Shahrazad Ali aka Miss Ali is the author of Blackman’s Guide To Understanding The Blackwoman, Blackwoman’s Guide To Understanding The Blackman, How Not To Eat Pork, and Are You Still A Slave?. In the early 1990s, after being featured on The Phil Donahue Show, Tony Brown’s Journal, The Sally Jessy Raphael Show, and Geraldo, Miss Ali and her books became household names. Quotes from Miss Ali’s books and television appearances were the topic of discussion in The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Newsday, and Newsweek. Recently, after being featured in top selling documentaries Hidden Colors: The Untold History of People of Aboriginal, Moor, and African Descent, Hidden Colors 2: The Triumph of Melanin, and Hidden Colors 3: The Rules of Racism, Miss Ali has returned to the national spot light as a regular guest on HLN’s Dr. Drew’s On Call cable television show. Below is my interview with Shahrazad Ali about her book entitled Are You Still A Slave?
Phillips: In your book entitled Are You Still A Slave?, you suggested that African-Americans are engaged in self-induced, slave-like behaviors. In 2015, do African-Americans still exhibit slave-like behaviors?
Ali: Yes, I still think we have slave-like behaviors and that’s why Are You Still A Slave? is just as relevant today as when it was first published. I encourage your readers to check out my book which is a test book designed to help us discover how much of a slave we are still acting like without a slave master. We need to consider how our ancestral history affects our behavior and decisions. We tend to think that slavery happened so long ago and that slavery has nothing to do with anything happening today. Slavery has an effect on us today because everything we are experiencing now is a result of history. Habits, ideas, and behaviors all have historical perceptive. Over time, things morph into other things but they all have a root. In our case, a lot of our negative behaviors, especially our hatred toward each other, is rooted in our slave history.
Phillips: Can you provide me with some examples from your book that describe current slave-like behaviors?
Ali: In the work environment, in an attempt to get in good with white people, to get a raise, or to get brownie points, we tend to run to white people to report on other black people. Back during the times of slavery, you didn’t get brownie points, slaves reported on other slaves to get a buttered biscuit. So we have traded in the buttered biscuit for brownie points or a possible promotion. Also, when we have a black manager or supervisor, sometimes the black manager will be extra hard on the black employees. The black manager’s extremely negative treatment toward black employees dates back to when slave masters promoted a black person to the position of overseer and the overseer had to prove to the master that he could keep the slaves controlled. We see very similar behavior today with black managers who sometimes pass over qualified black employees and promote a less qualified white employee instead. If the black manager isn’t in the position to hire or promote people, then he or she will still be extra hard on the black employees to exert control.
Much of the hostility that black women have toward black men is rooted in slavery. We were all in the same condition but black men were not able to protect and defend black women. Even though black men couldn’t do anything for themselves, psychologically black women still hold black men responsible for abandoning us during slavery. Black women have deep rooted issues about black men’s failure to protect us even though black men were not in a position of control.
We still buy our children white dolls because we think that white dolls are the most beautiful dolls. We complain about little black girls having white dolls but their black mothers, black fathers, or black grandparents are the ones that are purchasing these white dolls. Children can’t buy their own toys, they don’t have their own money, and they can’t drive themselves to the toy store. It’s not the children’s fault that they have learned to worship white people and to think that white people are better than black people. We are practicing slavery and teaching our children to worship the white woman’s standard of beauty.
Phillips: What are your thoughts on the recently released slave-related movies such as 12 Years A Slave, Belle, and Lincoln?
Ali: It’s all nonsense, just pure nonsense. I knew 12 Years A Slave was going to win all kinds of awards because that’s the theory of slavery that white people want people to believe. Before the main character became a slave, the slave catchers tricked him by taking him to Washington DC and putting him up in a big fancy hotel. In the 1800s, black people weren’t allowed to stay in fancy hotels with white people. Then later in the movie, they woke the slaves up in the middle of the night to come and dance at the big house. In that scene, all the slaves had on pajamas. Come on! It’s Negros today that ain’t got no pajamas!
During the day, all of the slaves wore perfectly pressed and starched outfits. All of the men were clean shaven and all of the slaves’ hair was combed. Give me a break! That’s the kind of slavery that Hollywood wants the younger generation to believe existed. Twenty years from now, children who watch 12 Years A Slave might not think slavery was that bad. After all, you had a roof over your head and food to eat. They are trying to convince us that slavery was about being forced to work, which it was not. Slavery was the robbery of our culture, our diet, our names, our God, our language, our politics, and our story. Slavery was the complete removal of everything that we stood for and our belief system.
All of these movies were ‘docu-dramas’ and complete lies. In these movies, it’s usually a master or some white person that comes to save us. In reality, nobody had mercy on us. The preachers didn’t have mercy for us. None of the men of God in the white community had mercy for us. So that’s all a lie. When movies are released about the Jewish Holocaust, the films clearly show the harsh and brutal realities of what occurred to the Jewish people. But our movies don’t show the full brutality of our experience that we suffered. Hollywood always makes us soften up our experience and makes it appear like it wasn’t really that bad. They will make it look like the slaves had a place to stay, food, and everybody has a little garden to work in beside their home. And they will try to slip in a happy ending. But how can we believe Hollywood’s depiction of slavery when slaves didn’t have half of the rights that we have now? So how did slaves have all of these comforts (pressed clothes, shaved faces, combed hair, and pajamas) during the height of slavery? All of these slave ‘docu-drama’ movies shouldn’t be shown to our children because they do nothing but confuse our children about our experience during slavery.
Phillips: What should African-Americans do to overcome behaving like slaves?
Ali: That’s a hard question because everything that we should do, we aren’t going to do. That’s the problem. We have some of the solutions but we are afraid to trust and support each other. We can’t get ahead in business because of trust and support issues. In 2015, I’m challenging black people to spend one day a week purchasing items or services from black businesses. All the other days, we are giving our money away to white folks and Asians. Also, we’ve got to stop laughing at the brothers who are vending on the street. That’s how white men gained wealth, they started out as street vendors and merchants which they turned into chains of retail stores.
I’ve got a few suggestions for some of us to stop behaving like slaves. We can stop celebrating all the white people holidays. We can stop eating slavery food and claiming that it’s for our soul and calling it “Soul Food.” We need to stop eating pork, butter beans, chitterlings, and black eye peas. We are eating filth and then we brag about how good the filth tastes. We need to stop jumping the broom at our weddings. We’ll have a $50,000 wedding and then bring slavery into the ceremony. We had to jump the broom because the slave master wouldn’t allow us to get legally married. Jumping the broom is nothing to celebrate and shouldn’t be included in modern marriage celebrations. Let’s take down the pictures of white Jesus in our homes and churches and put up a picture of a black man. But we don’t want to do that because we can’t imagine that a black man is holy because we hate ourselves.
We can stop dying our hair blonde. We can stop putting on all of this fake hair. We don’t just want to have long hair, like white women, we want to have really long hair. We’ve got hair hanging all over the place. Some sisters have hair that’s so long that it’s touching the ground and falling in the toilet when they are in the bathroom. And all of this is another example of black women trying to mimic white women. What we are really saying is that we accept the white standard of beauty. Tiny, TI’s wife went to Africa to have silicon put in her eyes to change her eye color from dark brown to grey. She wants to look like a white woman so bad that she is willing to risk her eye sight. The only person we know in the black community that has grey eyes is Smokey Robinson.
We need to stop buying our children white dolls and books filled with white characters. We need to buy them black dolls and books with characters that look like people that they know. We need our children to establish their own identity. Children shouldn’t spend their entire childhood pretending to be someone else.
Phillips: Do you think women who wear weaves or relax their hair are exhibiting slave-like behaviors?
Ali: Yes. Last year, I was on Dr. Drew’s On Call television show on HLN. I made a comment to Dr. Drew that the person to blame for all of these weaves and relaxers is Madame C.J. Walker. I’m not trying to throw her under the bus but she gets so much praise for being the first black female millionaire. Madame C.J. Walker set us on a path of hating our hair, wanting to change the texture, not accepting our hair as it was naturally, and trying to make our hair look like white women’s hair. When we make our hair look like white women’s hair, we call it “manageable.” What Madame C.J. Walker started led to the chemical relaxer, the weave, and black women dying their hair blonde.