“MINISTER MALCOLM X: LIKE IT, OR NOT (1925-1965)"
By Fahim A. Knight
This article is a tribute to the late Minister Malcolm X who on May 19, 2008 will be celebrating his 83rd birthday. This writer has little doubt that Minister Malcolm X if a live today would be a voice on behalf of the oppressed, poor, and disenfranchised and would be a dissenting voice against United States Foreign Policy. This writer knows that Minister Malcolm X would be in opposition to the U.S./Iraq War where over a million innocent Iraqi citizens have lost their lives due to greed and the STEALING OF OIL BY PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH. I do not think Minister Malcolm X would be celebrating the 60th Nationhood birthday (May 18, 2008) of Israel without full recognition of the oppressed Palestinian People and would be in support of their sovereignty and Arabs rights to the land of Palestine. I do not think Minister Malcolm X could support Senator John McCain who said he supported United States troops being in Iraq for the next one hundred years. I do think Minister Malcolm X would be in support of the United States Patriot Act, which had relegated to the United States Constitution to a worthless piece of paper, which ultimately has compromised the civil liberties of United States Citizens. Minister Malcolm X would denounce the imperialistic practices and policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank relative to developing nations.
Minister Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965, at the tender age of thirty-nine (39) and he was perhaps one of the most controversial and misunderstood black leaders of the Twentieth Century. He was very critical of the United States Government domestic and Foreign Policy, as well as, early on critical of the traditional African American Civil Rights Leadership—Martin Luther King, A. Phillip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, Bayard Rustin, Roy Ennis, etc., as being too accommodating and to placating toward the United States Government and the white society. Malcolm represented the antithesis to the non-violent and civil disobedient Civil Rights leadership who he called “sellouts” and “uncle toms”.
Malcolm X stated: "Just as the slave master of that day used Tom, the house Negro, to keep the field Negroes in check, the same old slave master today has Negroes who are nothing but modern Uncle Toms, 20th century Uncle Toms, to keep you and me in check, keep us under control, keep us passive and peaceful and nonviolent. That's Tom making you nonviolent. It's like when you go to the dentist, and the man's going to take your tooth. You're going to fight him when he starts pulling. So he squirts some stuff in your jaw called Novocain, to make you think they're not doing anything to you. So you sit there and 'cause you've got all of that Novocain in your jaw, you suffer peacefully. Blood running all down your jaw and you don't know what's happening. 'Cause someone has taught you to suffer – peacefully. (Reference: Malcolm X Speech titled, “Message To The Grass Roots—Detroit; November 10, 1963).
Malcolm X felt that he represented the poor, oppressed, and the downtrodden unlike the established black leadership—that appeared to be bourgeoisie and a bit too cozy toward the status quo. His worldview perhaps was shaped by a society that had defined and condemned him (black people) to an inferior status. Malcolm X talked about during his eight grade school year that he expressed to his teacher that he wanted to be a lawyer and he conveyed those aspirations to his Caucasian teacher, but he was discouraged and told that blacks were better suited for vocational trades and service oriented work, as opposed professions such as law. Malcolm X also witnesses his father Reverend Earl Little being tied to a railroad track by white men—Ku Klux Klan and his body being severed because he dared to defend his family from white racist intimidation in Omaha, Nebraska. He also witnesses his mother, a native West Indian from the small island of Grenada forced to raise seven children by herself and during the years of the Great Depression. (Reference: Rodnell P. Collins: Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X).
His mother eventually had a nervous breakdown and was committed to an insane asylum, which led to Malcolm X and his siblings being divided amongst different family members. He was born just twenty (29) years after the infamous Supreme Court Decision of Plessy Versus Ferguson of 1896, a landmark decision, which the high court legalized racism and segregation in the United States. Thus, Malcolm X was not created in a vacuum, but his later views would be shaped by different social and political variables, which he experienced in his early life—racism. Many people have tried to characterize and dismissed Minister Malcolm X teachings to mere “hate teachings’ and conveniently overlook the fact that he was reacting to systemic racism in America. Jim Crow Laws were discriminatory in intent and nature, it created a government that essential became what one of my professors, the late Dr. Earlie Thorpe referred to as a “pigementocracy”, in which he defines as a government where as rewards and privileges were granted based on skin color. (Reference: C. Eric Lincoln: The Black Muslims of America)
Minister Malcolm X was not the one that created a system of injustice, but he later would confront it head on and used harsh critical analysis to dismantle racial stereotypes that were applied to blacks in order to create a racial atmosphere of divisiveness—white superiority and black inferiority. Malcolm X went through different psychological and political changes in his life—changes that can be summed up by his names—Malcolm Little, Detroit Red, Satan, Malcolm X, EL-Hajj Malik Shabazz and Brother Omawale; thus, each of these names represented life predicaments and mental and political transitions. Malcolm X would later relinquish his surname Little because he learned that these names were imposed on blacks by their former slave masters. (Reference: Alex Haley: The Autobiography of Malcolm X).
Elijah Muhammad (1897-1975) who led the Nation of Islam for forty-four (44) years gave Minister Malcolm X a new perspective, as far as viewing the social, political, economic realities facing him, in particular and blacks in general. Muhammad taught that blacks original names were systematically taken from them during Chattel Slavery (1555-1865), as well as their original religion which was Islam and they were given Christianity, the slave master’s religion in order to control their minds and keep them docile and subservient. Muhammad initially would give all his followers the surname “X” stating that in mathematic language “X” in the alphabet stood for the unknown variables and by blacks being kidnapped from Africa and robbed of their culture and heritage had lost their true identity. This message resonated with many blacks in the United States including Minister Malcolm X.(Reference: Karl Evanzz: The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad).
Malcolm X became a serious student of world history studying the great historians such as James Henry Breasted authored, “The Conquest of Civilization,” Hendrik Willem van Loon authored, “The Story of Man Kind,” H.G. Wells who authored the book titled, “Outline History” and Will Durant monumental works titled, “The Story of Civilization” in which these European historians in a lot of ways verified Elijah Muhammad’s worldview. But he was perhaps most influenced by the works of the Historian Joel Augustus Rogers who had a knack of finding and revealing little known black history facts. He authored “The World’s Great Men of Color” (two volumes), “Sex and Race” (three volumes), “Africa’s Gift to America to America,” “100 Hundred Amazing Facts about the Negro,” in which Minister Malcolm X armed himself with a body of intellectual knowledge that would later be used in his ability to debate scholars, theologians, historians, politicians, etc., and he never lost a debate.
Minister Malcolm X only completed the eight grade of schooling, but he would later be given forums to speak and debate scholars at Harvard and Yale University. He really did not need much because slavery was in reprehensible and stood as a Christian and human contradiction, which was justified by racism. He attacked those social and political points that were in defensive and made most debaters appear weak and intellectual vulnerable. Muhammad taught that his teachings could be summed up in six words “Accept your own and be yourself” it would be this type of religious nationalism that early on comforted Minister Malcolm X and insulated him from a troubled past and gave him a sense of purpose.
Minister Malcolm stated, “Look at the American Revolution in 1776. That revolution was for what? For land. Why did they want land? Independence. How was it carried out? Bloodshed. Number one, it was based on land, the basis of independence. And the only way they could get it was bloodshed. The French Revolution -- what was it based on? The land-less against the landlord. What was it for? Land. How did they get it? Bloodshed. Was no love lost; was no compromise; was no negotiation. I'm telling you, you don't know what a revolution is. 'Cause when you find out what it is, you'll get back in the alley; you'll get out of the way. The Russian Revolution -- what was it based on? Land. The land-less against the landlord. How did they bring it about? Bloodshed. You haven't got a revolution that doesn't involve bloodshed. And you're afraid to bleed. I said, you're afraid to bleed”. (Reference: Malcolm X Speech titled, “Message To The Grass Roots—Detroit; November 10, 1963).
Minister X was given the street name Detroit Red, which was a stage of life that he was involved in criminal behavior and street hustling in Detroit and later in Boston where he learned to survive in the ghettos of Roxbury section of Boston, Massachusetts. These experiences also would later prepare him for his ministry, in particular on how to the sell the message and program of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad to African Americans throughout America. Malcolm X had an appeal to the poor and downtrodden because essential he spoke their language—street language, in which the early Nation of Islam’s recruits were the black proletariat, he had the uncanny ability to relate to them and visa versa. (Reference: Amin bin Qasim Nathari: Islam In America in 1995: 20 Years A.E.)
The author Archie Epps in his book titled, “Malcolm X and the American Revolution: The Speeches of Malcolm X”. Minister Malcolm stated, “So I stand here tonight speaking as a victim of what you call democracy. And you can understand what I’m saying if you realize it’s being said through the mouth of a victim; the mouth of one of the oppressed, not through the mouth and eyes of the oppressor. But if you think we’re sitting in the same chair or standing on the same platform, then you won’t understand what I’m talking about. You’d expect me to stand up here and say what you what you would say if you were standing up here. And I ‘d have to be out of my mind. Whenever one is viewing this political system through the eyes of a victim, he sees something different. But today these twenty-two million black people who are victims of American democracy, whether you realize it or not, are viewing your democracy with new eyes. Yesterday our people used to look upon American system as an American dream. But the black people today are beginning to realize that it is an American nightmare.” (Reference: Archie Epps: Malcolm X and the American Revolution: The Speeches of Malcolm X).
Malcolm X was eventually arrested and convicted of burglary and a number of other crimes; he was sentenced to ten (10) years of imprisonment. This is where his life would change and he began to reassess and reevaluate his personal predicament from the confinement walls of a Michigan State Prison. Muhammad taught that the black man was made blind, death and dumb to the knowledge of self—striped of his names, culture and God. Minister Malcolm X perhaps had to be brought down to his lowest point in order to be elevated to his highest point—standing as one of the premier black spokesman of the latter part of the 20th Century. Malcolm X’s youngest brother Reginald X had joined the Nation of Islam Temple number 2 in Detroit and it was he, who initially began to recruit Minister Malcolm to the black Muslim movement.
He was given the nickname in prison of Satan because he had renounced God and Jesus and questioned organized religion. His brother Reginald X Little constantly wrote him letters explaining Mr. Muhammad’s theology and teachings, this was around 1948. Malcolm X himself eventually wrote the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Muhammad wrote him back, as well as sending him money. Malcolm X so-called found the black man’s original religion, which was Islam (which translate to mean submission and peace) of his forefathers, the so-called religion of the Asiatic black man. Minister Malcolm X’s life was immediately transformed upon declaring to be a Muslim. Minister Malcolm X while in prison read and memorized the entire dictionary and used his time qualitatively to develop his intellectual knowledge base. Malcolm X found Muhammad and the Nation of Islam’s teachings intriguing because it gave him the knowledge of self—Muhammad taught a liberation theology that encompassed black symbols and images as opposed to American style Christianity that had Europeanized God, the prophets, the angels, etc., as being white. Muhammad’s teachings rescued Africa from the European designation of the title “Dark Continent” and taught how human civilization and learning evolved from Africa. This Islamic nationalism turned an ex-convict into one the most fierce debaters in African-American history. (Reference: Edward W. Blyden: Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race).
Malcolm X exited prison in 1952 as a Muslim and believer in the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s program and mission. He initially joined Temple Number 2 Detroit, Michigan; this was ironic because Elijah Muhammad and Wali Fard Muhammad both stomped in Detroit. The Nation of Islam founder Wali Fard Muhammad in 1930 went into the ghettos and slums of Paradise Valley in Detroit going door to door teaching blacks about their lost history and telling them they were from royal linage; introduced them to the Holy Qur’an and instructed them on the proper Islamic dietary laws, etc. Moreover on July 4, 1930 Wali Fard Muhammad met Elijah Poole (Muhammad) and taught him day and night for three and one half years until his mysterious disappearance in 1933. The elder Muhammad loved Minister Malcolm X like a son and the love was reciprocal. (Reference: Mattias Gardell In the Name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam).
Minister Malcolm was ambitious and worked to internalized what Elijah Muhammad called the “Life Giving Teachings” and moved up the ranks in the Nation of Islam quite swiftly. He believed all black people needed to hear Mr. Muhammad’s teachings and program and became one of the best students of Muhammad’s teachings; moreover, taking the Nation of Islam evangelic message of black redemption and salvation the breathe and length of America. Minister Malcolm X helped the Honorable Elijah Muhammad established Temples (Mosque) throughout America. Minister Malcolm X was a fiery and charismatic preacher that had tremendous natural intellectual wit, but was often liken to a frustrated Baptist minister—who taught fire and brimstone sermons. (Reference: Benjamin Karim: Remembering Malcolm)
Minister Malcolm X stated, “The only person who can organize the man in the street is the one who is unacceptable to the white community. They don’t trust the other kind. They don’t know who controls his actions. . .The greatest mistake of the movement has been trying to organize a sleeping people around specifics goals. You have to wake the people up. . .to their humanity, to their own worth, and to their heritage. The biggest difference between the parallel oppression of the Jew and the Negro is that the Jew never lost his pride in being a Jew. He never ceased to be a man. He knew he had made significant contribution to the world, and his sense of his own value gave him the courage to fight back. It enabled him to act and think independently, unlike our people and our leaders.” (Michael Eric Dyson: Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X).
It was Minister Malcolm X in 1959 that founded the Nation of Islam’s national newspaper titled, “Muhammad Speaks” and it was his proselytizing that won the Nation of Islam new recruits and allies throughout America. Minister Malcolm X organized and setup most of the early temples and even had the ability to attract college trained—middle class blacks, in which prior to his joining this segment of the black population did not find Muhammad’s teachings attractive and appealing. Minister Malcolm X changed that perception with his intellect and being a gifted orator. Minister Malcolm X in 1955 even recruited a talented Calypso Singer (staged named Gene the Charmer) named Louis Eugene Walcott (Farrakhan) and served as a mentor to young Louis X (Farrakhan) in the early days. Minister Malcolm X was eventually pointed to head Temple Number 7 New York City, as well as the National Representative of the entire Nation of Islam and was starting to receive high visibility from the people and the media. (Reference: Arthur J. Magida: The Prophet of Rage: A Life of Louis Farrakhan and his Nation).
Minister Malcolm X was very close to Mr. Muhammad’s next to the youngest son, Wallace D. Muhammad who had a history of being excommunicated, organizational disobedience and theological in subornation toward the precepts of his father’s theology. There were some belief that Mr. Muhammad’s children and inner circle were becoming increasingly envy and jealous of Minister Malcolm X success and insiders believe that a plot was hatched to move Minister Malcolm X out of the way. The Federal Bureau of Investigation had already begun sending spies and agent provocateurs to the Nation of Islam and it has been proving that some of the Nation of Islam’s national leadership was on the United States Government payroll. J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI had the Nation of Islam and its leadership under constant surveillance along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights leadership. Hoover had a counter-intelligence operation named Cointelpro.(Reference: Karl Evanzz: The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X)
Wikipedia on line research resources says this about Cointelpro; “COINTELPRO (an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program) was a series of covert and illegal projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at investigating and disrupting dissident political organizations within the United States. The FBI used covert operations from its inception; however the formal COINTELPRO operations took place between 1956 and 1971 The FBI motivation at the time was "protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order." Targets included groups suspected of being subversive, such as communist and socialist organizations; people suspected of building a "coalition of militant black nationalist groups" ranging from the Black Panther Party and Republic of New Africa, to "those in the non-violent civil rights movement," such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and others associated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress on Racial
Equality (CORE), and other civil rights groups.”
There were rumors and allegations that Honorable Elijah Muhammad had impregnated a number of his young secretaries and it was Muhammad’s son, Wallace D. Muhammad that exposed these allegations to Minister Malcolm X and this news devastated Minister Malcolm X because he believed that Mr. Muhammad was a divine Messenger from God in capable of committing sin, but even to date one must asked the question of, what was the younger Muhammad’s intent for revealing his father’s domestic life to Minister Malcolm X? and/or was there something sinister on the part of Wallace D. Muhammad in revealing his father’s domestic information to Minister Malcolm X? (Reference: Claude Clegg: An Original Man The Life and Times of Elijah Muhammad).
Minister Malcolm X initially confided in Louis X (Farrakhan) who was the minister over Temple Number 11 Boston, Massachusetts and told Minister Louis X (Farrakhan) what Wallace D. Muhammad had told him relative to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad so-called sexual improprieties. Minister Malcolm X trusted Minister Louis X (Farrakhan) and the first question Minister Louis X (Farrakhan) asked Minster Malcolm X was had he told the Honorable Elijah Muhammad what he had discovered? Minister Louis X (Farrakhan) has said publicly that his ultimately loyalty was to Muhammad and told his mentor Minister Malcolm X that he would give Minister Malcolm X a chance to write Muhammad, but essentially he would be formulating a letter to Mr. Muhammad exposing what Minister Malcolm X had revealed to him.
Minister Malcolm X, Louis X (Farrakhan) and the entire Nation of Islam viewed the Honorable Elijah Muhammad as a divine Messenger and Minister Malcolm X knew and understood theologically that all the biblical prophets of old had domestic trials and he really could have perhaps given a plausible explanation shrouded in religious idioms to justify and explain what appeared to be sexual innuendos. Some view this aspect of the Nation of Islam’s history as acts of betrayal and hypocrisy. This painful history still haunts Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. (Reference: Elijah Muhammad: Message to the Blackman of America)
President John F. Kenny was assassinated on November 22, 1963 and Mr. Muhammad gave strict orders to his ministers and followers not to make any public comments in reference to the murder of President Kennedy. Minister Malcolm X was given a speech titled, “God’s Judgment on White America” and during the question and answer period Minister Malcolm X was asked about the assassination of President Kennedy, which he made the infamous statement of a case of the “chickens coming home roost” equating this to death of President Kennedy. Mr. Muhammad indefinitely suspended and silenced his most visible minister for in subornation and this was the internal political impetus that led to Minister Malcolm X eventually being ousted permanently from the Nation of Islam. (Reference: Steven Barboza: American Jihad: Islam After Malcolm X).
Minister Malcolm X would later believe that Nation of Islam’s hierarchy was in a conspiracy to separate him from his leader and teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Minister Malcolm X on March 8, 1964, officially resigned from the Nation of Islam believing that his excommunication and suspension was permanent. Minister Malcolm X’s split with the Nation of Islam was perhaps out of more of a political disagreement rather than a theological disagreement as many have attempted to argue. Minister Malcolm X found two distinct organizations, the Muslim Mosque Incorporated and the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), the former sacred and the latter secular. (Reference: Maulana Karenga: Introduction into Black Studies).
Thus, as much as, Minister Malcolm X made a public conversion to Sunni Orthodox Islam. He was deeply tied to Pan-Africanist /Nationalist Movements with his Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), which he modeled after the Organization of African Unity (OAU) that was very much engaged in the fight for African liberation in 1960's against European imperialism and colonialism. Let’s do the math Malcolm X officially joined the Nation of Islam in about 1951/1952 (although his Islamic conversion began in 1946) after being released from a Michigan State prison and he spent about twelve (12) years representing Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam as their top level minister. This writer does not think he had enough time to formulate a solid conversion to Sunni Orthodox Islam as many have maintained. He was assassinated on February 21, 1965. ( Reference: Clifton E. Marsh: From Black Muslim To Muslim).
Minister Malcolm X after his departure from the Nation of Islam; traveled to various countries in Africa as an official diplomatic guest, sharing in some of the African states newfound sovereignty and independence ceremonies. He also toured the Middle East meeting with Arab Islamic leaders and last, but not least he made Hajj to Mecca and changed his name to EL-Hajj Malik Shabazz and so-called renounced the teachings of Nation of Islam moreover, he was only out the Nation of Islam eleven (11) months before he was murdered. (Reference: William H. Banks: The Black Muslims).
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad made Hajj in 1959 to Mecca, Saudi Arabia and received a royal welcome from the Saudi Arabian Hajj committee. Minister Malcolm X was the one that set-up the Hajj trip for his teacher, Elijah Muhammad; interpreted to meaning Minister Malcolm X saw and witness Muslims in Egypt and other Islamic countries of all races and ethnic groups as early as 1959 (reference: Alex Haley and Malcolm X: The Autobiography of Malcolm X). Elijah Muhammad’s theology did not preclude him from making the greatest observance in Islam; Muhammad like all the thousands of others pilgrims who made the holy Pilgrimage to Mecca—circumambulated the Kaaba touched and kissed the black stone, which was place there by Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael. In addition, to Elijah Muhammad making Hajj, two of his sons, Herbert Muhammad presently known as Jabir Muhammad and his son Imam Warith Deen Mohammed (Leader of the Muslim American Mission) all made Hajj in 1959 adhering to the FIFTH PILLAR OF ISLAM. He went their as a Muslim and left there as a Muslim and continued to teach the Nation of Islam’s theological doctrine; moreover essentially Elijah Muhammad never submitted to Arabs (Sunni Islam) doctrine.(Reference: Nasir Makr Hakim: The History of Elijah Muhammad, Messenger of Allah).
Lastly, Minister Malcolm X challenged the United States Government, white America and black America with speaking raw truth and used his voice to antagonize the status quo and advocated FREEDOM, JUSTICE AND EQUALITY for the least of these. Minister Malcolm X was a prophet—he was not consumed with materialism, status and appeasing the powers that-be because his critique and evaluation of the social, political and economic systems was harsh and unsympathetic. Minister Malcolm X understood that ninety-eight (98) percent of the world’s wealth is controlled by a measly one (1) percent of the population and he called for equal redistribution of the world’s wealth. This alone made him an enemy to the Power Elite, in which the corporate media maligned and demonized him as a militant hate teacher and radical in order to dismiss the truths he spoke. This writer does not buy for once that Minister Malcolm X was assassinated by members of the Nation of Islam; although there were Black Muslim triggermen. Nevertheless, the United States Government can not escape ultimate culpability in being in complicit with the assassins. Long Live the Spirit of Minister Malcolm X.
Fahim A. Knight Chief Researcher for KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK located in Durham, NC; our mission is to inform African Americans and all people of good will of the pending dangers that lie ahead; as well as decode the symbolisms and reinterpret the hidden meanings behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We are of the belief that an enlighten world will be better prepared to throw off the shackles of ignorance and not be willing participants for the slaughter. Our MOTTO is speaking truth to power. Fahim A. Knight can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
STAY AWAKE UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN,
Fahim A. Knight