Remembering Malcolm X

“Here – at this final hour, in this quiet place – Harlem has come to bid farewell to one of its brightest hopes -extinguished now, and gone from us forever. For Harlem is where he worked and where he struggled and fought – his home of homes, where his heart was, and where his people are – and it is, therefore, most fitting that we meet once again – in Harlem – to share these last moments with him. For Harlem has ever been gracious to those who have loved her, have fought her, and have defended her honor even to the death.
It is not in the memory of man that this beleaguered, unfortunate, but nonetheless proud community has found a braver, more gallant young champion than this Afro-American who lies before us – unconquered still. I say the word again, as he would want me to : Afro-American – Afro-American Malcolm, who was a master, was most meticulous in his use of words. Nobody knew better than he the power words have over minds of men. Malcolm had stopped being a ‘Negro’ years ago. It had become too small, too puny, too weak a word for him. Malcolm was bigger than that. Malcolm had become an Afro-American and he wanted – so desperately – that we, that all his people, would become Afro-Americans too.

There are those who will consider it their duty, as friends of the Negro people, to tell us to revile him, to flee, even from the presence of his memory, to save ourselves by writing him out of the history of our turbulent times. Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy, controversial and bold young captain – and we will smile. Many will say turn away – away from this man, for he is not a man but a demon, a monster, a subverter and an enemy of the black man – and we will smile. They will say that he is of hate – a fanatic, a racist – who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say to them : 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. Last year, from Africa, he wrote these words to a friend: ‘My journey’, he says, ‘is almost ended, and I have a much broader scope than when I started out, which I believe will add new life and dimension to our struggle for freedom and honor and dignity in the States. I am writing these things so that you will know for a fact the tremendous sympathy and support we have among the African States for our Human Rights struggle. The main thing is that we keep a United Front wherein our most valuable time and energy will not be wasted fighting each other.’ However we may have differed with him – or with each other about him and his value as a man – let his going from us serve only to bring us together, now.

(Ossie Davis, 1965)

A MODERN DAY EMMETT LOUIS TILL?: THE LYNCHING OF KINGSTON FRAZIER

Although I doubt it, however, it is fully within the realm of possibility that my fiery reaction to the lynching of 6-year-old Kingston Frazier in Jackson, Mississippi, is due to my knowledge of Emmett Louis Till’s lynching. These horrific crimes have several obvious corollaries.

  • Both lynchings occurred in the state of Mississippi.
  • Both of the victims were African-American children.
  • A mere 200 miles separate the dastardly crime scenes.
  • Kingston and Emmett were both snatched from the bosom of protection that family provides by a sinister element.
  • The lynchers of both of these African-American males should be considered domestic terrorists as their evil deeds are focused on exterminating a particular American population.

Relatively speaking, Emmett Louis Till’s offenses of touching the hand of Carolyn Bryant and offering a simple “goodbye” as he exited a convenience store are executable offenses when compared to 6-year-old Kingston Frazier’s offense of sleeping in the backseat of his mother’s vehicle as it was stolen. Surveillance tapes indicate that in the few moments that Kingston’s mother entered a grocery store, some thief stole the car that 6-year-old Kingston Frazier, one day away from his first-grade graduation, was slumbering in.

Once these thieves realized that a child was asleep in the back of the vehicle, they hastily ditched the vehicle on a dead end road and prepared for a hasty exit. Unfortunately for all of America, these criminals made the damning decision that their best chance of making a ‘clean get away’ was to pump a bullet into the head of young Kingston Frazier who was hopefully still slumbering in the backseat.

As previously mentioned, this barbaric crime reverted my mind to the lynching of Emmett Louis Till; however, there is one significant difference between Emmett Louis Till’s lynching in Money, Mississippi, and Kingston Frazier’s lynching; those responsible for the latter’s death were not member of some white supremacist group, in fact, they were not white at all, Kingston Frazier’s executioners were young African-American males.

When I heard about this abominable crime, there was a part of me that needed to see those responsible for it. A brief search presented a short video of the three culprits: Dwan Diondro Wakefield (17), DeAllen Washington (17) and Byron McBride Jr. As I viewed the video clip, I was shocked that I did not recognize any of these men; meaning that I did not recognize their demeanor, their posture or movements as none of them reflected the dignity, class, and refinement of the generations of black men that socialized me regarding what it meant to be a black man in America.

Kingston Frazier’s lynching by three young African-American males validates W.E.B. Du Bois’ piercing insight of what those who adopt their oppressors perspective become. I am certain that many are questioning my repeated use of the word lynching regarding this crime and may feel that the characterization is unwarranted. I feel that such contestation is wrong-headed for several reasons. When one considers that the definition of lynching is the killing of a person by a group due to some alleged offense or crime, the murder of Kingston Frazier reaches that threshold as he was killed by several individuals for the most daunting and unavoidable crime of all, being young, black, and male in a land whose inhabitants, regardless of their race/ethnicity, have decided that such descriptors add up to worthlessness and irrelevancy. Put simply, a vast swath of the American citizenry, many of whom are black, have been socialized to believe that persons of African descent do not have the right to live. In his timeless classic The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois describes this infectious affliction when he observes that “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”

There is no other reasonable explanation for the actions of Dwan Diondro Wakefield (17), DeAllen Washington (17) and Byron McBride Jr. than to accept the unavoidable reality that their mindset and perspective regarding fellow African-Americans closely mirrors that of white bigots raised inside a nation where both academic lessons and social customs contribute to a denigration of African-American males. Such reasoning is a sensible explanation that explains why African-American males commonly view, treat, and consider one another as mortal enemies worthy of an excruciating death.

If African-Americans were not afflicted with a psychosis that causes them to hate one another with a vile and insanely jealous hatred, the lynching of Kingston Frazier would lead to a mobilization resembling that which occurred in the wake of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant’s lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Louis Till. The fact that as a collective we will do nothing more than take a momentary pause and issue a cowardly non-specific prayer regarding this matter speaks volumes about how serious we are about protecting the many Kingston Frazier’s in our midst that must find someway to navigate around the myriad dangerous people and obstacles that threaten their future on a moment-by-moment basis.

We must relentlessly demand that Kingston Frazier’s lynchers face the sternest punishment possible. Failure to issue such a demand continues our worst tradition of providing a place of refugee for individuals whose destruction of both our community and black lives rivals that of white supremacist groups.

There should come a point where we love one another enough to decide that we have enough of this foolishness. It is time for black America to set standards and hold every segment of their society to those criteria. A major step in this endeavor, particularly in regards to preventing future black-on-black lynchings is to expel those who do not warrant the privilege of living in our midst from the bosom of protection that they have misused for far too long.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

What Black America should do about the Acquittal of Betty Shelby

Although I am certainly not desensitized to this predictable pattern of an unarmed black man having their life extinguished by a white law enforcement officer’s who are then exonerated by a jury, however, if I were a betting man, I do know where I would place my bet. Desensitized I am not, cynical, most indeed.

The recent acquittal of Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer Betty Shelby for the September shooting of unarmed black man Terence Crutcher is unsurprising. I, along with the vast majority of black America, long ago abandoned any faith in this nation’s criminal justice system. If nothing else, the repetitious nature of these cases proves that African-Americans are at best second-class citizens whose lives are perpetually in peril by a tyrannical white majority that surrounds them. Put simply; blacks exist under a unique set of rules and regulations. Unless African-Americans do something definitive regarding this situation, nothing will ever change.

Let’s be honest; we have seen this sordid traveling play that just closed its curtains in Tulsa, Oklahoma, so often that the script has become a bit predictable. Consider the following order of events,

  • African-American male has a random encounter with a white officer.
  • For the white officer, the conflict with this unknown African-American male began long before this real encounter as the law enforcement officer’s socialization and training have preloaded him with copious amounts of prejudicial thoughts and stereotypical views.
  • White law enforcement officers pre-existing thoughts facilitate an uncontrollable fear that leads to their adoption of a “shoot first and ask questions later.”
  • White officer kills unarmed and defenseless black male
  • The criminal investigation leads to the District Attorney charging the officer as a strategic maneuver not necessarily to secure a conviction, rather appease an angered black populace whose only means of responding to injustice is burning down their community.
  • A predominantly white jury acquits the officer.
  • The victim remains dead.
  • The family and loved one’s, along with notable black celebrities, oops I meant leaders, crying foul on CNN and MSNBC.
  • Black activists aspiring to displace national level leaders on CNN and MSNBC lead their community in unproductive protests that allow them to achieve little more than blowing off steam, talk tough to whites who are not present to hear their rhythmic lamentations, and then allow their followers to return to mundane lives that are heavily monitored by the same law enforcement authorities that caused the problem in the first place.
  • African-American male has a random encounter with a white officer; I am sure that you recognize the cycle.

In many ways, this predictable pattern that invariably results in the death of African-Americans and an ever-lasting heartbreak for their loved ones is one that black leaders and protest groups have proven incapable of effectively addressing, let alone reversing. Rest assured that the alluded to ineffectiveness will not cease anytime soon because if nothing else, it is evident that black leaders and those that naively follow them refuse to believe the universal principle of ‘if you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got.’ It is past time for the abandonment of traditional patterns of engagement and the development of new strategies by independent black minds to address this crisis.

There is no other reasonable way forward than the abandonment of an activist tradition that often leads black leaders’ appearance as ambulance chasing lawyers seeking clients. As has been mentioned before in this space, but also from Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington, Minister Farrakhan, and a host of other thinkers across the past two centuries, the only path forward is the development of a logical and achievable political program aimed at ending not only the murder of black people by white law enforcement authorities, but also our exploitation by every other group in this nation.

The path forward must include:

  • An unparalleled dedication to destroying the following illiteracies within our community.
    • Political
    • Cultural
    • Historical
    • Economic
  • The development of unprecedented group solidarity in regards to politics and economics.
  • A significant increase in the black community’s financial support of independent black schools.
  • The development of an understanding of the need to support black businesses and the following responsibilities of black business owners to help the community in myriad ways.
  • A total abandonment of reactionary politics.

There is quite simply no other path forward for African-Americans. The time for serious definitive action passed long ago, and we must ‘seize the time’ and forge a new reality in the present as preparation for a glorious future.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

“DAMNED IF YOU DO AND DAMNED IF YOU DON’T”: WHY WHITES DISAPPROVAL OF HARVARD’S BLACK COMMENCEMENT IS THE HEIGHT OF INSANITY

I learned long ago that it is of little utility to debate or attempt to reason with people whom a path of unrestrained ignorance paves the way for illogical conclusions regarding racial matters. Such individuals are assuredly the inspiration behind a Mark Twain quote that my colleague Marco Robinson frequently reiterates to me, “Never argue with a fool, they will lower you to their level, and then beat you with experience.”

As a writer whose career revolves around racial matters, I must relate that a reoccurring argument by a segment of historically illiterate whites continues to befuddle me. The alluded to argument is a stern opposition to the creation of independent African-American institutions and traditions; events and entities whose genesis is birthed from whites resistance to providing any access to their groups and traditions. Put simply, if whites who criticize the creation of black institutions and traditions have their way, African-Americans are “damned if they do and damned if they don’t.”

The extended tradition of whites seeking to maintain absolute control of their organizations and traditions serves as one of the primary catalysts behind African-Americans creation of alternative organizations and traditions such as: Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the Negro Baseball Leagues, Black beauty pageants, and Fine Arts expressions such as the Wiz.

The above matters not only contextualize, but also reveal many whites feigned interest in racial cooperation and multi-culturalism to be fraudulent. Such issues must be considered when evaluating white cries regarding Harvard University holding a “black commencement” to allow its African-American graduates and their loved one’s a safe space to celebrate this momentous occassion.

Considering Harvard University’s association with American chattel slavery and extended history of institutional racism, it is ironic that whites associated with this vaunted Ivory Tower would have any issue with African-Americans separating themselves from whites at any moment. It is obvious that there is a segment of white America that will never be satisfied with any relationship with blacks. Consider for a moment how ridiculous it is for whites associated with Harvard University to possess the audacity to charge African-Americans, a group that has historically been their favored target for harassment and discrimination, with stoking the fires of racial animosity. The accusation is shameful when contextualized by the reality that Harvard University has rarely welcomed black genius; incredibly, the institution initially denied W.E.B. Du Bois admission.

The juvenile tantrum that whites execute the moment that they hear African-Americans plan on gathering to celebrate academic accomplishments or execute politico-economic programs in their absence, reveals their identity as historically illiterate petulant children afflicted with a Napoleonic complex that fails to lessen their understanding of this nation’s greatest tradition, racial bias.

In many ways, it is ironic that many of those white collegians protesting “black commencement’s” throughout the nation are following in their ancestors greatest tradition, stringently resisting the integration of white institutions and organizations with every fiber of their being. A crucial aspect of this extended tradition is an eagerness to oppose what should be considered a logical response of African-Americans to form their own organizations, ceremonies, and traditions. Apparently, the alluded to whites critical thinking skills are overridden by a blinding rage commonly articulated through comprehensive racial bias.

Although difficult for whites to understand, the decision of African-Americans to congregate and hold their own celebrations such as a “black commencement” has little to do with them. We consider such events a once in a lifetime moment for our community to gather, consider the rocky path that has been traveled, and realize that although the path has been trying at times, we traversed across it. The fact that we wish to do so outside of the presence of those who have taken glee in opposing our progress by constructing obstacles whose only utility was to prevent our achievement is something that angered whites will have to come to terms with on their own. On second thought, the decision to have a “black commencement” has everything to do with white folk and how they have treated our kind.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

Bravo Bethune-Cookman Graduates: Why Black America Must Acknowledge the Protest of Betsy Devos’ Commencement Address

I must be honest and say that I realize that the disapproving gaze that I cast upon this latest generation of African-American collegians is closely tied to my getting older and hopefully a bit wiser. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see the path to black liberation clearer than I did a decade ago.

Unfortunately for my sanity, it is experience gained through an often emotionally difficult trial-and-error process that has endowed me with this pristine view of American racial matters and an accessible path to “the liberation and salvation of the black nation.” Predictably, the latest cadre of African-American collegians who have not traveled this path has a much cloudier and less focused view of the issues and maladies facing our community. I feel comfortable in saying that this unfortunate reality of our students not “getting it” is the bane of more than a few African-American professors existence. The recent events at the venerable Bethune-Cookman University have once again caused me to pause my often harsh criticism of this latest generation of African-American collegians.

In case you missed it, for some inexplicable reason Bethune-Cookman University President Edison Jackson provided U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos the esteemed honor of delivering the 2017 commencement address. To President Jackson’s horror, the graduating seniors, buoyed by a wide-array of alumni who disapproved of DeVos’ selection as commencement speaker, not only shouted “Liar!” toward the Secretary of Education but also stood and turned their backs as she delivered her address.

As a frequent critic of young black collegians, I must publicly state that I have never been prouder of our young people than at this moment. Via their beautifully timed public protest, the recent graduates of Bethune-Cookman University have displayed courage not seen within the African-American Freedom Struggle since Angela Davis battled the state of California or Assata Shakur escaped the clutches of America and found refuge in Cuba. I pray that the courage to “speak truth to power” regardless of the setting displayed by the Bethune-Cookman graduates becomes the latest “trend” among African-American collegians.

So I take this moment to publicly applaud you for your political astuteness and courage to send a resounding message regarding what is not permissible in our centers of higher education. I now hope that more will follow your lead.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

Committed to investigating, examining, and representing the African-American male, men, and manhood by offering commentary regarding the status of Black Men and Black Manhood as it relates to African-American Manhood, Race, Class, Politics, and Culture from an educated and authentic African-American perspective aimed at improving the plight of African-American men and African-American Manhood in regards to Politics, Culture, Education, and Social Matters.

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