You Can’t Hate The Roots Of A Tree, Without Hating The Tree
Now and then the editors of The Black Star News retrieve a classic from the archives to nourish contemporary minds; here is one of Malcolm X’s brief and brilliant pieces.
Why should the Black man in America concern himself since he’s been away from the African continent for three or four hundred years? Why should we concern ourselves?
What impact does what happens to them have upon us? Number one, you have to realize that up until 1959 Africa was dominated by the colonial powers. Having complete control over Africa, the colonial powers of Europe projected the image of Africa negatively.
They always project Africa in a negative light: jungle savages, cannibals, nothing civilized. Why then, naturally it was so negative that it was negative to you and me, and you and I began to hate it. We didn’t want anybody telling us anything about Africa, much less calling us Africans.
In hating Africa and in hating the Africans, we ended up hating ourselves, without even realizing it. Because you can’t hate the roots of a tree, and not hate the tree. You can’t hate your origin and not end up hating yourself. You can’t hate Africa and not hate yourself.
You show me one of these people over here who has been thoroughly brainwashed and has a negative attitude toward Africa, and I’ll show you one who has a negative attitude toward himself. You can’t have a positive attitude toward yourself and a negative attitude toward Africa at the same time. To the same degree that your understanding of and attitude toward Africa become positive, you’ll find that your understanding of and your attitude toward yourself will also become positive.
And this is what the white man knows. So they very skillfully make you and me hate our African identity, our African characteristics. You know yourself; that we have been a people who hated our African characteristics. We hated our hair, we hated the shape of our nose, we wanted one of those long doglike noses, you know; we hated the color of our skin, hated the blood of Africa that was in our veins. And in hating our features and our skin and our blood, why, we had to end up hating ourselves.
And we hated ourselves.
Our color became to us a chain–we felt that it was holding us back; our color became to us like a prison which we felt was keeping us confined, not letting us go this way or that way. We felt all of these restrictions were based solely upon our color, and the psychological reaction to that would have to be that as long as we felt imprisoned or chained or trapped by Black skin, Black features, and Black blood, that skin and those features and that blood that was holding us back automatically had to become hateful to us. And it became hateful to us.
It made us feel inferior; it made us feel inadequate; it made us feel helpless. And when we fell victims to this feeling of inadequacy or inferiority or helplessness, we turned to somebody else to show us the way. We didn’t have confidence in another Black man to show us the way, or Black people to show us the way. In those days we didn’t. We didn’t think a man could do anything except play some horns–you know, make sound and make you happy with some songs and in that way.
But in serious things, where our food, clothing, and shelter, and education were concerned, we turned to the man. We never thought in terms of bringing these things into existence for ourselves, we never thought in terms of doing things for ourselves. Because we felt helpless.
What made us feel helpless was our hatred for ourselves.
One of the things that made the Black Muslim movement grow was its emphasis upon things African. This was the secret to the growth of the Black Muslim movement. African blood, African origin, African culture, African ties.
And you’d be surprised–we discovered that deep within the subconscious of the Black man in this country, he is still more African than he is American. He thinks that he’s more American than African, because the man is jiving him, the man is brainwashing him every day.
He’s telling him, “You’re an American, you’re an American.” Man, how could you think you’re and American when you haven’t ever had any kind of an American tree over here? You have never, never. Ten men can be at a table eating, you know, dining, and I can come and sit down where they’re dining. They’re dining; I’ve got a plate in front of me, but nothing is on it.
Because all of us are sitting at the same table, are all us are diners? I’m not a diner until you let me dine. Then I become a diner. Just being at the table with others who are dining doesn’t make me a diner, and this is what you’ve got to get in your head here in this country. Just because you’re in this country doesn’t make you an American.
No, you’ve got to go farther than that before you can become an American. You’ve got to enjoy the fruits of Americanism. You haven’t enjoyed those fruits. You’ve enjoyed the thorns. You’ve enjoyed the thistles. But you have not enjoyed the fruits; no sir.
So I point these things out brothers and sister so that you and I will know the importance of in 1965 being in complete unity with one each other, harmony with each another, and not letting the man maneuver us into fighting one another.
I say again that I’m not a racist. I don’t believe in any form of segregation or anything like that. I’m for the brotherhood for everybody, but I don’t believe in forcing brotherhood upon people who don’t want it. So long as we practice brotherhood among ourselves, and then others who want to practice brotherhood with us, we practice it with them also; we’ll work for that.
But I don’t think that we should run around trying to love somebody who doesn’t love us.
Some of Malcolm X’s classics:
You Can’t Hate the Roots of a Tree
The Oxford Debate
Ossie Davis’s Eulogy
This Article was reposted from Black Star News.
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“Speaking Truth To Power.”