There is a great axiom that from my life experiences holds much truth, the saying is that you either “learn from history or you are doomed to repeat it.” This mantra has been one of my guideposts for living my life, and my status as an History Professor only solidifies my commitment to honoring this creed. I consistently view many of the events and occurrences within Black America as little more than a replaying of a prior historical event, I often feel as if I am continually caught in sporadic moments of déjà vu. If only our people would study and learn from our history we would be able to break this cycle of intra-racial inefficiency and avoid the many injuries (physical, psychological, political, and economic) that we see inflicted upon our own kind on a moment-by-moment basis.
So I was more than pleased to be asked by a colleague to revisit the final speech of Malcolm X because it had ‘much meat on the bone’ that we could use for an examination regarding the contemporary plight of African-Americans. She was most certainly correct regarding the bounty of political and economic utility of Brother Malcolm’s final speech. Although I have heard Malcolm’s final speech innumerable times, I have been considered by many to be one of the primary disciples at the Temple of Malcolm X; I had never listened to it with the current context facing African-Americans in mind.
Although the speech has Malcolm’s usual call regarding the need for solidarity among all persons of African descent. Malcolm takes continental Africans to task for forgetting about those of us strewn throughout the West when they even conceive the idea of liberating themselves from white tyranny; a problem that unfortunately still exists to this day is the disjointed logic of many continental Africans regarding this matter. However, what made this speech appear as if it were a completely new expression of Black thought are the current events that are occurring in Ferguson, Missouri. Although I should not have been surprised, Malcolm’s speech, given nearly a half-century before the killing of Mike Brown addresses many of the issues surrounding the murder.
Malcolm X advises us in this final speech to realize that whites are not inherently evil; a fact that he learned during his Hajj to Mecca, however, the American white man has a peculiar illness that others seemingly do not possess. Malcolm X highlighted in his speech that for Europeans the term white is a descriptive term telling you something about their physical appearance, while the American white man uses white not as a physical description, rather as a celebratory title that announces he will always assume the lead position in politics, high-society, economics, and religious thought. Put simply, he is the Alpha Male and you had better not question that status because what he says goes.
So as the nation braces for the Grand Jury announcement regarding the incident in Ferguson, we would be wise to heed Malcolm’s advice to protect ourselves physically, economically, and spiritually as it appears that the news coming out of the grand jury will most likely not be in Mike Brown’s favor. If reports of militarized police officers placing the tools to quell an urban unrest are true, city administrators are already taking measures to protect their physical safety, political solvency, and economic investments. One of the reverberating tenets flowing from Malcolm X’s final address was the need for our community to learn from the past mistakes and recognize that it is collectivism in every way imaginable (politically, socially, economically, educationally) that is our only path to liberation. So when, not if, the ruling is handed down and not in our favor, I am unsure what the reaction will be from the Black communities throughout the nation will be? However, just as white city administrators have learned from similar moments such as the fallout following the Rodney King verdict, we have to also learn from similar rebellions. Put simply, urban rebellions are a wonderful means of keeping the issue on the front page of this nation’s news media outlets, however, they are little more than fireworks that ultimately fizzle out when emotionalism melts away and we resume our day-to-day existence.
I hope that we have learned from earlier rebellions and keep that energy and political focus on current affairs going. It is only through such political movements that we will be able to honor the Eric Garner’s and Mike Brown’s of the world. As the only fit tribute for them, and the thousands of other victims of unprovoked and unjustifiable American racial violence, is a consistent organized collectivist political movement that focuses upon securing the liberation and salvation of the Black Nation through political action, economic solvency, and education aimed at liberating the minds of future generations of African-American children. A fleeting emotionally driven wholly reactionary expression of frustration and angst is not befitting the memory of the droves of African-Americans who have lost their lives at the hands of white domestic terrorism. Just listen to Malcolm X’s final speech, he gave us a blueprint of how to respond to this issue nearly fifty-years ago.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
* Please join Manhood, Race, and Culture on Nu Power Radio from 6:00 – 8:00 PM EST (November 11, 2014) at 917-889-8059 for an exhilarating discussion over this post.