The Movement at Hand. Book Review and Summation of Manning Marable’s ‘Malcolm X.’

11 08 2016

Book Review and Summation of Manning Marable’s ‘Malcom X.’


“The police in Harlem, their presence is like occupying forces, like an occupying army.”  Malcolm linked the African-American struggle to the Chinese and Cuban revolutions.  “The people of China grew tired of their oppressors and rose up.  They didn’t rise up nonviolently.  When Castro was up in the mountains in Cuba, they told him the odds were against him.  Today, he’s sitting in Havana and all the power this country has can’t remove him.”


“All the countries that are emerging today from under colonialism are turning toward socialism.  I don’t think it’s an accident.”  He made the connection between racial oppression and capitalism, saying, “It’s impossible for a white person to believe in capitalism and not believe in racism.”  Those committed to racial equality are mostly socialist.  During Malcom’s time, the Black Freedom Movement had focused on legal rights and legislative reform but would ultimately have to take aim at America’s private enterprise system.  The struggle against U.S. imperialism for people of color and other minorities around the world is the ultimate struggle for equality and freedom.  The capitalist system in the U.S. cannot and will not produce freedom for these non-privileged groups.


Malcolm was also known for his “Zionist Logic” which is something taking hold of most activists and movements groups today that are supporting equality.   He denounced Israeli Zionism as a “new form of colonialism,” designed to deceive the African masses into submitting willingly in their “divine” authority and guidance.”  Israel combined with U.S. imperialism makes friendly offers of economic aid, and other tempting gifts to dangle in front of newly emerging, struggling African nations.  Countries that take the bait are participants in “Zionist dollarism” which led the military occupation of Arab Palestine, an act of aggression for which there existed “no intelligent or legal basis in history, not even in their own religion.”


Malcolm constantly went through transformations of character and intellect that aligned him with the equality and plights of freedom of more groups of people.  “Under the Nation of Islam I lived within the narrow-minded confines of the ‘straight-jacketed’ world.  I represented and defended things that were beyond levels of intellect or reason.”  Malcolm vowed he would “never rest until I have undone the harm I did to so many innocent Negroes.”  New political goals emerged for Malcolm that put him firmly on the side of main stream civil rights.  “I am not anti-American, un-American, seditious nor subversive.  I don’t but the anti-capitalist propaganda of the communist, nor do I buy the anti-communist propaganda of capitalists.  I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole whether they are capitalist, communist, socialist.  They all have assets as well as liabilities.”  Malcolm found this pathway traveling abroad and through Islam where he saw people of all colors and backgrounds praying to one god which was always a profound experience for him coming from the advanced racist environment of the U.S.  Even with his self-identity tied to Islam he believed that: “I am a Muslim who believes whole heartily that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Last Messenger of Allah, yet some of my very dearest friends are Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Agnostics, and atheists.  Some are capitalists, socialists, conservatives, extremists.  Some are even Uncle Toms.  Some are black, brown, red, yellow, and even some are white.  It takes all these religious, political, economic, psychological and racial ingredients and characteristics to make the Human Family and the Human Society complete.”


Malcolm’s strength was his ability to reinvent himself in order to function and thrive in a wide variety of environments.  He carefully crafted his physical presentation, how he approached others, and drew often from his past experiences and improved upon them moving forward.  His narrative was that of suffering and resistance and tragedy and triumph.  He lived like a traveling musician going constantly from city to city performing on various stages manipulating his melodic tenor voice as an instrument that conveyed the anger and impatience the black masses felt.  It was easy for impoverished African Americans to listen to Martin Luther King Jr. as King was from a well-educated, affluent, middle class background.  It was a natural symbiotic connection for people to follow Malcolm.  He did not complete high school and was primarily educated in prison.  He spoke the language of the people because he lived their experiences in foster homes, prisons, unemployment lines, etc.  He sharply condemned middle class and privileged blacks for their lack of integrity and accountability when it came to looking out for the masses of their poor and working class people, and for their compromises with white power brokers.  Malcolm was clearly a man among and for the people.


Both leaders expressed their pragmatic visions for equality in different ways.  King’s message was one of the historic struggle of African Americans for full equality.  His followers were willing to protest non-violently, and even die, to bring to life the promise of “All Men Are Created Equal” by the Founding Fathers.  He created black political organizations and his emphasis was on the achievement of desegregation and interracial cooperation.  King never pitted blacks against whites or used the atrocities committed by extremist whites as justification for condemning all whites.  Malcolm on the other hand, sought to place whites on the defensive in their relationship to African Americans and came across as militant in his demands for equality.  Malcolm proposed that the oppressed had a natural right to self-defense, especially within the confines of structural racism that spanned from the transatlantic slave trade to ghettoization.  His remedy was black reparations and compensation for the years of exploitations these people had endured.  These changes didn’t have to come about violently but they did need to come about radically.  He lived, felt through him, and relayed the message of the varied emotions and frustrations of the black poor and working class.  His constant message was black pride, self-respect, and an awareness of one’s heritage.  He gave a new generation of people from African descent a new found confidence and expression for the foundation of a continued and powerful black power movement that can be seen today in movements such as Black Lives Matters.


Malcolm intentionally stood up to and challenged the United States government and American institutions.  As a result, he was illegally wire tapped, surveilled, and disrupted at all times by the law that surpassed anything anybody in a “free” society would deem appropriate.  The cost was that upon his death he was labeled a radical, out of control, irresponsible demagogue that was stereotyped for his racial extremism.  The illogical term of “reverse racism” throw around by many out of touch privileged whites comes to mind.  By contrast after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., he was remembered as a fierce proponent of the Vietnam War and a defender of civil rights within a color blind America.  Eventually a national government holiday was dedicated to his life of public service and although every government official embraces King they rarely examine his fierce impatience with racial injustice and its relevance to our times thus missing much of the essence and content and controversy of what King stood for.  One might ask, who is this a convenient holiday for?  As King was celebrated and Malcolm despised, despite the labeling by privileged America, Malcolm became a symbol of black encouragement, who fearlessly challenged racism boldly whereever it was found.  He gave rise to the power of the voting black electorate in politics that could potentially be the balance of power in a divided white republic and was responsible for such things as the rise of Jessie Jackson and Barack Obama.


Malcolm’s revolutionary vision confrontationally challenged white America to think and talk differently about race.  Before any such term of “white privilege” existed Malcolm challenged whites to examine the policies and practices of racial discrimination and its destructive effects upon both its victims and promulgators.  He was hopeful that whites could overcome centuries of negative socialization toward blacks and profoundly believed in the all important element of intersectionality where all movements are one and working together for justice.  This was displayed by Malcolm moving beyond the U.S. government in terms of achieving racial justice.  His work in Africa and around the world established a world movement for human rights.  The United Nations and mass movements was what would influence nations.  In an interesting note, the al-Qaeda terrorist network even finds common ground with these beliefs making sharp distinctions between mainstream African-American leaders like Barack Obama vs revolutionary leaders like Malcolm X.  Obama being seen as a race traitor while leaders like Malcolm actually promoting the plight of his people.  Not that being recognized by al-Qaeda is something to boast about but when there are shared values by Americans and al-Qaeda that is definitely something worth noting and going after.


Malcolm X was truly a revolutionary leader who gave power to his people, and all people who were not given equality in their place and time.  His personal journey was one of constant self-discovery and re-birth.  As he progressed and transformed, he saw the errors of his past ways and was led very much toward peace and away from violence.  Manning Marable’s “Malcom X” sheds light on the Malcolm in the flesh, the Malcolm legacy, and establishes a precedent for future study on the man and his tactics for bringing about human rights.





One response

16 02 2017

Reblogged this on The Avid Fan.

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