Tag Archive | "Malcolm X"

Malcolm X and human rights in the time of Trumpism: Transcending the master’s tools


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There was something quite different with Malcolm’s approach to human rights that distinguished him from mainstream civil rights activists. By grounding himself in the radical human rights approach, Malcolm articulated a position on human rights struggle that did not contain itself to just advocacy. He understood that appealing to the same powers that were responsible for the structures of oppression was a dead end.

Fifty-two years-ago on February 21st, the world lost the great anti-colonial fighter, Malcolm X. Around the world, millions pause on this anniversary and take note of the life and contribution of Brother Malcolm. Two years ago, I keynoted a lecture on the legacy of Malcolm X at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon. While I had long been aware of the veneration that Malcolm inspired in various parts of the world, I was still struck by the love and appreciation that so many have for Malcolm beyond activists in the black world.

There are a number of reasons that might explain why 52 years later so many still pay homage to Malcolm.  For those of us who operate within context of the Black Radical Tradition, Malcolm’s political life and philosophy connected three streams of the Black Radical Tradition: nationalism, anti-colonialism and internationalism. For many, the way in which Malcolm approached those elements account for his appeal. Yet, I think there is something else. Something not reducible to the language of political struggle and opposition that I hear when I encounter people in the U.S. and in other parts of the world when they talk about Malcolm. I suspect it is his defiance, his dignity, his courage and his selflessness. For me, it is all of that, but it is also how those elements were reflected in his politics, in particular his approach to the concept of human rights.

The aspects of his thought and practice that distinguished the period of his work in that short year between his break with the Nation of Islam (NOI) in 1964 and his assassination in 1965 included not only his anti-racism and anti-colonialist stance but also his advocacy of a radical approach to the issue of human rights.

Human rights as a de-colonial fighting instrument

Malcolm – in the tradition of earlier black radical activists and intellectuals in the late 1940s – understood the subversive potential of the concept of human rights when philosophically and practically disconnected from its liberal, legalistic, and state-centered genesis.

For Malcolm, internationalizing resistance to the system of racial oppression in the U.S. meant redefining the struggle for constitutional civil rights by transforming the struggle for full recognition of African American citizenship rights to a struggle for human rights.

This strategy for international advocacy was not new. African Americans led by W.E. B. Dubois were present at Versailles during the post-World War I negotiations to pressure for self-rule for various African nations, including independence from the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. At the end of the World War II during the creation of the United Nations, African American radicals forged the possibilities to use this structure as a strategic space to pressure for international support for ending colonization in Africa and fight against racial oppression in the United States.

Malcolm studied the process by which various African American organizations – the National Negro Congress (NNC), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), petitioned the UN through the Human Rights Commission on behalf of the human rights of African Americans. Therefore, in the very first months after his split with the NOI, he already envisioned idea that the struggle of Africans in the U.S. had to be internationalized as a human rights struggle.  He advised leaders of the civil rights movement to “expand their civil rights movement to a human rights movement, it would internationalize it.”

Taking a page from the examples of the NNC, NAACP and CRC, The Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), one of the two organizations Malcolm formed after leaving the NOI, sought to bring the plight of African Americans to the United Nations to demand international sanctions against the U.S. for refusing to recognize the human rights of this oppressed nation.

However, there was something quite different with Malcolm’s approach to human rights that distinguished him from mainstream civil rights activists. By grounding himself in the radical human rights approach, Malcolm articulated a position on human rights struggle that did not contain itself to just advocacy. He understood that appealing to the same powers that were responsible for the structures of oppression was a dead end. Those kinds of unwise and potentially reactionary appeals would never result in substantial structural changes. Malcolm understood oppressed peoples must commit themselves to radical political struggle in order to advance a dignified approach to human rights.

“We have to make the world see that the problem that we’re confronted with is a problem for humanity. It’s not a Negro problem; it’s not an American problem. You and I have to make it a world problem, make the world aware that there’ll be no peace on this earth as long as our human rights are being violated in America.”

And if the U.S. and the international community does not address the human rights plight of the African American, Malcolm is clear on the course of action: “If we can’t be recognized and respected as a human being, we have to create a situation where no human being will enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Malcolm’s approach to the realization of human rights was one in which human agency is at the center. If oppressed individuals are not willing to fight for their human rights, Malcolm suggested that “you should be kept in the cotton patch where you’re not a human being.”

If you are not ready to pay the price required to experience full dignity as a person and as members of a self-determinant people, then you will be consigned to the “zone of non-being,” as Fanon refers to that place where the non-European is assigned. Malcolm referred to that zone as a place where one is a sub-human:

“You’re an animal that belongs in the cotton patch like a horse and a cow, or a chicken or a possum, if you’re not ready to pay the price that is necessary to be paid for recognition and respect as a human being.

“And what is that price?

“The price to make others respect your human rights is death. You have to be ready to die… it’s time for you and me now to let the world know how peaceful we are, how well-meaning we are, how law-abiding we wish to be. But at the same time, we have to let the same world know we’ll blow their world sky-high if we’re not respected and recognized and treated the same as other human beings are treated.”

People(s)-centered human rights

This approach to human rights struggle is the basis of what I call the People(s)-Centered approach to human rights struggle.

People(s)-Centered Human Rights (PCHR) are those non-oppressive rights that reflect the highest commitment to universal human dignity and social justice that individuals and collectives define and secure for themselves through social struggle.

This is the Black Radical Tradition’s approach to human rights.  It is an approach that views human rights as an arena of struggle that, when grounded and informed by the needs and aspirations of the oppressed, becomes part of a unified comprehensive strategy for de-colonization and radical social change.

The PCHR framework provides an alternative and a theoretical and practical break with the race and class-bound liberalism and mechanistic state-centered legalism that informs mainstream human rights.

The people-centered framework proceeds from the assumption that the genesis of the assaults on human dignity that are at the core of human rights violations is located in the relationships of oppression. The PCHR framework does not pretend to be non-political. It is a political project in the service of the oppressed. It names the enemies of freedom: the Western white supremacist, colonial/capitalist patriarchy.

Therefore, the realization of authentic freedom and human dignity can only come about as a result of the radical alteration of the structures and relationships that determine and often deny human dignity. In other words, it is only through social revolution that human rights can be realized.

The demands for clean water; safe and accessible food; free quality education; healthcare and healthiness for all; housing; public transportation; wages and a socially productive job that allow for a dignified life; ending of mass incarceration; universal free child care; opposition to war and the control and eventual elimination of the police; self-determination; and respect for democracy in all aspects of life are some of the people-centered human rights that can only be realized through a bottom-up mass movement for building popular power.

By shifting the center of human rights struggle away from advocacy to struggle, Malcolm laid the foundation for a more relevant form of human rights struggle for people still caught in the tentacles of Euro-American colonial dominance. The PCHR approach that creates human rights from the bottom-up views human rights as an arena of struggle. Human rights does not emanate from legalistic texts negotiated by states—it comes from the aspirations of the people. Unlike the liberal conception of human rights that elevates some mystical notions of natural law (which is really bourgeois law) as the foundation of rights, the “people” in formation are the ethical foundation and source of PCHRs.

Trumpism is the logical outcome of the decades long assault of racialized neoliberal capitalism. Malcolm showed us how to deal with Trumpism, and the PCHR movement that we must build will move us to that place where collective humanity must arrive if we are to survive and build a new world. And we will – “by any means necessary.”

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What Did Malcolm X Really Think about the Democratic Party?


malcolm-x

I’ll have those n*ggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years –U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson to two governors on Air Force One according to Ronald Kessler’s “Inside the White House”

Malcolm X was a controversial figure during the civil rights era.  If Malcolm X were alive today he would have been disappointed with the African-Americans and others who overwhelmingly vote for the Democrat party. Why? Because Malcolm X often spoke out against the American establishment, in particular, the Democratic Party for their involvement in the destruction of the African-American community and how they are used as “tools” for political power over their Republican rivals. There is no doubt that he would have continued to expose the hypocrisy of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party and how they have failed the African-American community for decades.

Malcolm X was not a Republican and he certainly was not a Democrat as he once said “We won’t organize any black man to be a Democrat or a Republican because both of them have sold us out. Both of them have sold us out; both parties have sold us out. Both parties are racist, and the Democratic Party is more racist than the Republican Party.” Before and even after the Civil Rights Act was established in 1964 under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. and the well-known racist President Lyndon B. Johnson, racism in America was still at an all-time high.

Malcolm X gave a controversial speech on December 1st, 1963 speech at the Manhattan Center in New York City called ‘God’s Judgment of White America (The Chickens Come Home to Roost)’ following the assassination of John F. Kennedy which earned him a 90 day suspension from the Nation of Islam:

In this deceitful American game of power politics, the Negroes (i.e., the race problem, the integration and civil rights issues) are nothing but tools, used by one group of whites called Liberals against another group of whites called Conservatives, either to get into power or to remain in power. Among whites here in America, the political teams are no longer divided into Democrats and Republicans. The whites who are now struggling for control of the American political throne are divided into “liberal” and “conservative” camps. The white liberals from both parties cross party lines to work together toward the same goal, and white conservatives from both parties do likewise.  

The white liberal differs from the white conservative only in one way: the liberal is more deceitful than the conservative. The liberal is more hypocritical than the conservative. Both want power, but the white liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor; and by winning the friendship, allegiance, and support of the Negro, the white liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or tool in this political “football game” that is constantly raging between the white liberals and white conservatives.

Politically the American Negro is nothing but a football and the white liberals control this mentally dead ball through tricks of tokenism: false promises of integration and civil rights. In this profitable game of deceiving and exploiting the political politician of the American Negro, those white liberals have the willing cooperation of the Negro civil rights leaders. These “leaders” sell out our people for just a few crumbs of token recognition and token gains. These “leaders” are satisfied with token victories and token progress because they themselves are nothing but token leaders

Malcolm X was asked about the assassination of JFK and said that the U.S. government had assassinated various foreign leaders including Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba who was a target of the CIA. Lumumba’s government was destabilized in 1960 which led to his abduction and was tortured and murdered by January 1961. Malcolm X had suggested that JFK’s assassination was a “case of the chickens coming home to roost” and that those who commit crimes against others will come back to haunt the perpetrators of those same crimes. The Nation of Islam in Chicago made a decision that after the 90-day suspension, Malcolm X would be suspended indefinitely.

However, Malcolm X had announced his departure from the Nation of Islam and announced the establishment of the Muslim Mosque Inc, a religious group that would eventually get involved in the electoral political process and community organizing for black civil rights. However, many people especially in the U.S. and to an extent across the world do not know much about Malcolm X. For starters, he was not a supporter of the Democratic Party as he was convinced that they were the party of racists. Was he correct to point out that the Democratic Party had racists within their ranks? Consider the 33rd President of the United States Harry S. Truman, a Democrat who wrote a letter to his future wife Bess regarding his thoughts about African-Americans and Chinese nationals:

I think one man is just as good as another so long as he’s not a n*gger or a Chinaman. Uncle Will says that the Lord made a White man from dust, a n*gger from mud, then He threw up what was left and it came down a Chinaman. He does hate Chinese and Japs. So do I. It is race prejudice, I guess. But I am strongly of the opinion Negroes ought to be in Africa, Yellow men in Asia and White men in Europe and America

The late Democratic Senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd wrote a letter to Senator Theodore Bilbo from Mississippi in 1944 and said:

I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side … Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds

History books in American public schools do not teach or even mention what Malcolm X represented as an anti-establishment revolutionary who never voted for either political party because he saw the blatant hypocrisy. Larry Elder, a radio show host, writer, attorney and a registered Republican who grew up in the poverty stricken Pico-Union and South Central areas in Los Angeles wrote an article on what Malcolm X would say about African-Americans who overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic Party today:

What would Malcolm X say about today’s 95 percent black vote? Did the Democratic Party keep its promises to promote family stability, push education and encourage job creation?  The black community, over the last 50 years, has suffered an unparalleled breakdown in family unity. Even during slavery when marriage was illegal, a black child was more likely than today to be raised under a roof with his or her biological mother and father. According to census data, from 1890 to 1940, said economist Walter Williams, a black child was slightly more likely to grow up with married parents than a white child. What happened? 

When President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty in 1965, 24 percent of black babies were born to unmarried mothers. Today that number is 72 percent. Then-presidential candidate Barack Obama said in 2008: “Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves.” 

Not only has family breakdown coincided with increased government spending, but the money has not done much to reduce the rate of poverty. From 1965 until now, the government has spent $15-20 trillion to fight poverty. In 1949, the poverty rate stood at 34 percent. By 1965, it was cut in half, to 17 percent — all before the so-called War on Poverty. But after the war began in 1965, poverty began to flat line. It appears that the generous welfare system allowed women to, in essence, marry the government — and it allowed men to abandon their financial and moral responsibility, while surrendering the dignity that comes from being a good provider. Psychologists call dependency “learned helplessness”

“Humanitarian Intervention” and the Democratic Party

The Democratic Party (founded on January 8th, 1829) and the Republican Party (founded on March 20th, 1854) have had their fair share in foreign and domestic wars since their founding. Since World War II, the Democratic Party has participated in numerous foreign interventions as they have often proved that they can be as hawkish as their Republican counterparts as Reagan and the Bush family. It was the Democratic Party of Harry S. Truman who authorized the use of the atomic bomb on the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Truman administration also started “The Forgotten War” known as the Korean War where Truman called the U.S. intervention a “Police Action” under the authorization of the United Nations (which was dominated by the U.S.) due to North Korea invading South Korea. The U.S. and the United Nations backed South Korea while China and the Soviet Union backed North Korea during the war. The ‘Truman Doctrine’ also led to the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The ‘Truman Doctrine’ originally implemented the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after the war and helped establish NATO to counter the Soviets in 1949. The Truman Doctrine also provided economic and military aid to Greece and Turkey to help fight the “communist threat.” 

The Democrats became even more militaristic with the Kennedy administration with their funding and training of Cuban exiles for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in an attempt to remove the Castro government. The Kennedy administration also deployed nuclear missiles in Turkey which presented a direct threat to the USSR that eventually led to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Lyndon B. Johnson’s Vietnam War, Bill Clinton’s war on Somalia and Serbia to Obama’s destruction of Libya and the support of the Islamic State terrorists to oust President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and elsewhere.

The Democratic Party of today is more in sync with tribalism than they are for any real democracy. Under the Obama administration, Libya was destroyed and the Democrats said nothing. If it was George W. Bush or Donald Trump today that authorized NATO’s invasion of Libya, the liberal Democrats would be protesting in the streets. But since it was a Democrat, it was for the greater good, a “humanitarian intervention.” Some people who vote for the Democrats actually think that the Democratic Party is some sort of revolutionary resistance against the Republican Party however; both parties are the core of the political establishment closely aligned with special interest groups such as the major corporations, the Military-Industrial Complex, international banking cartels and other powerful figures and institutions behind the scenes.

Before his assassination, Malcolm X was already seen as a revolutionary figure who defied the American establishment at home and abroad. Democrats should read about the history of Malcolm X and learn the truth about the Democratic Party and possibly the next time they vote, it will be for a third or fourth party candidate that stands for a real democracy and justice that would dismantle the two-party system and the power of American Empire from within. But as long as the American public continues to be brainwashed by the mainstream-media, the education system and the political establishment from both parties, the American Empire will run amok until its inevitable collapse.

Here is a segment from Malcolm X on what he thought about the Democratic Party:

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