This weekend will mark a historic milestone in human achievement and accomplishment, it’s my birthday. However, instead of engaging in the usual shameless self-promotion that marks the Abdul existence the other 364 days of the year, I decided to give you a gift. That gift is an explanation of how I became me. No I don’t mean the rocketship that landed in Kansas, or the cosmic rays, the gamma bomb explosion or the radioactive spider. I am talking about my political bent. You have to admit, it’s not every day you come across a guy named Abdul-Hakim Shabazz with a conservative-libertarian political bent.
In fact, in my younger days you would have probably mistaken me for Bobby Seale or Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. provided they had a jheri curl and wore a Members Only jacket. I freely admit I was a lot more liberal in my teenager years. I wasn’t quite ready to lead the Black Liberation Army, but we were moving up the ranks rather quickly.
So what happened?
In the late 1980s, my Dad’s government obligations had us relocate to Europe. We lived in West Germany and I attended college in Munich. While there, I did a lot of traveling, particularly behind the old Iron Curtain. Most revealing for me was a trip to Prague in what used to be Czechoslovakia. We were taking a tour of the city when I saw hundreds of people in a line outside of store. I asked the tour guide what they were in line for? I thought they were there for concert tickets, but it wasn’t, it was shoes. He told me people stand in line for hours for shoes and are lucky to find two the same size. To add insult to injury, this was during the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Revolution so there were giant banners of Lenin all over the place.
That image was fresh in my mind when I came back to the United States to finish my education. I was attending Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb, Ill., right outside Chicago. I had discovered talk radio and was listening to WVON-AM, the urban talk station out of the city on which I heard a steady stream of people complaining about how miserable their lives were and how white folks wouldn’t give them anything. After seeing real poverty abroad, I couldn’t believe how people here whined that they weren’t getting enough food stamps and government assistance. I found it annoying and insulting but that’s not what pushed me over the edge.
What sealed the deal for me was my attempt to join a “black” campus organization. My Dad had encouraged me to join one of those groups, so I decided to follow his advice and re-establish my “roots.” The first meeting was like something out a bad Spike Lee film. Here I am in a room full of young students, who for most were the first generation of their family to go to college, so they are under tremendous pressure. And the fact they are city/urban kids going to school in predominantly rural environment didn’t help. So what message do they get from the cast extras from a “Different World” who were running the meeting? Instead of one of encouragement and support they get the “You know these white people don’t want you here. They just want your money and then they will kick you out. The only people that really care about you are us. Any questions?”
That is when I politely stood up and said, “You Negroes cannot be serious!” And left. I could not believe the idiocy I was hearing. Instead of encouragement and support, these guys were perpetuating the victim mentality. These kids needed hope and reassurance, not fear mongering.
I switched my major from engineering and computer science to broadcasting, excited that way I could bring a different message of self-empowerment and assurance to folks who truly needed it. There was no need to wait on anyone to do something for you when you are perfectly capable of doing it yourself. And to top it off, there was nothing more fun than writing a television commentary or newspaper column to tell the poverty pimps and enablers that they were full of you know what.
The same thing was true for graduate school, law school and most of my professional commentator life. I have been preaching the message of self-reliance, individual liberty and personal responsibility. And embedded in that is an empathy for individuals who are truly in need that we as a society should do all we can to help lift them up so they can stand on their own two feet.
Yes, I get a lot of grief for having my opinions, but I came by them honestly and I don’t apologize for them. I truly believe the best political philosophy is one that believes the answers to society’s problems lie in the individual who doesn’t sit around waiting for others or the government to do something for them and then complaining when it doesn’t happen.
I’ve thought this way for 20 years and I honestly think if more people did, this world would be much better off, or at least mine would.