The term “race” has inspired a variety of discussions campus, state and nation-wide. Motivational speaker, community activist and minister Caliph Muab-El led one such conversation regarding white supremacy at the Red Gym Thursday.
The interactive talk and workshop, titled “Mechanics of the Mind: Unpacking White Supremacy,” was sponsored by the organization Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment. It was initially supposed to be led by racial justice consultant and trainer Brandi Grayson. However, due to a family emergency, Muab-El stepped in for Grayson.
Muab-El was incarcerated from the ages of 15 to 30. Upon release, he was an imam. He has since become a Grand Sheik and a twice-ordained minister. Named one of the top 44 influential black men in Wisconsin, Muab-El has provided legal counsel, served as a courtroom advocate, mentored inmates and founded men’s groups in the Madison area, according to his introduction at the event.
During the workshop, he prompted the audience with questions regarding etymology, or meanings of terms, starting with the word “black.”
“The truth of the matter is there’s really no such thing as black people,” Muab-El said. “You’re describing people by an adjective, so you’re not identifying the culture, a nationality, a race, anything. You’re describing, specifically, a texture that none of them really are.”
Muab-El also unpacked the term “African-American.” He said being identified by two different continents people of that title are mislabeled by a system that is “setup to make us persons.”
“Persons, as defined by law, doesn’t identify the class, group or people,” Muab-El said. “It identifies commercial property. It’s a fake thing. It’s something that represents a life form, but not the life form itself.”
Other etymology questions led the audience through informative discussions about the meanings of race, white supremacy, culture and patriarchy.
Muab-El delved into the historical and economic roots of white supremacy. He said many of the historical factors that he discussed—including slavery, Morocco’s ancient and continual influence on America’s foundations and the social work of Noble Drew Ali—are excluded from education in order to preserve white supremacist beliefs.
“If you don’t know anything about your past, it’s hard for you to prophesize the future, and you don’t know how to carry that torch,” Muab-El said. “The biggest thing that preserves the lie of white supremacy is ignorance.”
The workshop concluded with a challenge that Muab-El called “Unpacking the Bag” in which the audience was divided into groups and assigned topics from the talk to discuss and then present.
According to Muab-El, people have gotten caught up in other aspects of identity that have led them to lose sight of the singular, unifying human race.
“If you don’t proclaim and you don’t identify who you are, then you can’t expect other people to tell you that, because they’re not going to tell you that, because there’s power in knowing who you are,” Muab-El said.