Tag Archives: Malcolm X

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

Why it is Imperative that African-Americans View James Baldwin’s “I Am Not Your Negro”

I remember the rather sharp exchange with one of my student’s as if it occurred yesterday. We had gotten into an intellectual altercation regarding what exactly made one BLACK. Her assertion was that there were a million ways to be BLACK, so it was, therefore, impossible to either validate or invalidate an individual’s blackness. I vehemently disagreed with her assertion.

A crucial aspect of my position revolved around the fact that if blackness was not biologically based, it must, therefore, be a politically useful social construct found in the minds, worldview, political perspectives and priorities. Put simply; I fervently believe that Race was created to provide whites an opportunity to efficiently cast aside non-whites as they moved to monopolize and then maintain those monopolies over every resource imaginable. I argued that since blackness is a state of mind that grows out of 400 years of experience on the North American continent, there must be something beyond the oppression that we have received at the hands of whites that glues my people together. From my perspective, I believe that the “something beyond the oppression that we have received at the hands of whites” is the intellectual tradition and worldview that we have developed as a result of our collective struggle against American racism. Considering such realities, I call into question not only this particular student’s blackness, but also all African-Americans blackness if they have never studied our great intellectuals who have dedicated their lives to examining, deconstructing, and then destroying socially constructed racial paradigms.

For my money, the leading social critic that Black America has ever created is our dear brother James Baldwin. Considering that I was desperately seeking to end the conflict mentioned above with this particular student, I went for the knockout blow by informing her that “If you haven’t read Baldwin, you are not only unqualified to discuss American race relations, but also unworthy of being considered an educated black person.” Although many may find such a broad statement unfair, it nonetheless reflects my perspective on the poignant writings and social commentary that James Baldwin delivered to an undeserving world.

Much of my intellectual life has been spent lamenting the woes of people whose uninformed perspectives regarding American racial matters would disappear “If only they would read Baldwin.”

So I am confident that you understand my exuberance at hearing Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck had taken on the task of fleshing out an aborted Baldwin project titled “Remember This House.” A house that Baldwin famously stated was burning and therefore Negroes should not seek to integrate into it. Peck’s vision of this project is now in American theaters as the documentary “I am not your Negro.”

Baldwin only wrote thirty pages on a project that was to be his personal account of the murders of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and what it revealed about the nation. Raoul Peck has not only succeeded in bringing “Remember This House” relatively brief sketch to the big screen but also delivered Baldwin’s genius to a new generation of Americans.

One of my consistent critiques of contemporary activists and so-called black leaders is their laziness in regards to engaging the writings of intellectual giants such as W.E.B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, Marcus Garvey, and Huey P. Newton. Unfortunately, it appears that the unprecedented accessibility of information attributable to the internet, the majority of it not being well-researched, has caused an incurable laziness among the heirs to a rich African-American historical and activist legacy. However, recent experience has taught me that if a workable plan to liberate African-Americans if placed within the covers of a book, the vast majority of our people will never encounter it. They want their information not only to be entertaining but also requiring minimal effort on their part.

It is for this reason that I applaud Raoul Peck for bringing this brilliant documentary to the big screen as it removes all obstacles to African-Americans who have never encountered the unparalleled genius of the intellectual giant that was James Baldwin.

I am not your Negro is a film that you MUST go out and see for your intellectual benefit.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2017

 

How Black Leaders Failure to Learn from the Past Simultaneously Dishonors Dr. King and Dooms Black America

When I heard that Rev. Al Sharpton and the usual gang of misguided black leaders were assembling for yet another March in the nation’s Capital, I could do little more than chuckle. I simply cannot understand how veteran Civil Rights activists fail to realize that although marches are a reliable means of drawing attention to the pervasive problems facing Black America, they are an ineffective strategy when it comes to ameliorating these centuries-old issues.

The irony that contemporary Civil Rights leaders are still relying upon old protest tactics on the eve of the National Holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is shocking. It appears that today’s black leaders such as the NAACP’s Cornell William Brooks who has vowed to “march until hell freezes over, and when it does, we will march on the ice,” have failed to learn much from either our struggle for racial equality or the legacy of Dr. King.

For example, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that the Civil Rights Movement has two increasingly difficult stages. The initial stage was the securing of equality on American law books, a task that most historians and political scientist agree occurred when President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Right Act. Dr. King warned the entire nation that although whites would be overly emotional in their resistance to the theoretical equality that Johnson’s legislative addendums secured, they must remain vigilant in regards to the struggle for racial equality because the job was not even half-way done after either the 1965 or 1968 Voting Rights Acts. According to King, the most challenging aspect of the struggle for racial equality would be the moment that African-Americans attempted to exercise the above theoretical equality. According to Dr. King, Negroes must enter white educational institutions (as students, teachers, and administrators), jobs (as laborers and bosses), neighborhoods, and political offices as equals before we can begin to celebrate any triumph over racism. Dr. King went to his grave knowing that America had never attempted to accomplish this crucial second stage.

The most bewildering thing about Civil Rights leaders such as Al Sharpton is that they have learned nothing about how groups address their political and socioeconomic grievances in America. Now please do not think that I am insinuating that public protests have no role in the expressing of grievances because they certainly do. However, this antiquated protest activity is only a half-step toward ameliorating the many issues facing Black America. The failure to recognize the limited impact of public protests is a gross dereliction of leadership duties for national level Civil Rights leaders.

In this space, I have repeatedly echoed two points that our beloved brother Malcolm X stated regarding the path that our people must travel if they are serious about their liberation. Ironically, neither way is contingent upon the cooperation of rival groups. The alluded to statements that our dear brother Malcolm X stated are as follows:

  • The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
  • We must “wake up, clean up, and stand up!

It is intra-racially that our most significant progress against political marginality and economic tenuousness will be made. Instead of adopting such a reasonable path, black leaders such as Sharpton and Brooks are guiding the membership base of their national level organizations to spend inordinate amounts of time and precious resources, not to mention the wearing out of tons of shoe leather, shouting at white political elites slogans that amount to little more than “don’t you have a conscious? Look at how you are doing us. We only want you to like us and do right by us.” Such pleadings are not only embarrassing to self-respecting African-Americans but also fall short of being a significant political statement.

So as figures such as Cornell William Brooks execute bird-brained plans to “march until hell freezes over, and when it does, we will march on the ice,” the world will continue to look on with amused contempt and pity at a black leadership cadre whose failure to learn anything from its past struggles has doomed it to be woefully inept at developing and executing a plan to address any of the politico-economic issues facing Black America in the twenty-first century.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017.

What Are They Thinking? Why Some Segments of Black America Continue to Support Umar Johnson

Even a cursory examination of African-American history illustrates the following point; leadership serves as the embodiment of people’s identity, political consciousness, goal structures, and desire for politico-economic liberation. There is little debate that Marcus Garvey was the embodiment of Pan-Africanist during his life, the same for Malcolm X during his entire post-incarceration period, and of course similar things can be said about Frederick Douglass, David Walker, Maria Stewart, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Ella Baker, and a host of others.

Most reasonable people agree that those mentioned above possessed the following qualities:

  • Confidence
  • Transparency
  • Integrity
  • Truthfulness
  • Character
  • Morality
  • Honesty
  • Patience
  • Dignity

I also believe that those who have witnessed the antics of Umar Johnson over the past several years, including his most recent meltdown that vacillated between a personal infomercial promoting his appearances/clothing apparel and a pitiful individual gang summit full of threats and insults, would agree that he possesses none of the above qualities. It is this lack of personal integrity that makes Umar entirely unsuitable to lead any movement, let alone one aimed at uplifting Black America. Ironically, the same character flaws and cultural dysfunction that sits at the core of Umar’s existence extends black suffering. Put simply, if logic and reasonableness, not emotionalism, guide our thoughts, there is no other reasonable conclusion one could arrive at other than character flaws, and cultural dysfunctions are the most substantial parts of Umar.

If we agree that leadership reflects those that they lead, one must ask this looming question, who are these African-Americans that have consciously chosen to ignore Umar’s character flaws and absence of a liberation plan? They must mirror the huge flaws found within the self-appointed Prince of Pan-Africanism. That is a frightening thought on many levels.

In all fairness, I believe that such individuals are well-meaning, yet desperate, in their desire to uplift the Black community from its historical have-not status. They quite simply have an honest desire to do something, anything, to alleviate the present suffering and prevent future oppression for succeeding generations of Black America.

Once this unfocused, yet unending urge to do something encounters a charismatic leader such as Umar Johnson who uses his knowledge of psychology to tap into his supporters emotionalism, it does not take long for them to fall under his enchanting spell.

Trust me when I say that the spell Umar Johnson has placed on the minds of many of our people is strong enough to get them to not only follow him but also eagerly offer donations to yet to be realized projects without questioning where their money has gone.

Shockingly, not even Umar’s public displays of ignorance are sufficient to awaken those under his spell. It is the casting of a powerful spell that is the only reasonable explanation behind the regular financial contributions for an individual who filmed himself articulating the most daunting examples of color politics and intra-racial attacks I have ever seen.

Umar’s emotionally-charged rant is the equivalent of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. angrily telling Malcolm X, “Malcolm, I’m coming to Harlem. And when I get there, I am going to kick your light-skinned ass. I’m Black Malcolm, melinated!!!!! You are light-skinned Malcolm. Every time you look into the mirror Malcolm, you see a white man!!!!!  Don’t trust those niggers over there, don’t you dare trust that light-skinned nigger over there.”

Any support given to Umar Johnson definitively proves that it is style over substance that Black America desires. In today’s Black Nationalist era the path to garnering attention with the ‘conscious community’ is to be slick talking, insulting to ‘rivals’, disrespectful to the esteemed tradition of Black leadership, and willing to find an inventive way to simultaneously tap into potential converts emotionalism while indirectly explaining that you “know the perfect place for Black America’s money. And it is right here in my pocket.”

I guess that it is appropriate at this moment to use Malcolm X’s infamous characterization of black leadership as “a circus, with clowns and all.” Umar appears to be situated at the center of the ‘Big Top,’ unfortunately, he is not the only ringleader in this traveling roadshow.

James Thomas Jones III, Ph.D., M.A., M.A.

©Manhood, Race, and Culture 2016