Am I My Brother’s Keeper: The House Negro and the Field Negro

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In the hit movie New Jack City, Wesley Snipes stars as Nino Brown, a rising drug dealer
and crime lord in New York City during the beginning of the crack epidemic. Nino
Brown and his gang, the Cash Money Brothers, became the dominant drug ring in New
York City when crack cocaine was introduced to the city streets during the mid and late
1980s. Some say this movie was a dramatized view of drug gangs in Detroit during that
time. My favorite line in the movie was when Nino said, “I have belief in the
entrepreneurial spirit. The new American dream. A toast. A toast to my family, in
life…until death. Happy New Year. To CMB. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Everyone
repeated, “Yes, I am!”
 
Although Nino’s organization was illegal, the brotherhood remained strong until it was
infiltrated with drugs, traders, spies, and what Malcolm would call Uncle Tom Negros
working for the “man.” Soon after, the organization was destroyed. I personally believe
anything corrupt and unrighteous will not last anyway.
 
On February 4, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, Malcolm X gave a speech to the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which was established in 1960. The SNCC
focused more on grassroots campaigns than the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference, another civil rights organization. The speech was entitled “The House Negro
and the Field Negro.”
 
In his speech, Malcolm X spoke to black America in the distinct narrative of the black
slave. Malcolm X highlighted that there were two types of slaves, the house Negro and
the field Negro. The house Negro, according to Malcolm X, had all the benefits and
privileges of the master and lived similar lifestyle. While the field Negro had it extremely
bad and felt the lash of the whip, the house Negro would go to great lengths to protect
his/her master, love his/her master, and take care of his/her master, even to the point of
selling out his/her brethren, the field Negro. The field Negro wished everyday for a better
way and would not blink an eye if the slave master caught a cold or suffered stroke and
died. The field Negro just wanted equality and freedom, hoping for a day when the
oppression and oppressor would end. Malcolm X purports that the house Negro and the
field Negro still exist today.
 
 
Today black America is confronted with the same social, civic, economic, and political
issues prevalent during slavery and during the time of Malcolm X’s speech to the SNCC.
However, we, peoples of African descent, are sometimes our own worst enemy. We tear
each other apart and separate black communities until we are completely divided and
conquered from within. When will the house Negros stop fighting the field Negros? At
the end of the day, black folks have no economic value as a community, no political
influence as a collective body, and no generational wealth centers for economic
prosperity. Are we better off as a people since the signing of the Civil Rights Act? What
happened to lifting as we climb? When one brother or sister succeeds, is not he or she
supposed to reach back and pulls another up? What happened to succession and
succession planning of leadership in black communities? Why are the house Negros still
fighting and looking down on the field Negros while simultaneously forgetting the
struggle, fulfilling the mainstream’s economic agenda.
 
Its time to take off the shackles and take over the house. Harvest time has come. We must
own, grow, and nurture the fields with seeds of prosperity. The cavalry will not come. No
longer can we depend on others to do for us what we can do for ourselves.
If I were a slave during that time, as were some of my ancestors, I would say to the house
Negro, “If you cannot join us field Negros, then we will come after you, the house, and
the master. Which side will you be working on my brother? Am I my brother’s keeper?
Yes, I am!”
 
Contact Ken Harris – President/CEO of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce at (313) 309-3316Email: kharris@michiganblackchamber.com 
Website www.MichiganBlackChamber.com Twitter: @kharris1911

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