Tag Archives: Black Nationalism

Malcolm X: Did His Ultimate Sacrifice Bring Any Tangible Gains to the Black Freedom Struggle?

There is quite possibly no greater frustration among those who have chosen to carry the huge banner of Black Nationalism than the witnessing of those whose cause that you continually champion making the same mistakes that guarantee a continuation of their oppression. Unfortunately, I realize that I have much company when I enter those private moments that invariably lead me to question if the arduous tasks and constant frustrations experienced while attempting to uplift a people who behave as if they do not mind the continuation of their politico-economic exploitation and social outcast status is even worth the Herculean effort? As mentioned above, I realize that I have much company when it comes to this type of thinking.

Although I realize that I have only given some of myself to the struggle, while there are others such as Brother Malcolm X who gave all, I believe that it is within reasonable bounds to wonder if the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life, such as Brother Malcolm, has made an iota difference in the historical struggle to uplift a stubborn Black America.

When reflecting upon the life, legacy, and untimely death of Malcolm X, I am reminded of his order to the black man that it is time for him to “Wake up, clean up and stand up.” Such a directive appears to be not only sensible, but also easily achievable by a people who have served as a reliable resource for other groups seeking to increase some combination of political power, economic might, and social status.

According to Malcolm X, the path out of this jungle of unconscionable exploitation for the black man and woman was a fairly rudimentary plan.

  • Starting black businesses so that the black dollar could be circulated among them.
  • Creating political solidarity sufficient to not only elect representatives to represent our interests, but also capable of “holding their feet to the fire” after they were elected.
  • Abandoning any vices retarding “the liberation and salvation of the black nation,” such as: alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, financial irresponsibility, political illiteracy, lack of an education, uncivilized behavior toward one another, and the destruction of the black family.

I am certain that you realize that none of the above ideas originated with Brother Malcolm. It is this reality that calls into question the legacy of not only Malcolm X, but also the many other leaders who have appeared in our community carrying a similar message, suspect.

So the question before us is a rather simple one. In a climate where it appears that the dial measuring the fortunes of African-Americans has remained stationary, did the contributions and sacrifices of Malcolm X matter at all?

Prior to answering this query, we should first take this opportunity to examine the present condition of Black America.

  • African-American children lag behind all others in educational achievement.
  • African-American children are being disproportionately raised in single-parent female headed households.
  • African-American communities remain a reliable path to financial improvement for any non-black group in the nation.
  • African-American wealth accumulation lags behind every other group, including newly arrived immigrant groups.
  • African-Americans, male and female, are incarcerated at a rate that far exceeds their proportion of the American populace.
  • African-American marriages are more likely than not to end in divorce.
  • African-American women far exceed their male counterparts in
    • Educational achievement
    • Income earned
    • Social Status
    • Political Activism
  • Understanding of African-American manhood constructs are nearly non-existent among black males and females.
  • There is a sizable population of African-American men who should be considered “unmarriageable.”

In light of the above list, we are once again faced with the query of did Malcolm X’s existence mean anything beyond being inspirational for a few African-Americans. If Brother Malcolm’s sacrifices meant something more, what tangible changes occurred as a result of his esteemed legacy?

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

Where Are the Black Nationalists Today?: How Malcolm X Would Answer That Question

As I am confident that you can understand, February 21st, the date of Malcolm X’s assassination, will always be a particularly challenging day for those who still revere the Black Nationalist Titan. The alluded to admiration is little more than a public recognition that Malcolm X’s political life remains the gold standard for “what a black man ought to be and ought to do.” It is this recognition of Malcolm as our “black shining prince” that forces me to expose my students to his revolutionary legacy repeatedly. Experience has taught me that my best intentions to discuss the legacy of Brother Malcolm with my students will invariably leave me disenchanted by their lack of knowledge and what it says about the flawed education occurring within today’s Black America.

In many ways, my angst regarding yet another generation of African-American youth having neither exposure nor comprehension of Malcolm X is heightened because it definitively proves our failure to apply one of his most basic admonishments regarding who should have access to the minds of black children. In his usual style, Malcolm X sternly admonished Black America that “Only a fool would let his enemy educate his children.” When one considers the current absence of knowledge and understanding found in the latest generation of African-American students, it is clear that the unwise educational philosophies of so-called African-American leaders have proven them to be the fools that Malcolm’s brilliant quote cited.

The alluded to black leaders have apparently failed to understand even the most basic lessons of racial uplift that Malcolm propagated throughout his political life. It is this failure to adhere to logical positions such as Malcolm’s directive that it is crucial that the black man and woman adopt Black Nationalism and focus all of their energies on controlling “the politics of their community, the economics of their community, and the educational base of their community” that has helped create yet another generation of African-American youth devoid of an understanding of their past, their current status, and what needs to occur in the future.

Make no mistake about it; a confused and unanchored citizenry is one of the many consequences that will be visited upon any people that fail to control the politics, economics, and education of their community. The implications of Black America’s collective failure to control these variables are displayed on a daily basis by the woeful state of today’s Black America.

This matter brings us to an all-important question of why have these things occurred? Although it is a harsh and daunting conclusion, it appears that the African-American threshold for pain and misery is unconscionably high. Put simply, the miserable plight that Black America has seemingly always existed within is not bothersome enough to cause them to learn and then apply basic Black Nationalist principles such as political solidarity, economic collectivism, and providing their children with an education that addresses their particular issues and problems.

The consequences of this failure should make every African-American cringe. At this present moment we are being exploited for our economic resources by any group that needs them, black political leaders have repeatedly proven ineffective at every turn, and even our intellectual class has turned their focus away from educating and liberating our people for money and prestige from white institutions. Consider for a moment that few black academicians are even attempting to address the large politico-economic problems affecting their kind.

I often return to Malcolm’s quote, “Only a fool would let his enemy educate his children” because it succinctly explains this mess of a community that we are currently witnessing. If Proverbs 23:7 (As a man thinketh, so is he) is valid, it is not difficult to understand why it is increasingly rare to encounter young black people interested in working for the uplift of their community. The best explanation for this occurrence is that they are neither receptive to nor are receiving Black Nationalist ideas from parents, teachers, mentors, or professors.

It appears that our failure to “hold the line” and make the development and protection of the black community our greatest priority haunts us in an unconscionable manner. Consider for a moment that in a national climate where racial bias is most certainly on the rise, much African-American youth are seeking to deny the existence of racism. The alluded to persons foolishly advance an idea that if we just refuse to acknowledge the existence and detrimental effects of prejudice, discrimination, bigotry, and racism in the black community that these vices will magically disappear.

I am confident that if he were alive today, Brother Malcolm would angrily state that “these things are predictable when you allow your oppressor to educate your children. These very children have no choice but not only to adopt but also assist in the further destruction of their community. They have become just what you are. A Negro that is not only totally out of his mind, but also not in possession of enough courage or sense to take a single step toward solving his problems.” Despite my most fervent attempts to come to a different conclusion, I know in my heart that such a statement does characterize who we have become. And for that reason, we should all be ashamed and disappointed.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

The Necessity of a General Union among Us (David Walker Speech)

How strange it is, to see men of sound sense, and of tolerably good judgment, act so diametrically in opposition to their interest.
Now, that we are disunited, is a fact, that no one of common sense will deny; and, that the cause of which, is a powerful auxiliary in keeping us from rising to the scale of reasonable and thinking beings, none but those who delight in our degradation will attempt to contradict. Did I say those who delight in our degradation? Yea, sir, glory in keeping us ignorant and miserable, that we might be the better and the longer slaves. I was credibly informed by a gentleman of unquestionable veracity, that a slaveholder upon finding one of his young slaves with a small spelling book in his hand (not opened) fell upon and beat him almost to death, exclaiming, at the same time, to the child, you will acquire better learning than I or any of my family.

I appeal to every candid and unprejudiced mind, do not all such men glory in our miseries and degradations; and are there not millions whose chief glory centres in this horrid wickedness? The very humane, philanthropic, and charitable men who proclaim to the world, that the blacks are such a poor, ignorant and degraded species of beings, that, were they set at liberty, they would die for the want of something to subsist upon, and in consequence of which, they are compelled to keep them in bondage, to do them good.

O Heaven! What will not avarice and the love of despotic sway cause men to do with their fellow creatures, when actually in their power? But, to return whence I digressed; it has been asked, in what way will the General colored Association (or the Institution) unite the colored populations, so far, in the United States, as may be practicable and expedient? To which enquiry,! I answer, by asking the following: do not two hundred and eight years very intolerable sufferings teach us the actual necessity of a general union among us? Do we not know indeed, the horrid dilemma into which we are, and from which, we must exert ourselves, to be extricated? Shall we keep slumbering on, with our arms completely folded up, exclaiming every now and then, against our miseries, yet never do the least thing to ameliorate our condition or that of posterity? Shall we not, by such inactivity, leave, or rather entail a hereditary degradation on our children, but a little, if at all, inferior to that which our fathers, under all their comparative disadvantages and privations, left on us? In fine, shall we, while almost every other people under Heaven, are making such mighty efforts to better their condition, go around from house to house, enquiring what good associations and societies are going to do us? Ought we not to form ourselves into a general body, to protect, aid, and assist each other to the utmost of our power, with the before mentioned restrictions?

It is indispensably our duty to try every scheme that we think will have a tendency to facilitate our salvation, and leave the final result to that God, who holds the destinies of people in the hollow of his hand, and who ever has, and will, repay every nation according to its works.

Will any be so hardy as to say, or even to imagine, that we are incapable of effecting any object which may have a tendency to hasten our emancipation, in consequence of the prevalence of ignorance and poverty among us? That the major part of us are ignorant and poor, I am at this time unprepared to deny. But shall this defer us from all lawful attempts to bring about the desired object? Nay, sir, it should rouse us to greater exertions; there ought to be a spirit of emulation and inquiry among us, a hungering and thirsting after religion; there are requisitions, which, if we ever be so happy as to acquire, will fit us for all the departments of life; and, in my humble opinion, ultimately result in rescuing us from an oppression, unparalleled, I had almost said, in the annals of the world.

But some may even think that our white brethren and friends are making such mighty efforts, for the amelioration of our condition, that we may stand as neutral spectators of the work. That we have many good friends yea, very good, among that body, perhaps none but a few of these who have ever read at all will deny; and that many of them have gone, and will go, all lengths for our good, is evident, from the very works of the great, the good, and the godlike Granville Sharpe, Wilberforce, Lundy, and the truly patriotic and lamented Mr. Ashmun, late Colonial Agent of Liberia, who, with a zeal which was only qualed by the goodness of his heart, has lost his life in our cause, and a host of others too numerous to mention: a number of private gentlemen too, who, though they say but little, are nevertheless, busily engaged for good. Now, all of those great, and indeed, good friends whom God has given us, I do humbly, and very gratefully acknowledge. But, that we should co-operate with them, as far as we are able by uniting and cultivating a spirit of friendship and of love among us, is obvious, from the very exhibition of our miseries, under which we groan.

Two millions and a half of colored people in these United States, more than five hundred thousand of whom are about two-thirds of the way free. Now, I ask, if no more than these last were united (which they must be, or always live as enemies) and resolved to aid and assist each other to the utmost of their power, what mighty deeds would be done by them of the good of our cause?

Instead of a general compliance with these requisitions, which have a natural tendency to raise us in the estimation of the world, we see, to our sorrow, in the very midst of us, a gang of villains, who, for the paltry sum of fifty or a hundred dollars, will kidnap and sell into perpetual slavery, their fellow creatures! And, too, if one of their fellow sufferers, whose miseries are a little more enhanced by the scourges of a tyrant, should abscond from his pretended owner, to take a little recreation, and unfortunately fall in their way, he is gone! For they will sell him for a glass of whiskey! Brethren and fellow sufferers, I ask you, in the name of God, and of Jesus Christ, shall we suffer such notorious villains to rest peaceably among us? Will they not take our wives and little ones, more particularly our little ones, when a convenient opportunity will admit, and sell them for money, to slave holders, who will doom them to chains, handcuffs, and even unto death? May God open our eyes on those children of the devil and enemies of all good!

This wickedness is scarcely more infernal than that which was attempted a few months since, against the government of our brethren, the Haytiens, by a consummate rogue, who out to have, long since, been haltered, but who, I was recently informed, is nevertheless, received into company among some of our most respectable men, with a kind of brotherly affection which ought to be shown only to a gentleman of honor.

All such mean, and more than disgraceful actions as these, are powerful auxiliaries, which work for our destruction, and which are abhorred in the sight of God and of good men. But, sir, I cannot but bless God for the glorious anticipation of a not very distant period, when these things which now help to degrade us will no more be practiced among the sons of Africa,—for, though this, and perhaps another, generation may not experience the promised blessings of Heaven, yet, the dejected, degraded, and now enslaved children of Africa will have, in spite of all their enemies, to take their stand among the nations of the earth. And, sir, I verily believe that God has something in reserve for us, which, when he shall have parceled it out upon us will repay us for all our suffering and miseries.

David Walker, 1828

‘I’VE SEEN THIS BEFORE’: WHY THE POLITICAL DILEMMAS OF BLACK WOMEN ARE RARELY ADDRESSED OR SOLVED BY ANY POLITICAL MOVEMENT AND WHAT THEY SHOULD DO ABOUT IT

Yesterday, the largest single-day protest on American soil occurred with a diverse crowd of men and women taking to American cities in the following numbers.

  • Atlanta (250,000 protestors)
  • Chicago (250,000 protestors)
  • Boston (250,000 protestors)
  • Denver (200,000 protestors)
  • New York (350,000 protestors)
  • Washington C. (500,000 protestors)
  • Los Angeles (500,000 protestors)

For comparison’s sake, a relatively modest 250,000 assembled for the 1963 March on Washington.

This historic assembly appears to be a serious attempt at renewing American democracy by issuing a powerful statement against the new Presidential administration. However, as with most political matters in this nation, one has to question will the peculiar issues facing the African-American community, in this case, black women, be acknowledged, let alone ameliorated in this rising tide of political activism.

The above concerns regarding the addressing of issues facing African-American women, many of which flow directly from black men performing a perverse blackface minstrel performance that mirrors white male patriarchy, are reasonable when one considers the historical subordination of such matters by both Black Nationalist and White Feminist leaders.

One must remember that political elitism facilitated white feminist leaders inability to acknowledge that the issues facing white, married, heterosexual, wealthy women in no way covered the complex problems facing black women, a flaw that forced African-American women to forge their path toward gender equality about both white women and black men. Noted intellectual Alice Walker acknowledged the differences found within the struggles of black and white women with her reverberating comment that “Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” Put simply, the Black Nationalist and Feminist movements often fail to represent, let alone solve, the issues of black women.

Hopefully, those leading this reiteration of female political agitation are astute enough to realize that racial matters are a significant negative in the lives of African-American women and must be addressed with the same intensity that patriarchy has historically been. Failure at this mundane task dooms African-American women to assume their usual position behind not only white women but also behind black men.

A close reading of history displays the ease with which black women are made invisible. African-American women are frequently asked to choose which is the greater part of them, their gender or race as if they can easily split not only their identities but also their political desires. Far too frequently, Black women have been too female to be a significant element in the African-American freedom struggle and too black to be considered full partners in the feminist movement. It is a damning quandary that can never be solved.

So as many bask in the after-effects of the historic nature of this march, a historical achievement only in the number of participants I might add, the politically astute are carefully examining the political agendas that emerge from this latest push for women’s rights.

I hope that this time things will be different for black women and they will assume the ‘nasty woman’ persona that so many of their white sisters have historically embraced. I pray that there are more than a few ‘nasty black women’ in our midst who are willing to advance the politicoeconomic needs of their sisters “by any means necessary,” even if it means strategically separating themselves from other movements at opportune moments. The tendency of African-American women to mute their voice due to what often appears to be a desperate desire to maintain decorum in the face of political pressure from other groups must cease if black women are serious about solving their issues.

I pray that all of the previous activism and political experiences black women have engaged in have prepared them to avoid a repeat of past moments of activism that left them at the back of the bus. Hopefully, black women have grown weary enough of being “Sick and tired of being sick and tired” that they step forward with a collective consciousness that emphasizes both their unique identity and the resulting issues that flow from it with an uncommon fervor. History has taught us that the only women that have ever changed the world have been “nasty women,” it is the time that black women accepted that fact and make it a policy going forward that their political agenda is the only one that matters.

At least that is what I hope and pray for them.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

W.E.B. Du Bois — A Negro Nation Within a Nation

No MORE CRITICAL SITUATION ever faced the Negroes of America than that of today-not in 1830, nor in 1861, nor in 1867. More than ever the appeal of the Negro for elementary justice falls on deaf ears.

Three-fourths of us are disfranchised; yet no writer on democratic reform, no third-party movement says a word about Negroes. The Bull Moose crusade in 1912 refused to notice them; the La Follette uprising in 1924 was hardly aware of them; the Socialists still keep them in the background. Negro children are systematically denied education; when the National Educational Association asks for federal aid to education it permits discrimination to be perpetuated by the present local authorities. Once or twice a month Negroes convicted of no crime are openly and publicly lynched, and even burned; yet a National Crime Convention is brought to perfunctory and unwilling notice of this only by mass picketing and all but illegal agitation. When a man with every qualification is refused a position simply because his great-grandfather was black, there is not a ripple of comment or protest.

Long before the depression Negroes in the South were losing “Negro” jobs, those assigned them by common custom-poorly paid and largely undesirable toil, but nevertheless life-supporting. New techniques, new enterprises, mass production, impersonal ownership and control have been largely displacing the skilled white and Negro worker in tobacco manufacturing, in iron and steel, in lumbering and mining, and in transportation. Negroes are now restricted more and more to common labor and domestic service of the lowest paid and worst kind. In textile, chemical and other manufactures Negroes were from the first nearly excluded, and just as slavery kept the poor white out of profitable agriculture, so freedom prevents the poor Negro from finding a place in manufacturing. The worldwide decline in agriculture has moreover carried the mass of black farmers, despite heroic endeavor among the few, down to the level of landless tenants and peons.

The World War and its wild aftermath seemed for a moment to open a new door; two million black workers rushed North to work in iron and steel, make automobiles and pack meat, build houses and do the heavy toil in factories. They met first the closed trade union which excluded them from the best paid jobs and pushed them into the low-wage gutter, denied them homes and mobbed them. Then they met the depression.

Since 1929 Negro workers, like white workers, have lost their jobs, have had mortgages foreclosed on their farms and homes, have used up their small savings. But, in the case of the Negro worker, everything has been worse in larger or smaller degree; the loss has been greater and more permanent. Technological displacement, which began before the depression, has been accelerated, while unemployment and falling wages struck black men sooner, went to lower levels and will last longer.

The colored people of America are coming to face the fact quite calmly that most white Americans do not like them, and are planning neither for their survival, nor for their definite future if it involves free, self-assertive modern manhood. This does not mean all Americans. A saving few are worried about the Negro problem; a still larger group are not ill-disposed, but they fear prevailing public opinion. The great mass of Americans are, however, merely representatives of average humanity. They muddle along with their own affairs and scarcely can be expected to take seriously the affairs of strangers or people whom they partly fear and partly despise.

For many years it was the theory of most Negro leaders that this attitude was the insensibility of ignorance and inexperience, that white America did not know of or realize the continuing plight of the Negro.  Accordingly, for the lat two decades, we have striven by book and periodical, by speech and appeal, by various dramatic methods of agitation, to put the essential facts before the American people.  Today there can be no doubt that Americans know the facts; and yet they remain for the most part indifferent and unmoved.

The peculiar position of Negroes in America offers an opportunity.  Negroes today cast probably 2,000,000 votes in a total of 40,000,000 and their vote will increase.  This gives them, particularly in northern cities, and at critical times, a chance to hold a very considerable balance of power and the mere threat of this being used intelligently and with determination may often mean much.  The consuming power of 2,800,000 Negro families has recently been estimated at $166,000,000 a month—a tremendous power when intelligently directed.  Their manpower as laborers probably equals that of Mexico or Yugoslavia.  Their illiteracy is much lower than that of Spain or Italy.  Their estimated per capita wealth about equals that of Japan.

For a nation with this start in culture and efficiency to sit down and await the salvation of a white God is idiotic.  With the use of their political power, their power as consumers, and their brainpower, added to that chance of personal appeal which proximity and neighborhood always give to human to human beings, Negroes can develop in the United States an economic nation within a nation, able to work through inner cooperation to found its own institutions, to educate its genius, and at the same time, without mob violence or extremes of race hatred, to keep in helpful touch and cooperate with the mass of the nation.  This has happened more often than most people realize, in the case of groups not so obviously separated from the mass of people as are American Negroes.  It must happen in our case or there is no hope for the Negro in America.

Any movement toward such a program is today hindered by the absurd Negro philosophy of Scatter, Suppress, Wait, Escape.  There are even many of our educated young leaders who think that because the Negro problem is not in evidence where there are few or no Negroes, this indicates a way out!  They think that the problem of race can be settled by ignoring it and suppressing all reference to it.  They think that we have only to 3wait in silence for the white people to settle the problem for us; and finally and predominantly, they think that the problem of twelve million Negro people, mostly poor, ignorant workers, is going to be settled by having their more educated and wealthy classes gradually and continually escape from their race into the mass of the American people, leaving the rest to sink, suffer and die.

Proponents of this program claim, with much reason, that the plight of the masses is not the fault of the emerging classes.  For the slavery and exploitation that reduced Negroes to their present level or at any rate hindered them from rising, the white world is to blame.  Since the age-long process of raising a group is through the escape of its upper class into welcome fellowship with risen peoples, the Negro intelligentsia would submerge itself if it bent its back to the task of lifting the mass of people.  There is logic in this answer, but futile logic.

If the leading Negro classes cannot assume and bear the uplift of their own proletariat, they are doomed for all time.  It is not a case of ethics; it is a plain case of necessity.  The method by which this may be done is, first, for the American Negro to achieve a new economic solidarity.

It may be said that this matter of a nation within a nation has already been partially accomplished in the organization of the Negro church, the Negro school and the Negro retail business, and despite all the justly due criticism, the result has been astonishing.  The great majority of American Negroes are divided not only for religious but for a large number of social purposes into self-supporting economic units, self-governed, self-directed.  The greatest difficulty is that these organizations have no logical and reasonable standards and do not attract the fines, most vigorous and best educated Negroes.  When all these things are taken into consideration it becomes clearer to more and more American Negroes that, through voluntary and increased segregation, by careful autonomy and planned economic organization, they may build so strong and efficient a unit that twelve million men can no longer be refused fellowship and equality in the United States.

Speech delivered on June 26, 1934. The date that Du Bois resigned from his post with the NAACP.