Malcolm X’s Message For Fighting Injustice Should Empower Us In This Age Of Trumpian Racism

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[Remembering Malcolm X: May 19, 1925- Feb 21, 1965]
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Malcolm X's community control messsage to combat economic problems and police brutality still very relevant...

If he were still with us, Malcolm X would be turning 94 years old, today. If Black America hadn’t lost Malcolm to the bullets of assassins, in Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom, we would be in a much better place now.

Malcolm would surely have done everything with his considerable charismatic power to produce meaningful change for Black Americans. Black America’s leadership today leaves much to de desired. Today’s Black leaders lack the passion, determination—and bravery—Malcolm had. Most of them have been co-opted by the White political structure. Personal careerism, not activism on behalf the Black community, is now the regular order of the day.

Malcolm would surely be outraged that Black America is still plagued with poverty, homelessness, unemployment, failing schools, police brutality etc. He would be appalled by the statistics that afflict us.

According to the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau’s ACS study, “27% of all African American men, women and children live below the poverty level compared to just 11% of all Americans. An even higher percentage (38%) of Black children live in poverty compared to 22% of all children in America. The poverty rate for working-age Black women (26%) which consists of women ages 18 to 64 is higher than that of working-age Black men (21%).”

Malcolm made the economic connection between living in a poor neighborhood and having bad schools, jobs etc., when he said “When you live in a poor neighborhood, you are living in an area where you have poor schools. When you have poor schools, you have poor teachers. When you have poor teachers, you get a poor education. When you get a poor education, you can only work in a poor-paying job. And that poor-paying job enables you to live again in a poor neighborhood. So, it's a very vicious cycle.”

Malcolm stressed the important need for community control of everything in the Black community—especially economic control—to combat these problems. In his April 3, 1964 “Ballot or the Bullet” speech, Malcom articulate his reasoning.

“We should control the economy of our community. Why should White people be running all the stores in our community? Why should White people be running the banks of our community? Why should the economy of our community be in the hands of the White man? Why? If a Black man can’t move his store into a White community, you tell me why a White man should move his store into a Black community?...in every church, in every civic organization, in every fraternal order, it’s time now for our people to become conscious of the importance of controlling the economy of our community. If we own the stores, if we operate the businesses, if we try and establish some industry in our own community, then we’re developing to the position where we are creating employment for our own kind. Once you gain control of the economy of our own community, then you don’t have to picket and boycott and beg some cracker downtown for a job in his business.”

Malcolm’s economic analysis here is crucially significant for us to remember now. It is the answer to many of our current problems. We must build Black businesses and institutions.

According to the Black Demographics website, there are 2.6 million Black-owned businesses today, where “95% of these businesses are mostly sole proprietorship or partnerships which have no paid employees.” They note that Black businesses create 1 million jobs, with annual revenues of $187.6 billion— “which is enough to employ 4 percent of the working-age Black population.” This means Black-owned companies “could give” an annual check of $7,000 to “every working-age Black American.”

By contrast, Hispanic-owned business create 2.5 million jobs, with annual revenues of $473.6 billion— “which is enough to employ 8 percent of working-age Hispanic population.” These Hispanic-owned companies “could give” an annual check of $14,000 to “every working-age Hispanic American.” Asian-owned businesses created 3.8 million jobs, with an annual revenue of $793. 5 billion— “which is enough to employ 33 percent of the working-age Asian population.” This means Asian-owned companies “could give” an annual check of $67,000 to “every working-age Asian American.”

The figure for White American business highlights the economic inequality even more starkly. White-owned businesses create 55.9 million jobs, with annual revenues of $12.9 trillion—"which is enough to employ 44 percent of working-age White population.” This means White-owned businesses “could give,” an annual check of $102,000 to “every working-age White American.”

The figures highlight how far behind we are economically to everybody else in America. Black America must create thriving Black businesses to stop our chronic economic problems.

Police violence is another persistent problem plaguing Black America. Malcolm X, never one to sugarcoat the truth, addressed the issue many times. Here is what Malcolm said, at the London School of Economics, on Feb. 11, 1965.

“There is an element of Whites who are nothing but cold, animalistic racists. That element is the one that controls or has strong influence in the power structure. It uses the press skillfully to feed statistics to the public to make it appear that the rate of crime in the Black community, or community of non-White people, is at such a high level. It gives the impression or the image that everyone in that community is criminal. And as soon as the public accepts the fact that the dark-skinned community consists largely of criminals or people who are dirty, then it makes it possible for the power structure to set up a police-state system. Which will make it permissible in the minds of even the well-meaning White public for them to come in and use all kinds of police methods.”

Malcolm’s analysis here explains why police violence, and murder, against Black America is condoned by White America. As an ardent advocate of community control, Malcolm would be telling us White cops—who would never live in a Black community—have no business policing Black communities. He would be telling us Blacks should be deciding police policy in the Black community.

Malcolm’s assessment of the role of the press in criminalizing Black Americans in the minds of White Americans also cannot be underestimated. Today, we see that the broadcast media press is not interested in showing the ongoing murders of Black Americans by the hands of police. All we get from the broadcast press now is news of Trump, and the latest nonsense he is engaging in.

What would Malcom say about today’s age of Trumpian racism?

Malcolm would no doubt remind us that Trump is but a gross symptom of the larger problem in America. Malcom’s January 7, 1965, “Prospects for Peace” speech is worth remembering here.

In this speech, Malcolm warned that we had to “face reality and realize that we were in a racist society that was controlled by racists from the federal government right on down to the local government. From the White House right on down to City Hall.”

In remembering, and honoring Malcolm X, we must remember he fervently believed it was ultimately up to Black Americans to change our condition. Malcolm stated “We have to get together and remove the evils, the vices, the alcoholism, drug addiction, that are destroying the moral fiber of our community. We ourselves must lift the level of our community, the standard of our community to a higher level, make our own society beautiful so that we will be satisfied in our own social circles.”

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