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A lot has changed since El Hajj Malik El Shabazz walked the earth. The 1960’s were a time of promise that held up the possibility of a better tomorrow for humanity. The newly independent nations in Africa had the Western imperial powers panicking and scrambling to maintain their hegemony over that part of the human family which the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel declared to have played no historical part in the world. The National Liberation movements in the Third World were determined to extract themselves from the yoke of colonialism, and carve out their humanity based on terms they defined. The political economy of the world was never to be the same again. And just like that, the National Liberation struggles were over in the blink of an eye—well so the Western media would have you believe. They would have you believe the Civil Rights struggle, which was essentially an assimilationist struggle in the United States, signaled the end to all anti-Black racism in the world (never mind that Black people exist all over the world; oops, the U.S. is the world damn it!). Let the Western media tell it, those National Liberation struggles were just some natives that were under the influence of the Soviet Union, but now that communism has been swept into the dustbin of history, all is well with “the world.” The Western press’s claim that the “race problem” and colonialism have been solved is problematic because the objective realities of the world do not reflect such a claim. The National Liberation struggles of the 1960s were a culmination of past anti-colonial struggles; these struggles did not dissipate because their objectives of self determination were achieved, but because of the far-reaching hand of counter-revolution assassinating people and revolutionary ideologies.
For the record, assassination doesn’t only occur from a bullet or a knife thrust, it can also occur after the intended target’s body has already been laid to rest, and thus the assassination becomes the act of discrediting everything that person and/or movement stood for. Let’s call this holistic assassination. To be assassinated holistically, means that one has to be a particular threat to the status quo, meaning it wasn’t just their physical presence on earth that was feared by reactionary forces, but the ideas that were developed and synthesized by the one marked for holistic assassination. These people and/or movements are so dangerous to the current polity, that in order to maintain power, the assassins must be proactive and seek to destroy any and everything that is associated with the entity that has been targeted. Unfortunately, but predictably, in this “post-racial”, neoliberal, monopoly finance capital era, holistic assassination is exactly what those in power have done to Malcolm X and other revolutionary figures who were ripped from this world by the enemies of humanity. A constituent element of holistic assassination is to disseminate biased, mainstream propaganda, under the guise of objectivity, and through people with “institutional credibility.” These people are produced by institutions of society that are deemed to have value, thus such books as Manning Marable’s reformist polemic Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. I won’t rehash why this books reads like propaganda for COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) because there have been many well written articles and books that have done so. 1 What is surprising about all the speculation regarding what Malcolm would have said about the election of Barack Obama, Negro police chiefs, etc, is that these “experts” never refer to Malcolm’s own words. Instead we are treated to their perverted reformist agendas of what and who Malcolm was/is politically. I guess it is the full on acceptance of the banking education theory which causes people to take Marable and others like him at his word without any form of critical analysis. If you begin to question, the Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Rosa Parks, Booker T. Washington, and Barack Obama t-shirt won’t look so cute anymore.
It is for this reason, without a single ounce of hesitation or apprehension, that I can say with all confidence the book February 1965: The Final Speeches (Malcolm X speeches and writings), is one of, if not, the most concise culmination of Malcolm’s political ideological views. The book is compiled from speeches, interviews, and writings that took place or were produced during the last two tumultuous weeks of Malcolm’s life. In February 1965, Malcolm is not filtered through an academician who has been trained to appease his paymasters so that she/he can be assured their next grant funded project—quite the contrary. February 1965 is Malcolm in his own words—and guess what—he is not a reformist in the slightest. Surprise! Surprise! In February 1965, there is absolutely no obfuscation as to the political objectives of Malcolm X. For those who have been made politically autistic by Western imperial propaganda (which would have us believe you can be “politically aware” by simply adorning a t-shirt with a bunch of Black folks on it no matter their political leanings); after you read February 1965, you will come to the same conclusion about the election of Barack Obama that Logic—from The People’s Army —came to in the song “Breathe”:
Politicians like Obama are see through. If you don’t know fam go and get a clue, get an idea. Think deeper why is he really there? See he’s far from a Malcolm or Garvey…
Malcolm Redefining the Term “Afro-Americans”
In February 1965, we see the fulcrum of Malcolm’s political project was to internationally link the plight of Africans in the U.S. to the plight of African people wherever we are in the world; this link being the basis for an organized Pan-African self-determining political formation throughout the world. In the tradition of Marcus Garvey, Malcolm knew Black people had been dispersed and given false identities based on European settler colonial nation-state formations and imposed colonial identities (e.g. Blacks born in Martinique being French). False identities are the crux of incorrect political formations because one moves as an object of the people who created these polities instead of a subject that defines the world. This false consciousness of identity aided and abetted in the inferiority and political impotency of Black people around the world, and Malcolm understood the destruction of these “sacrosanct” false identities was a must. In “Not Just an American Problem but a world problem”, presented at Corn Hill Methodist Church in Rochester, New York February 16, 1965 he drives this point home when he accurately states:
Many of us fool ourselves into thinking of Afro-Americans as those only who are here in the United States. America is North America, Central America, and South America. Anybody of African ancestry in South America is an Afro-American. Anybody in Central America of African blood is an Afro-American. Anybody here in North America, including Canada, is an Afro-American if he has African ancestry-even down in the Caribbean, he’s an Afro-American. So when I speak of the Afro-American, I’m not speaking of just the twenty-two million of us who are here in the United States. But the Afro-American is that large number of people in the Western Hemisphere, from the southernmost tip of South America to the northernmost tip of North America, all of whom have a common heritage and have a common origin when you go back into the history of these people. 2
What Malcolm does when he redefines the parochial political term “Afro-American”, is reveal the proper context in which Black people face oppression in the Americas. There is all of a sudden no more “American Negro” problem, or a question/statement of “What can we do? We are a minority,” because the problem of the Afro-American has been placed into its proper context in the world. With this understanding we are no longer a minority group facing oppression alone in the United States. The “Afro-American” problem is the creation of the Americas which politically devalued Black life for economic gain since its inception. Malcolm understood the term “Afro-American” was meant to be used in a parochial sense because Black people in the United States are conditioned to contextualize our problems through the nation-state polity that rests upon our oppression for its survival. In the same presentation he went on to state emphatically:
Any kind of movement for freedom of Black people based solely within the confines of America is absolutely doomed to fail. [Applause]3.
Malcolm was aware that America (the United States) was not “THE AMERICAS”, and that the United States was a part of The Americas. That being the case, Black people who found themselves in the United States were not the only “Afro-Americans”, but a people with a clearly defined national identity based on their common origins of African ancestry, not where they got off the slave ship in the Americas. Malcolm knew the political ramifications for the oppressors of humanity if Africans who found themselves in the Americas understand that no matter where we go in this hemisphere, the “Afro” will always remain permanent in defining our national identity as Black people. The political ramifications have the potential of unraveling the Americas as we know it because its settler colonial framework depends on making Black people fungible objects.
- See Dragging Malcolm X to Obamaland and An Ivory Tower Assassination of Malcolm X, to get a general idea of the articles published in response to Marable’s book. ↩
- Malcolm X, February 1965: The Final Speeches (Malcolm X speeches and writings), ed. Steve Clark (New York: Pathfinder, 1992), 145. ↩
- Ibid., p. 168. ↩