“We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind.”
These words, spoken by Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican political activist, publisher, journalist, and founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) back in 1937, are a lesson we would do well to remember, reflect on, and heed.
The ideology of white supremacy is no secret. It is the belief that white people are the superior human race and should be the dominant group in society, especially over Black people. It is a system put in place and held in place by those in power. And even though it doesn’t (always) parade itself around in tall white hoods in the 21st century, the foundation of this belief is still very much ingrained in society. It is evident in the racial disparities and institutional bias we see in our justice system, health care system…even the housing market. It is a system designed for white people by white people.
While one remains hopeful that society and the world, in general, are moving in a positive direction where racism and discrimination will not be tolerated in any way, shape, or form – the truth is, it will always be there. There will always be those who believe they are inherently better than others based solely on the lightness of their skin. And whether intentionally or not, they will remind you of that every chance they get.
And when someone tells you who you are over and over again, eventually, you start to believe it about yourself. You become trapped within your mind, a slave to this falsehood being perpetrated about you. And those mental chains can be a powerful tool to limit and oppress you in ways that physical chains cannot.
We must fight against this bondage of the mind. We must replace those voices that tell us we are less than or unworthy. We must stop waiting or expecting or hoping that the tools needed for true freedom will come from those who put us in this cage to begin with.
We must know our value. We must know our worth. We must find a new way of thinking – a new way of being. As Marcus Garvey said and Bob Marley sang, “emancipate yourself from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds.”