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Censorship behind the walls

February 1, 2014

by Robert Saleem Holbrook

'10 Lessons An Introduction to Black History' by Mba Mbulu coverOn Oct. 18, 2013, the Central Office of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections upheld the censorship of the book “10 Lessons: An Introduction to Black History” by Mba Mbulu and refused to give me the book because they allege it contained “racially inflammatory material and/or writings that advocate violence against the government or any of its facilities.” The main pages and chapter identified in the book that contained the prohibited material outlined Cheikh Anta Diop’s “two cradle theory.”

The “two cradle theory” discusses how the different environmental factors in Europe and Africa contributed to the creation of an aggressive and materialist culture in Europe and in Africa a communal and tranquil – though not passive – culture and how these cultures shaped each continent’s institutions and society. Culture, according to the late African revolutionary Amilcar Cabral in “Unity and Struggle,” was a people’s fruit of history and reflects at all times the material and spiritual reality of a society, of the man-individual and the man-social being, faced with conflicts which set them against nature and the imperatives of life in common.

People cannot escape their culture, and the institutions upon which Western Civilization (Europe and United States) is propped up on are the product of centuries of Europe’s and the United States’ plunder and conquest of the world, in particular the people of what we now refer to as the Third World – Africa, Asia, Latin America.

I can understand that it must be disturbing to the Department of Correction’s Central Office to learn how institutions in Europe and, by extension, the United States, function on an ideological posture rooted in white supremacy, for in the United States the philosophical foundation of the modern prison system owes its origins to the philosophical foundation of plantation slavery. The much celebrated 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution merely eliminated one class of slavery – chattel slavery – while legitimizing another class of slavery, penal slavery:

“Section 1: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

It is for this very reason that a book about real Black history would be censored by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Information or programs that teach African empowerment are a direct threat to institutions that function from a white supremacist posture.

PDOC censors Robert Saleem Holbrook's Black history book 101813, excerpt
This is the official reason for denying Holbrook’s appeal – and denying him the book he had purchased to study Black history.

 

What is insulting to me and should be insulting to all Africans is that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections would dare call a historical analysis of our history, based on the “two cradle theory,” racially inflammatory. There is nothing racially inflammatory about African history; and rather than censoring books about Black history, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections should censor every book about American history, for it is American history that is racially inflammatory with its historical treatment of Africans, Native Americans and all people of color who entered this country and empire.

The very process of assimilation or the American “melting pot” theory that is discussed and celebrated in American history books cannot be considered anything other than inflammatory to Africans and all people of color. The process of American assimilation of racial and ethnic minorities into the dominant white culture and society was nothing less than a racial massacre, and the great “melting pot” was cultural genocide!

Information or programs that teach African empowerment are a direct threat to institutions that function from a white supremacist posture.

All one has to do is ask yourself the following question: Have Africans ever used an ideology to dehumanize white people, enslave them, strip them of their culture, murder them in the most barbarous fashion and then refuse to offer any substantive compensation for the atrocities committed on them?

Has the “two cradle theory” been responsible for any of these crimes? Does it advocate any of these crimes? Absolutely not. On the other hand, all of these crimes and atrocities – and more – have been committed and advocated under good old fashioned “Americanism.”

The prosperity and development found in the United States and Europe is not the result of anything superior in Western Civilization that can be traced back to ancient Greece or the European Renaissance, nor is the underdevelopment and poverty found in the Third World, in particular Africa and Latin America, the result of anything inferior in the history or culture of Africans and Indigenous peoples of the world.

Robert Saleem Holbrook, web
Robert Saleem Holbrook
The reality is the prosperity of the United States and Europe can be traced back to the Atlantic slave trade and the plundering of the coasts of West Africa for slaves, as well as the pillage of Latin America by Europeans and later the United States. This is what Western Civilization and its values and institutions rest upon.

We need to start uprooting these predatory American institutions that have a grip on our minds and communities, starting first by censoring “American” values from our minds and institutions. The more our communities started thinking and behaving as Americans, the worse they became and the more distant we’ve grown from one another.

Our African ancestors survived and endured centuries of slavery not by acting and thinking like Americans but by retaining the vestiges of African communalism and familial values while fashioning our own culture of resistance and innovation in the Americas. We must return to this formula.

We will then cease being just communities and instead become “African communities.” Then we can start uprooting the institutions and mentality that make it possible for a book about Black history to be censored on the grounds it contains racially inflammatory material. Let us heed the words of Marcus Garvey: “To see your enemy and know him is part of the complete education of a man (or woman).”

Our African ancestors survived and endured centuries of slavery not by acting and thinking like Americans but by retaining the vestiges of African communalism and familial values while fashioning our own culture of resistance and innovation in the Americas. We must return to this formula.

Send our brother some love and light: Robert Saleem Holbrook , BL-5140, SCI Coal Township, 1 Kelley Dr., Coal Township, PA 17866, email salimmwasi@gmail.com. Visit his website, at www.freesalim.net. Read “Human Rights Coalition sues prison officials for censoring political dissent and human rights advocacy” to learn how Saleem is fighting the censorship.

 

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