Malcolm X and the Radicalization of America
Hereâ€”at this final hour, in this quiet placeâ€”Harlem has come to bid farewell to one of its brightest hopesâ€¦ Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did, you would know him. And if you knew him, you would know why we must honor him: Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood! This was his meaning to his people. And, in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves.
Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, rose to become one of the most influential leaders of the twentieth of century.Â The early life and times of Malcolm X reflects the common condition of African American life-racially imposed social, political and economic limitations. This condition, not that dissimilar from todayâ€™s social conditions in Americaâ€™s black ghettos, truncated opportunities available to Malcolm X for realizing his potential, making attractive and more probably and profitable a life of crime and hustling that culminated in his incarceration in prison. Malcolmâ€™s prison experience helped to inform, shape and crystallize his view of race and America. The black prisoner he said â€śsymbolized white societyâ€™s crime of keeping black men oppressed and deprived and ignorant, and unable to get decent jobs, turning them into criminals.â€ť
Thus, Malcolm Xâ€™s prison experience which included his conversion to the Nation of Islam focused made him less hopeful American democracy, causing him to reject calls for racial â€śintegrationâ€ť as an outcome which would undermine the focus and capacity of African Americans to engage in the self-determining activities of nation building: the prerequisite to addressing the social illnesses-crime, violence, family instability, drugs, child abuse and neglect, and collective self-hatred.
On the other hand, Malcolm X was hopeful that the masses of blacks- the â€śField Negroesâ€ť, the â€śgrassrootsâ€ť Frantz Fanonâ€™s â€śWretched of the Earth, todayâ€™s â€śunderclass-â€ś could, with the rights spiritual grounding and moral instructions, take control of their lives and rid themselves of the â€śevils of white society.â€ť Malcolm, to be sure, was a voice for the Â Â black masses.
The eight million nonvoting Negroes are in the majority; they are the downtrodden black masses. The black masses have refused to vote, or to take part in politics, because they reject the Uncle Tom approach of the Negro leadership that has been handpicked for them by the white man. These Uncle Tom leaders do not speak for the Negro majority; they don’t speak for the black masses. They speak for the “black bourgeoisie,” the brainwashed, white minded, middle-class minority who are ashamed of black, and don’t want to be identified with the black masses, and are therefore seeking to lose their “black identity.” by mixing, mingling, intermarrying, and integrating with the white man.
Malcolm spoke with conviction and a moral commitment to improve the lives and life chances of African Americans. He believed that the blacks and other people of color were the rising tide of history. Malcolm X is central to the narrative of the African American Freedom Movement, and the radicalization of students of all color. This month we honor Malcolm X and will examine his contribution to African Americans, America, and the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. We will analyze his classical speeches- Ballot or the Bullet and Message to the Grassroots, his philosophy and that of Martin Luther King, and in looking forward, through his own words, an evaluation of President Barack Obama and the current state of Black America.