We reprinted this piece by the late, great Dr. Amos Nelson Wilson in the interest of getting our minds right for the new year. Wilson was an African-American theoretical psychologist, social theorist, Pan-African thinker, scholar and author. He was much beloved as a learned man who was a direct and cogent speaker, arming the people with knowledge while communicating his love and commitment. His words, prescient then, are still widely true, although not of every person or perspective.
Dr. Amos Wilson, Our Time Press —-1999?
“I’m often somewhat amused and taken aback by the number of people in this society who claim that slavery occurred somewhere back then. …And you see them ultimately justifying the poverty of African people and justifying the political and social and economic subordination of African people in the name of some kind of higher principle. So, the experience of slavery is not supposed to be operating in the mentality of Black folks. You hear a lot of youngsters saying that as well. “Why do you talk about slavery? That was back there.” Or you hear whites say, “Slavery was back there. We don’t have anything to do with that anymore.” This is an amazing situation because we have to remind them that you’re still living off the interest of the wealth that your forefathers earned from slavery. You’re still enjoying the accumulated wealth that began with the enslavement of our people. And if you’re going to enjoy the wealth that was generated by evil then you must take the curse that comes along with it.
“…Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve never escaped slavery. We still share the slave consciousness of our great-great-grandparents. We are of the same mind to a great extent that they were. We have not advanced beyond these people. How can I say that? I generally ask a series of questions. You say that slavery has nothing to do with you and that slavery was back there. I ask you what language do you speak? When did you learn that language? Was that the language African people were speaking when we were taken into slavery in America? In other words, the language we speak at this moment is a slave language. The language that our slave ancestors were forced to learn. And we still speak it and you can still hear the pidgin, the Creole and the other kinds of stuff in our language right now. That language with its words defined by history and by experience is the language we use today to guide our behavior. It’s the language we use today to talk to ourselves. It’s the language we use today to learn about ourselves and to learn about the world. It’s the language we use to try to understand ourselves. Is there no wonder then that we are still confused? So, we have not escaped slavery because we are still using a slave language, and we speak the language of slaves.
“What kind of food do you eat? You say, “soul food?” Was that the food of African people? Slave food. The food that we find most satisfying. The food that we find that sticks to our ribs. The food that we call “down home.” A food that we learned to eat in the quarters. And yet we dare say that we have escaped slavery. That we have nothing to do with those people back there. When our whole very social life and social relationships, our very definition of ourselves as a people, our very attempt to commune with ourselves is mediated by the food of slaves. How can you say you exist in a different consciousness from another people?
“What kind of uniforms are we wearing? What kind of clothes are we wearing? Were these the clothes of African people? This is what we’ve got to look at. What kind of names do we respond to? …Why is it that African names sound strange to us now as a people? And yet we dare say we have a different consciousness from our great-grandparents. How can we say that? We are still in the same consciousness and we are still in the same position. Because we are still servants of the white man, and our reason for being in America is to serve white folks and to generate wealth for them. And there has been no change at all in terms of our relationship to these people.
“The values that we pursue are slave values and the values of servants. The social relations that we create and interact with were built and developed during the period of slavery. We have not escaped it at all. But it is time for us to change the slave consciousness. This consciousness of servitude that is still too much with us today.
“And ultimately we ask the question that is closest to home for a lot of people. When we claim that we have escaped slavery and that slavery was something back there, which has nothing to do with us today, and then I ask you the question, “What kind of God do you worship?” What’s the name of Him? Who taught you to praise Him? Was this the God you were praying to before you were brought to these shores? Is this the religion you had before you were brought to these shores? Can you name one African God? How can you then define yourself, the very essence of yourself, and the very essence of your soul and organize the very nature of your life here on earth based on a God handed to us by our slave masters and claim that you have no slave consciousness and are not related to slavery? In other words, then ladies and gentlemen, we are not Africans.
“We are possessed by spirits and demons. We have let another peoples spirit take possession of our bodies and take possession of our minds. When we speak, it is not with our African voice, it is with the voice of the demonic presence that uses our lips to speak its own language. We have to recognize this. We are possessed. If we are to transform ourselves and transform the nature of our relationship with those who are our masters, we must engage in an exorcism and clear the devils out of our minds.”