of his career.
Finally, he works in conjunction with the Church of Scientology. The vast majority of the members of that organization are white. Therefore it would be difficult to say a black man that worked with Scientologist and took Scientologist training is racist. Racism is defined as advocating for violence, harassment, or destruction of property of other people based on race. He also would not fit the definition of racist if it is defined by impeding a person from advancement economically or politically because of race.
It would also not be fair to say Dr. Alim is racist for his affiliation with the Nation of Islam alone. If the NOI is evaluated from the lens of all Blue meme ethnocentric religions, it is not worse than any other. The belief of the NOI is the Mother Plane will return and lay waste to the earth and create a new Muslim social order. It is no different from the belief the Jesus will return lay waste to the current order and create the Kingdom of Heaven. Indeed, the Nation of Islam will not accept white converts, but many sects of Judaism will not accept those that are not ethnically Jewish. Master Fard Muhammad taught that whites are the devil, as the bible says many of the Hebrew’s neighboring tribes were evil. Therefore, the NOI might have racist members, but all those in the NOI are not racist by virtue of being members.
What Dr. Alim got wrong
What Dr. Alim gets wrong is the idea of a grand conspiracy that is thwarting blacks and every turn or a grand plan to kill all black people. It is true that there are nefarious plots conducted by individuals, but there is not grand plan that every white person is involved with to destroy black America.
When Dr. Alim was in charge of the Dopebusters program, he claimed that elites were all working against him. In reality, he had support from Democrats like Maxine Waters and Republicans like Jack Kemp. The NOI Security Agencies won contracts when they were not the lowest bidder. The effort stopped because the companies went bankrupt not because a law was created to stop them from getting contracts.
There were some Jewish groups like the Anti-defamation League (ADL) that were against the NOI getting government contracts. Their motivation was various insensitive things high profile leaders of the NOI said, not arbitrary hate for Muslims. In essence, there was a legitimate call for concern on the part of Jews. It is reasonable to be worried that if the NOI had the authority to police, they could begin to commit racial violence. The Senate conducted an investigation that vindicated the NOI against claims of racism. Therefore there was a legitimate concern that was evaluated and determined to be unfounded.
The Dopebuster program ended because the company went bankrupt. To blame a conspiracy by the elite only obfuscates from the real issue. Unless there is a thorough evaluation of what happened, people can’t improve community policing efforts in the future. The idea of a grand conspiracy will discourage future community policing attempts because people will believe the effort will be thwarted.
Another conspiracy that never materialized was the government was going to use the 2009 swine flu outbreak to force vaccinations. That never happened. It is currently 2019, and there has been no effort to force people to get vaccinated. There was no plot to infect a large portion of society with a virus to cause a mass extinction. Wild assertions like the government is attempting to exterminate black people through vaccines only raise suspicion of vaccine effectiveness in the black community. For a group of people with limited access to healthcare, it is essential to implement all low-cost preventative measures like vaccines.
The most outrageous conspiracy theory is the idea of an earthquake machine at the HAARP weather research facility causing the 2010 Haitian Earthquake. There is no scientific method to heat a tectonic plate. A man that graduated from medical school is smart enough to a tectonic plate can’t be heated artificially. By making such a wild conspiracy theory, it distracts from the real issue of America’s foreign policy toward Haiti. Because the US has not allowed the country to be fully sovereign, Haiti couldn’t build proper infrastructure. Having people advocate from Haiti spewing complete nonsensical assumptions only hurts Haiti.
Where is Dr. Alim on the Spiral?
Dr. Alim is a Blue meme spiritual leader. Even though he has an extensive background in science, most of his worldview is under-girded with NOI theology. The world is a dichotomy between the elite and aboriginal people. The elite are all in cahoots to systematically kill and oppress the aboriginals.
In the Crucible, Don Beck speaks of how once one sees the world in a dichotomy, they often dehumanize those seen as others. The dehumanization of others causes much of the “white man is the devil” rhetoric prevalent in the NOI. Even though Dr. Alim is more moderate than the average NOI member, he often indulges in wild conspiracy theories with little evidence. An example of a wild conspiracy theory is the idea that the US government has an earthquake gun.
The super-ordinate goal of Dr. Alim and the NOI is to unite Black America under their brand of Islam. NOI Islam is not the same as orthodox Islam. The most significant theological difference is the belief in “The Wheel,” a giant UFO that houses NOI leaders after death. So the NOI historically was against other versions of Islam. However, Dr. Alim never spoke against other forms of Islam.
One area that does not fit the traditional idea of the Blue Meme is motivation based on fear and guilt. The NOI doesn’t believe in an afterlife. It appears Dr. Alim believes one can live over 100 years with proper diet and exercise. NOI motivates people through the authority of the leaders. Dr. Alim exemplifies the adherence to authority through leadership in how often he references Louis Farrakhan when speaking.
Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad made two bold claims about the industry of HIV treatment. The first is the disease, and the lack of a cure in the 1990s was the result of a conspiracy to kill black people. According to Dr. Alim, the US government created HIV as a depopulation effort. The second claim was he was discriminated against in contracting because he was straight Black Muslim. Both of those claims will be evaluated in more detail.
Was HIV/AIDS a government experiment to kill Black people?
It is not possible to know how AIDS came to be. If it was developed as an instrument of biological warfare, the government would never admit to it. However, one can evaluate the current availability of treatment to determine if there is an effort to cure whites while keeping blacks sick. According to the CDC in 1990 of every 100,000 people that died 10.2 died of HIV. In 2016 of every 100,000 people that died 1.8 died of HIV. So the disease is far less deadly now than at any other time.
The CDC has also created many initiatives to help the Black Community fight HIV/AIDS. One of these initiatives is “Act Against AIDS.” One of the branches focuses on removing the stigma of HIV through internet videos. These videos showcase people of color affected by the disease. They also present HIV information that the average person would not know. Another branch encourages testing and has enlisted singer Trey Songz as a spokesman. Ultimately the CDC is implementing a holistic plan to reduce infection rates in the African-American community.
Part of the reason for such a stiff decline in HIV/ AIDS deaths is the availability of free or low-cost treatment. One of the largest providers of free and low-cost AIDS treatment in the country is the Whitman Walker Clinic. Even during the 1990s two-thirds of their patients were minorities and four-fifths of the people in their assisted housing were black. In 1994, two of the four former presidents of the organization were black. They also had black board members and health care providers. The clinic has expanded to include mental health care and dental care. Whitman Walker is a stellar example of racially aware medical treatment.
There are indeed more Blacks living with HIV by percentage than any other racial group. However, there are also many programs to address the issue in our community spearheaded by government. Concocting wild conspiracy theories or stigmatizing the Black LGBT community as brainwashed is not helping anything. What will help, is reducing stigma and increasing awareness about treatment. There is no grand scheme to kill off blacks with HIV. There is no real evidence that such a plan ever existed.
Was Dr. Alim discriminated against because he was a straight Black Muslim?
Even though Dr. Alim did not receive the multi-million dollar contract to become the District’s primary healthcare provider, he won several smaller contracts. According to the Chicago Tribune he won $213,000 in 1993 and $333,000 in 1994 through the Ryan White Fund.
Dr. Alim was indeed treated unfairly when applying for the 1993 contract for an HIV/AIDS media campaign. He submitted his complaint and the director of the DC HIV/AIDS Agency was forced to resign. His compliant was taken seriously and he was given the contract after the conclusion of the investigation.
Previous medications for AIDS such as AZT and DDC were indeed used for several months before clinical trials began. But when they were implemented in the late 1980s the medical community was desperate for a treatment. By the mid-1990s, there were four medications to treat HIV/AIDS. So there was not the same urgency to move drugs along. The reduction in urgency led to Dr. Alim’s cure having a slower progression through FDA approval.
It is also important to remember the Nation of Islam has made inflammatory statements about Jews, LGBT people, and Whites. The NOI believes that homosexuality is not native to Africa and solely the result of colonization. Even a cursory reading of the Final Call one will find references to “Satanic Jews.” Whites are called “devils” in the teachings of Master Fard Muhammad. Therefore, whites, Jews, and LGBT people have every right to question and work to stop the NOI from gaining influence. Black people would act no differently toward a group that made similar statements about them. Even though the NOI has never acted violently toward any of the groups in question, inflammatory rhetoric can spark a backlash that could impede business deals.
To be clear, the NOI believes homosexuality to not be natural to black people. Colonial brainwashing or the effects of various drugs induce the condition. They believe there is a grand conspiracy to effeminate black men and make black women more masculine. The goal is to reduce the population of black people. Farrakhan liberally uses LGBT slurs in his speeches and links homosexuality to pedophilia. He claims the Jewish Talmud sanctions both abominations. Once one realizes Farrakhan’s position, it makes sense that Jews, and LGBT people fought against him.
It is also unrealistic to think a company headed by a man that publicly accused the government of creating HIV/AIDS to kill black people would have no problems winning government contracts. In reality, if the government wanted to railroad him, that could charge him with slander. The government could have also labeled the NOI a hate group. The fact he won contracts and a medical trial from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows he was not signaled out or there were not a large group of government officials working against him.
Although there was not a grand conspiracy to railroad Dr. Alim arbitrarily because he was a straight Black Muslim, there were people that did not want him to succeed. Their motivation was more than likely due to his public inflammatory statements and genuine concern about how he would treat patients. If a White doctor were part of an organization that made similar statements, blacks would be up in arms and advocating for him not to be awarded contracts.
So if the clinic had any discrepancy in a tax filing, then, of course, people were going to be looking for it. Once found, they would use the harshest penalties to slow down the work of the clinic. It is also possible the NIH purposefully gave the trial oversight to a company in financial trouble. They could have felt political pressure not to deny a black company a trial, so they sandbagged them with a company that was not financially solvent. It is just as possible that they didn’t believe the drug to be effective due to the previous trial by the World Health Organization. No reason to give the best resources or oversight company for a drug that is more than likely, not effective.
It is also odd that if the drug was effective, they had such trouble finding participants for the study. There were over a dozen medical facilities involved with the study all over the nation. Even if the IRS hampered operations at the Abundant Life Clinic, there were two other facilities in the DC area that could participate in the trial, Howard and Georgetown University. With HIV/AIDS being one of the most prevalent diseases in the country, getting 560 patients should have been no problem even with a few clinics out of commission.
It is far more logical the treatment didn’t work, and those that received the treatment did not recommend it to friends that were also suffering. Even in all the articles on the subject reviewed for this blog, only two people claimed to be cured, Lashaun Evans and Demetrius Muhammad. All the other reports of success came from doctors using alpha-interferon therapy. The only evidence from a participant in the clinical trials came from Rocky Thomas that had an eight-year-old daughter with AIDS. In a 2000 article, she said the Kemron only worked for a short amount of time. Then she took her daughter off the medicine because it was ineffective.
Dr. Alim has not used Alpha Interferon therapy since 2009. He uses sour raw milk to treat viral infections. He said in a 2018 interview that if a person takes raw milk and leaves it out for four days at room temperature, it will properly sour. Once a person consumes the sour milk, the body will absorb the proper mix of all the various interferons. There are more than sixteen types of interferon. So Dr. Alim no longer uses Kemron.
Why is this important?
The NOI has performed many vital services for the Black community. They have reformed many people returning from prison, cleaned up drug-infested neighborhoods, and given insightful commentary on the plight of black America. However, they do Black people a disservice by promoting wild over-arching conspiracy theories that all whites or the entire government are conspiring to kill blacks. There have indeed been instances such as “The Tuskegee Experiment” when the medical community has failed Blacks. However, there is no grand conspiracy involving the entire government to kill Black people. A sober evaluation of Dr. Alim and the Kemron trials shows that. Besides, HIV/AIDS is now a completely manageable disease with many avenues to receive free or low-cost care, not the cause of Black genocide.
Currently, the NOI is pushing an anti-vaccination campaign. They are using many of the same wild conspiracy theories used in the 1990s on the origin of AIDS. Now the NOI says that vaccines cause autism. The claim that vaccine caused autism has been debunked since 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Hopefully, parents will do all the proper research before deciding on vaccination.
Not getting vaccinated could be doubly damaging for a community with limited access for healthcare due to poverty. Unfortunately, a group as prominent as the Nation of Islam would not give their followers and supporters all the necessary information. It is even more unfortunate when outlets like “Sway in the Morning” or “The Breakfast Club” help promote misinformation. I am sure the readers of this article will make the right decision in regards to vaccination.
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- Afro-American Red Star “Tenants are Losers” 11-18-1995
- The Washington Post ” Ruling Against Nation of Islam” 12-07-1995
- Baltimore Jewish Times ” NOI Security Lawsuit Dismissed For Lack of Case” D. Conn 05-24-1996
- The Washington Post “Muslim Dopebusters To Widen Patrol; At Rally Leaders Announce They’ll Enter Paradise Manor” J. Rupert 04-30-1988
- The Washington Post “The Uneasy Peace At Clifton Terrace; Muslim Guard in NW Draws Mixed Review” G. Escobar 05-28-1992
- The Washington Post “Urban Problems, Pastoral Settings” K. Harrison 08-20-1992
- The Washington Post “Yo! A Rapper’s Domestic Poliscy Plan; How Clinton Can Bring Hope to Alienated Black America” by Paris (Rapper) 01-03-1993
- Afro-American Red Star “NOI Firm Fights King, ADL” 03-11-1995
- The Washington Post “DC Hires Nation of Islam Guards for SE Complex; Public Housing Chief Cites Patrols’ Success at Other Developments in Nation” V. Loeb 05-04-1995
- The Washington Post “Nation of Islam Guard Stabbed at SE Complex” by R. Cateneda and W. Melillo 05-12-1995
- New Orleans Times-Picayune “DC Residents Firght Development Guards” 05-12-1995
- The Washington Post “Potomac Gardens Quiet After Fights; Residents Ask City Officials to Keep Nation of Islam Guards on Duty” H. Harris 05-13-1995
- The Washington Post “DC Rehires Nation of Islam to Patrol Potomac Gardens” by V. Loeb 05-17-1995
- Afro-American Red Star “Nation of Islam Gets Temporary Contract” J.F. Brown 05-20-1995
- Afro-American Red Star “Potomac Gardens Contract Up For Bid” J.F. Brown 05-27-1995
- The Washington Post “Nation of Islam Security Firm Seeks Backruptcy Protection” by V. Loeb 06-03-1995
- The Washington Post “Off-Duty Police Could Patrol Potomac Gardens” By B. Loeb 06-10-1995
- The Washington Post “Police Start Round the Clock Patrols at Potomac Gardens” by. R.H. Hamil 06-17-1995
- Afro-American Red Star “NOI Security Insecure in USA” G. Gilmore 07-08-1995
- The Washington Post “Ex-Guard Convicted in Assault Case” 07-15-1995
- New Pittsburgh Courier “HUD Orders NOI Contract Termination” by T. Spangler 12-02-1995
- DOPEBUSTER by Richard Muhammad Copyright 2019 printed by 48HrBooks