By Rev. John Jackson
The African Apostle, Paul, wrote in Romans 12:2 these words: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
The late Dr. Bobby Wright, a giant and jegna of Black liberation and African-centered psychology and education, once coined a term he called “menticide.” Dr. Wright defined menticide as, “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a person’s or group’s mind [which] may give a clue to why the Black race, after developing such an advanced civilization, has for the last 400 years been assisting in its own destruction and the nearly total subjugation of Africa by foreign invaders.” (Please read his classic book “The Psychopathic Racial Personality”).
The systemic strategy of white hate, white nationalism and racism has as its first responsibility the subjugation of the minds of people of African ancestry. The subjugation of the mind allows the perpetual subjugation of the body and life of people of African ancestry.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson wrote in his classic work “The Miseducation of The Negro” these haunting words:
“If you can control a man’s thinking, you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think, you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.”
The continued assault on the psyche of people of African ancestry through methods that constantly position European standards to the center through continued centering of European images of beauty, the continued bombardment of the mental consciousness of Black people with criminal behavior or framing Black resistance efforts as violent or law breaking, has an effect on Black people and also shapes how others who are not Black view Black people.
That is why Black people do not know their ancestral names, or communities and ways of being as African people, because the strategy of robbing Africans of the names, their cultural contributions and the various languages that African people communicated in was designed to detach Black people from their center by attacking the mind. And the center of any people is their cultural and historical identity.
It is no wonder then that many Black people either are not interested in the great legacy of being the people who invented the mathematical concept of Pi, who created the disciplines of Philosophy, Psychology, Archeology, Astronomy, Geology, Theology and all the others. That is why many Black people either are not interested in the history of people of African ancestry or find it hard believing Black people actually were at the apex of human development and at the center of the creation of civilization.
As I write these words I am cognizant of the fact that there are Black people who will not finish this article or will ignore it altogether, saying to themselves, “I don’t need to hear all that Black stuff…” That in itself proves Dr. Woodson’s point about controlling one’s thinking and Dr. Wright’s point about menticide.
As Black History month, created by Dr. Carter G. Woodson as Negro History Week, draws near, remember it was created by Woodson to be a moment that would fuel and refuel the continuous study, research and retelling of the great legacy of people of African ancestry. It was created to be a reference point for Black people to embody the Sankofa bird’s message which is, “to go back and fetch what you left behind in order to move forward.”
It is important to point out that truth in education and research has been under attack since the theft of this land from the indigenous people and the false framing of those people as savages. The truth of accurate retelling of this nation’s history has also systematically and deliberately been hidden from white citizens and others who have emigrated to these shores and been replaced by false myths of “taming the west,” “Pilgrims and Thanksgiving,” and Christopher Columbus’ so-called “discoveries.” The reason is that there are people who rake in huge profits from the intentional dumbing down of the nation.
The racist Governor of Florida has just issued an order (that won’t stand up in court) to deny colleges and universities in Florida from teaching Black history, or Africana studies. He and the governor of Texas, among others, are pushing through House Bill 1006, which is designed to disinvest in DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion). If this bill passes, it will end DEI in all secondary school’s educational curriculums.
Finally, this is why Black religion and the Black church have been so essential to Black life. Authentic Black worship and prophetic Black preaching have always been a source of cultural memory, from the liberation of the body to freely move in worship to the renewing of the minds of Black people through relevant Black preaching and teaching. That preaching and teaching taught Black people that “you did not begin in slavery. Your history began when God scooped up dirt from the ground of central Africa and formed humanity in God’s image.”
We will examine the freeing of the mind in subsequent articles, but let me close with a quote from Mari Evans’ poem Speak Truth to the People. “To identify the enemy is to free the mind of the people. Free the mind of the people. Speak to the mind of the people. Speak truth.”
The prophetic preaching of the Black church’s authentic Black worship speak truth to the people by speaking to the mind of the people, or as that African Paul said, “Transforms by the renewing of the mind.” Free your mind, and your behind will follow!