The pleasant modern crime
Do not speak to me of the martyrdom
of men who die to be remembered
in some parish meeting.
I do not believe in death
even if I die myself
and violets like sea-shells
But this man,
with his lips thick with words
will speak no more
and every winter
when the freezing air
stings like ice, I shall breathe
his breath and a dismal lament
in the nights full of rifle-shots.
He was the sun that adorned
the western sky and
melted the pupils of the tiger
while they went in search
of their stripes.
He said: “Damn you,
white men, we have been
taken in for too long. Nothing
is sacred today: neither your
white face nor the territory
which divides us
until those voices are heard
which cower now under spasms
Do not speak to me of living,
life is obscene with crowds
of blacks and their dirty white souls,
death is my throbbing,
what could have been
is not for him nor for me
but what could still be
floods my belly until I drown.
- from MALCOLM X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable; p. 487: The al-Qaeda terrorist
network is also sufficiently aware of American racial politics to make sharp distinctions between
mainstream African-American leaders and black revolutionaries like Malcolm. An al-Qaeda video
released following the election of Barack Obama in November 2008 described the president-elect as a
“race traitor” and “hypocrite” when compared to Malcolm X. “And in [Barack Obama] and Colin
Powell, [Condoleezza] Rice and your likes, the words of Malcolm X (may Allah have mercy on him)
concerning ‘house Negroes’ are confirmed,” declared al-Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri. Malcolm
was described as central to the political traditions of “honorable black Americans.” What is truly ironic
is that Malcolm would certainly have condemned the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, as
representing the negation of Islam’s core tenets. A religion based on universal compassion and respect
for the teachings of the Torah and the Gospels, Malcolm would have known, holds no common ground
with those who employ terror as a tool for politics. Malcolm’s personal journey of self-discovery, the
quest for God, led him toward peace and away from violence.
But there is one more legacy that may shape the memory of Malcolm: the politics of radical
humanism. James Baldwin’s first real encounter with Malcolm occurred in 1961, when he was asked
to moderate a radio program panel that included the Nation of Islam leader. Malcolm had been invited
to debate a young civil rights activist who had just returned from desegregation protests in the South.
Baldwin feared that the celebrated firebrand would take the young protester apart. Baldwin later wrote
that he had come “to throw out the lifeline whenever Malcolm should seem to be carrying the child
beyond his depth.” To Baldwin’s amazement, Malcolm “understood that child and talked to him as
though he was talking to a younger brother.” Baldwin was profoundly moved. “I will never forget
Malcolm and that child facing each other, and Malcolm’s extraordinary gentleness. And that’s the truth
about Malcolm: he was one of the gentlest people I have ever met.”
A deep respect for, and a belief in, black humanity was at the heart of this revolutionary
visionary’s faith. And as his social vision expanded to include people of divergent nationalities and
racial identities, his gentle humanism and antiracism could have become a platform for a new kind of
radical, global ethnic politics. Instead of the fiery symbol of ethnic violence and religious hatred, as al-
Qaeda might project him, Malcolm X should become a representative for hope and human dignity. At
least for the African-American people, he has already come to embody those loftier aspirations.
- pp. 30-32: As the family continued to grow, Louise did her best to care for them all with a meager
income. To learn the Garveyite principles of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, each older
child was allotted a personal patch of garden. They continued to raise chickens and rabbits, but the
daily pressures of poverty and their reputation as Garveyite oddballs took its toll. Earl was prone to
physical violence with his wife and most of his children. Yet Malcolm, who idolized his father, would
routinely escape punishment. Somehow the small boy sensed that his light color served as a kind of
shield from Earl’s beatings.* As an adult, Malcolm recalled the violent incidents, admitting that his
parents quarreled frequently; however, nearly all of his whippings as a boy came from his mother.
[Malcolm X and Haley, Autobiography, p. 4.]
* Bruce Perry, Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America, p. 6.
As the Great Depression deepened, impoverished whites in the Midwest became attracted to a
new vigilante formation, the Black Legion. Starting as the Klan Guard in late 1924 or early 1925 in
Bellaire, Ohio, the formation employed a blend of anti-black and anti-Catholic rhetoric. Black robes
instead of white were used; “burning crosses on midnight hillsides were in; noontime parades down
Main Street were out.” The Black Legion successfully attracted many law enforcement personnel and
some union members in public transport. By the early 1930s, its members routinely engaged in night
riding and policing of town and village morals, with their victims subjected to any number of
humiliations, including whippings, being tarred and feathered, or just being run out of town.
Early in the evening of September 8, 1931, shortly after supper, Earl went into his bedroom to
clean up before setting off for Lansing’s north side to collect “chicken money” from families that had
purchased his poultry. Louise had a bad feeling about the trip and implored him not to go. Earl
dismissed her fears and left. A few hours later, Louise and the children went to bed. Late in the night,
she was awakened by a loud knock on the front door and sprang from her bed in terror. When she
cautiously opened the door, she found a young Michigan state police officer, Lawrence G. Baril, who
brought dreadful and long-feared news: her husband had been critically injured in an accident and was
in the local hospital.
Several hours earlier Baril had been summoned to the scene of a streetcar accident. This was the
first serious accident that the young officer had investigated; his vivid impression, his widow,
Florentina, later recalled, was that “the man had been cut in two . . . the accident was quite violent.”
Police had immediately hypothesized that Earl had somehow slipped and fallen while boarding a
moving streetcar at night. Perhaps he’d lost his footing and was pulled under the streetcar’s rear
wheels, they speculated. The possibility that Earl could have been the victim of racist violence was
Earl suffered terrible pain for several hours after being taken to hospital. His left arm had been
crushed, his left leg nearly severed from his torso. By the time Louise reached him, he was dead. The
Lansing coroner ruled Earl’s death accidental, and the Lansing newspaper account presented the story
that way as well. Yet the memories of Lansing blacks as set down in oral histories tell a different story,
one that suggested foul play and the involvement of the Black Legion.
Wilfred recalled attending the funeral and viewing his father’s corpse. “While my mother was
talking, I slipped into the back where they had the body on the table,” he remembered. “The streetcar
had cut him just below the torso and it had cut his left leg completely off and had crushed the right leg,
because the streetcar . . . had just run right over him. He ended up bleeding to death.” Malcolm’s most
vivid memory of his father’s funeral was his mother’s hysteria, and later her difficulty in coping with
what had happened. He believed that he and his siblings “adjusted” to the challenging reality of Early
Little’s death better than Louise did. Nevertheless, the children were deeply disturbed by swirling
rumors about their father’s violent death. Philbert, then eight years old, was told that “somebody had
hit my father from behind with a car and knocked him under the streetcar. Then I learned later that
somebody had shoved him under that car.”
A forensic reconstruction of Earl Little’s death suggests that the story Philbert had heard may
have been true. Before leaving home on the night of his death, Earl had told his wife that he was
traveling to North Lansing. However, according to a local newspaper, his body was discovered at the
intersection of Detroit Street and East Michigan Avenue, one block east of the town’s boundary line.
Few blacks lived in the area. The odd location of the body suggests the possibility that Earl was struck
by a car or perhaps bludgeoned in one location, and then moved under a streetcar at another site,
making it appear to have been a terrible accident. Earl Little’s possible murder may have served the
same purpose that lynchings did in the South—to terrorize local blacks and to suppress their acts of
Louise harbored no doubts that her husband had been murdered, possibly by the Black Legion.
Although she identified Earl’s body, she does not appear to have challenged the police report or
otherwise tried to search out the truth. Malcolm remained throughout his life both haunted by his
father’s tragic end and ambivalent about how it occurred. In 1963, while visiting Michigan State
University, he described Earl’s death as accidental, yet the following year cast his father as a martyr
for black liberation.
- pp. 398-400: Probably the single most influential attack appeared in Muhammad Speaks under the
name Louis X on December 4. “The die is set, and Malcolm shall not escape, especially after such evil,
foolish talk,” Farrakhan declared. “Such a man as Malcolm is worthy of death.” This code phrase was
a call to arms within the sect.
On the street, safety soon proved elusive for Malcolm’s people in the MMI. In late October,
Kenneth Morton, who had quit the mosque at the time of Malcolm’s departure, was ambushed by
members of the Fruit in front of his Bronx home. He was so severely beaten in the head that he
subsequently died from his wounds. Captain Joseph denied that Mosque No. 7 and its officers had had
any involvement in Morton’s death, but no one in the MMI needed proof to convince them to keep a
low profile. Benjamin 2X narrowly escaped a beating or worse at the hands of Malcolm’s former
driver Thomas 15X Johnson and a group of Nation thugs who chased him for several blocks. Almost
as much a target as Malcolm himself, James 67X avoided sleeping in the same place for more than a
night, rotating between four apartments, including one kept by his former roommate Anas Luqman.
Despite this gathering storm, Malcolm did not curtail his public activities. In mid-December he
took off several days to speak at Harvard Law School. His talk, “The African Revolution and Its
Impact on the American Negro,” explained his ideas about Islam, drawing connections with Judaism
and Christianity. He embraced the “brotherhood of all men,” he said, “but I don’t believe in wasting
brotherhood on anyone who doesn’t want to practice it with me.” He drew again on a theme developed
by Frantz Fanon, suggesting a link between the self-reinvention of black identity with the dismantling
of racism. “Victims of racism are created in the image of the racists,” Malcolm argued. “When the
victims struggle vigorously to protect themselves from violence of others, they are made to appear in
the image of criminals, as the criminal image is projected onto the victim.” Liberation, he implied, was
not simply political but cultural. His central point, however, was the necessity for blacks to transform
their struggle from “civil rights” to “human rights,” redefining racism as “a problem for all humanity.”
The OAAU favored getting “our problem before the United Nations,” but it also supported black
voting and voter education.
As Christmas drew near, Malcolm was invited to appear at the Williams Institutional Christian
Methodist Episcopal Church in Harlem, where the principal speaker was the Mississippi freedom
fighter Fannie Lou Hamer. The crowd at the Williams was somewhat small, about 175 people, but
Malcolm gave a spirited and provocative presentation. His explorations in the philosophy of social
movements in recent months had brought him face-to-face with an old debate within the Western left
over how human beings come to perceive themselves as social actors, asking whether an external
force, such as a tightly organized party, is necessary to bring oppressed people to full political
consciousness, or if the oppressed by themselves have the ability to transform their own situations.
Addressing this question, Malcolm came down strongly on the side of what has often been called
spontaneity. “I, for one, believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what it is that
confronts them, and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program,” he remarked.
“And when the people create a program, you get action.” In effect, Malcolm’s remarks implicitly
rejected the Marxist-Leninist theory of a cadre-style revolutionary party and embraced C. L. R.
James’s belief that the oppressed possessed the power to transform their own existence.
If ordinary people possess the intelligence and potential for changing their conditions, around
what economic principles should that take place? Here again Malcolm returned to socialism, but
explained it in a new, geopolitical context. In his judgment, the basic geopolitical division of the
world was not between the United States and the Soviet Union, but America versus communist China.
“Among Asian countries, whether they are communist, socialist . . . almost every one . . . that has
gotten independence has devised some kind of socialistic system, and this is no accident.” Although
Malcolm had visited neither China nor Cuba, it was clear that the socialist societies he admired most
drew from the models of Mao and Castro.
That he should have looked to Asia, and specifically China, for examples made sense given the
direction of his recent investigations into the history of global politics, and could also be placed in a
much older context of black interest in China as a model for the struggle of oppressed peoples. As
early as the turn of the century, W. E. B. Du Bois had made reference to the “color line” in The Souls
of Black Folk, with the implication that “colored” people included Africans, Asians, Jews, and other
minorities around the world engaged in a struggle against Western imperialism. Based on this
argument, some blacks had entertained great sympathy for the Japanese empire in the 1930s. A
generation later, many black leftists saw Mao Zedong as a triumphant leader of nonwhite people. The
idea of black identification with Asia had even been reflected in the ideology of the Nation of Islam,
which had viewed African Americans as genealogically “Asiatic,” a classification that Malcolm had
abandoned before eventually coming to see the connection differently, in global-political terms. He
was encouraged in this direction by his relationship with Shirley Graham Du Bois and her son, David,
who enthusiastically picked up the torch their patriarch had long carried. Indeed, by the end of his life,
W. E. B. Du Bois had come to be a revered figure in Asia, celebrated both by the Chinese and by
Nehru in India. He had perceived revolutionary China as a triumph for all colored people.
In the Williams church speech, Malcolm drew on the triumph of Asian socialism to return to the
notion that capitalism as an economic system was inherently exploitative: “You can’t operate a
capitalistic system unless you are vulturistic; you have to have someone else’s blood to suck to be a
capitalist.” The tide of history for people of African descent was moving inextricably toward the East:
“When we look at the African continent, when we look at the trouble that’s going on between East and
West, we find that the nations in Africa are developing socialistic systems to solve their problems.”
- pp. 472-475: Following Malcolm’s death, Betty Shabazz appeared to live a successful and rewarding
life. In 1972 she enrolled in a doctoral program in education at the University of Massachusetts
Amherst, receiving her Ph.D. three years later. Subsequently she served as an academic administrator
at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, becoming a sort of celebrity among black middle-class and
professional groups. But she could never escape Malcolm’s shadow, his terrible death, and the desire
to punish those who were responsible. Her animus largely focused on Farrakhan, who she felt had
betrayed Malcolm, and she believed he had directly participated in the conspiracy to murder him.
Betty’s attacks on Farrakhan probably inspired her daughter Qubilah to attempt to hire a hit man to
murder him in 1995. The would-be assassin, Michael Fitzpatrick, was an FBI informer, and Qubilah
was quickly arrested and charged in federal court. In an astute move, Farrakhan rallied to Qubilah’s
defense, claiming the young woman had been entrapped by the FBI. The government’s case fell apart
at trial. Betty was forced to praise Farrakhan publicly for his “kindness in wanting to help my
Tragically, barely a year after Qubilah’s legal ordeal, her disturbed twelve-year-old son, called
“Little Malcolm” by the family, set fire one night to his grandmother’s apartment. Betty, sleeping in
her bedroom, was horrifically burned. She struggled in the hospital for more than three weeks, with
severe burns covering more than 80 percent of her body. Physicians took aggressive action, operating
five times to remove layers of charred skin and replacing it with artificial skin. But the damage was too
great and Betty Shabazz died on June 23, 1997. President William Jefferson Clinton noted her passing,
applauding her for her commitments to “education and to uplifting women and children.” Like
Malcolm X, noted District of Columbia representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, Shabazz “will be
remembered not for her death, but for the principled life she lived and the tower of strength she
became.” Her public memorial gathering, held at the prestigious Riverside Church in Manhattan,
included testimonials by Republican governor George Pataki of New York and New York City’s
Republican mayor, Rudolph Giuliani. The mayor, widely unpopular among many working-class and
poor black New Yorkers, was roundly booed when he began to address the audience. It was significant
that the eldest daughter, Attallah Shabazz, rushed to the podium in defense of Giuliani, praising the
conservative mayor’s gesture of kindness toward her mother and criticizing the mostly black crowd for
its rudeness. Her defense of Giuliani may have reflected Betty’s black bourgeois politics, but not those
of her father.
From the beginning of the criminal investigation following Malcolm’s murder, BOSS detective
Gerry Fulcher had been troubled by what he considered major mistakes. The problems began at the
crime scene. The first priority, Fulcher later recounted, should have been to “protect the whole area.
You get rid of everybody who’s not going to be a witness.” Any evidence must be preserved. “You
don’t want people finding things. . . .” In Fulcher’s judgment, the NYPD’s treatment of the murder
scene was “totally contrary to what should be standard operating procedure. That thing should have
been covered all night long.” In high-profile cases, it is not unusual to find “crime scenes stay[ing]
locked up for days.” Fulcher expressed his misgivings to his police colleagues at the time of the
assassination. Perhaps as a consequence, he found himself shut out of the investigation. Fulcher
I should have been an indispensable part of finding out what went on and so on, because they should
have been grilling me. . . . I was flat out told, you know, “Stay out, you’re not involved.” Made me
think that they could have been getting their stories straight, so to speak, without the interference of
this young guy who didn’t know anything. . . . All they wanted to know is “Did you hear anything on
the phone?” To me that was just a show. They knew I wouldn’t hear anything on the phone, because
there’d be nobody there [at the Hotel Theresa office]. They knew the schedule. . . . So I think they
were playing their roles. I think that was all bullshit. And when I went up and tried to join them, you
know—“No, no, this is where we get our stories straight. You’re out, kid.”
Several months after the assassination, Fulcher was transferred from BOSS headquarters to one
of the city’s most dangerous precincts, Fort Apache in the Bronx. He lasted there less than three years,
before resigning from the force.
In early 1978, radical attorney William Kunstler took up the cases of Thomas 15X Johnson and
Norman 3X Butler, petitioning to the appellate division of the New York State Supreme court for a
new trial. His principal new evidence was a signed affidavit by Talmadge Hayer that identified four
other men, “torpedoes from New Jersey,” who had been responsible for the killing of Malcolm X.
Kunstler informed the supreme court that “the FBI knew all along that there were four [other] men
involved in the killing and that two of the men convicted were innocent.” The FBI refused to release its
findings about Malcolm’s assassination to the court. Kunstler also noted rumors, never confirmed, that
Reuben Francis had recently resurfaced “around his old haunts spending large sums of money he
allegedly received from the FBI.” Another affidavit was also submitted by Benjamin Goodman (then
Ben Karim), who affirmed that “at no time did I see the faces of Butler or Johnson whom I knew well,
and would have been sure to notice.”
On November 1, 1978, Justice Harold J. Rothwax of the state supreme court denied the motion
to set aside the 1966 convictions of Butler and Johnson. The information in the affidavit might have
exonerated those two men while identifying four others who, Hayer said, were guilty. However, the
judge deemed the document insufficient to grant a new trial. Throughout 1978 and 1979 civil rights
groups took up the Butler-Johnson case, first petitioning the U.S. House Select Committee on
Assassinations, requesting an investigation into Malcolm X’s death. The petition charged, “The
‘official version’ has it that Malcolm X was the victim of a Muslim vendetta. Many unanswered
questions and unexplained events that predate the assassination . . . do not support the ‘official version’
at all.” Signatories of the petition included Ossie Davis, African Methodist Episcopal bishop H. H.
Brookins, California state assemblywoman Maxine Waters, and Huey P. Newton of the Black Panther
Party. Despite the campaign’s efforts, no congressional hearings were held.
Norman Butler was paroled in 1985 and Thomas Johnson received parole in 1987. For decades
both men agitated to clear their names. Johnson, who had changed his name to Khalil Islam, died on
August 4, 2009. Butler changed his name to Muhammad Abdul Aziz, and in the early 1990s was
employed as a supportive services counselor at a Harlem drug rehabilitation clinic. In 1998, Aziz
briefly served as security chief for Harlem Mosque No. 7. Beginning in 1990, Hayer was incarcerated
part-time at the Lincoln Correctional Facility in Manhattan, where he was confined for a total of
twelve hours per week on weekends. After seventeen unsuccessful attempts, Hayer was finally granted
full parole in April 2010. Hayer told the parole board, “I’ve had a lot of time . . . to think about
[Malcolm X’s murder] . . . I understand a lot better the dynamics of movements . . . and conflicts that
can come up, but I have deep regrets about my participation in that.” It was an oddly impersonal mea
culpa, an apology without actually articulating the crime he had committed. Hayer’s parole provoked a
negative response from the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee, which announced at a press
conference that Hayer’s crimes were too serious to permit his release.
Other than Talmadge Hayer, the alleged assassins of Malcolm X, according to Hayer’s affidavit,
continued their lives in the Nation of Islam as before. The senior member of the crew, Newark mosque
administrator Benjamin Thomas, was killed in 1986, at age forty-eight. Leon Davis lived on in
Patterson, New Jersey, employed at an electronics factory there; he continued his affiliation with the
Nation and the FOI for decades. Businessman Wilbur McKinley also continued to be associated with
the Newark mosque.
Alleged murderer Willie Bradley went into a life of crime. On April 11, 1968, the Livingston
National Bank of Livingston, New Jersey, was robbed by three masked men brandishing three
handguns and one sawed-off shotgun. They escaped with over $12,500. The following year Bradley
and a second man, James Moore, were charged with the bank robbery and were brought to trial.
Bradley, however, received privileged treatment, and he retained his own attorney separate from
Moore. The charges against him were ultimately dismissed; meanwhile, after a first trial ending in a
hung jury, Moore was convicted in a second trial.
Bradley’s special treatment by the criminal justice system in 1969-70 raises the question of
whether he was an FBI informant, either after the assassination of Malcolm X or very possibly even
before. It would perhaps explain why Bradley took a different exit from the murder scene than the
two other shooters, shielding him from the crowd’s retaliation. It suggests that Bradley and possibly
other Newark mosque members may have actively collaborated on the shooting with local law
enforcement and/or the FBI. The existing evidence raises the question of whether the murder of
Malcolm X was not the initiative of the Nation of Islam alone. In The Death and Life of Malcolm X,
Goldman does not identify Bradley by name but seems to be referring to him when he notes that one of
the assassins “was tracked to a New Jersey state prison, where he was serving seven and a half to
fifteen years for an unrelated felony.”
- from Malcolm X Speaks; pp. 16-17 [Message to the grass roots (Detroit, November 10, 1963)]: We want to have just an off-the-cuff chat between you and me, us. We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand. We all agree tonight, all of the speakers have agreed, that America has a very serious problem. Not only does America have a very serious problem, but our people have a very serious problem. America’s problem is us. We’re her problem. The only reason she has a problem is she doesn’t want us here. And every time you look at yourself, be you black, brown, red or yellow . . . you represent a person who poses such a serious problem for America because you’re not wanted. Once you face this as a fact, then you can start plotting a course that will make you appear intelligent, instead of unintelligent.
What you and I need to do is learn to forget our differences. When we come together, we don’t come together as Baptists or Methodists. You don’t catch hell because you’re a Baptist, and you don’t catch hell because you’re a Methodist. You don’t catch hell because you’re a Methodist or Baptist, you don’t catch hell because you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you don’t catch hell because you’re a Mason or an Elk, and you sure don’t catch hell because you’re an American; because if you were an American, you wouldn’t catch hell. You catch hell because you’re a black man. You catch hell, all of us catch hell, for the same reason.
- pp. 30: When James Baldwin came in from Paris, they wouldn’t let him talk, because they couldn’t make him go by the script. Burt Lancaster read the speech that Baldwin was supposed to make; they wouldn’t let Baldwin get up there, because they know Baldwin is liable to say anything.
- p. 42 [The ballot or the bullet (Cleveland, April 3, 1964)]: No, I’m not an American. I’m one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy. So, I’m not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver—no, not I. I’m speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.
These 22 million victims are waking up. Their eyes are coming open. They’re beginning to see what they used to only look at. They’re becoming politically mature. They are realizing that there are new political trends from coast to coast. As they see these new political trends, it’s possible for them to see that every time there’s an election the races are so close that they have to have a recount. They had to recount in Massachusetts to see who was going to be governor, it was so close. It was the same way in Rhode Island, in Minnesota, and in many other parts of the country. And the same with Kennedy and Nixon when they ran for president. It was so close they had to count all over again. Well, what does this mean? It means that when white people are evenly divided, and black people have a bloc of votes of their own, it is left up to them to determine who’s going to sit in the White House and who’s going to be in the dog house.
- pp. 49-52: This is our investment. This is our contribution—our blood. Not only did we give of our free labor, we gave of our blood. Every time he had a call to arms, we were the first ones in uniform. We died on every battlefield the white man had. We have made a greater sacrifice than anybody who’s standing up in America today. We have made a greater contribution and have collected less. Civil rights, for those of us whose philosophy is black nationalism, means: “Give it to us now. Don’t wait for next year. Give it to us yesterday, and that’s not fast enough.”
I might stop right here to point out one thing. Whenever you’re going after something that belongs to you, anyone who’s depriving you of the right to have it is a criminal. Understand that. Whenever you are going after something that is yours, you are within your legal rights to lay claim to it. And anyone who puts forth any effort to deprive you of that which is yours, is breaking the law, is a criminal. And this was pointed out by the Supreme Court decision. It outlawed segregation. Which means segregation is against the law. Which means a segregationist is breaking the law. A segregationist is a criminal. You can’t label him as anything other than that. And when you demonstrate against segregation, the law is on your side. The Supreme Court is on your side.
Now, who is it that opposes you in carrying out the law? The police department itself. With police dogs and clubs. Whenever you demonstrate against segregation, whether it is segregated education, segregated housing, or anything else, the law is on your side, and anyone who stands in the way is not the law any longer. They are breaking the law, they are not representatives of the law. Any time you demonstrate against segregation and a man has the audacity to put a police dog on you, kill that dog, kill him, I’m telling you, kill that dog. I say it, if they put me in jail tomorrow, kill—that—dog. Then you’ll put a stop to it. Now, if these white people in here don’t want to see that kind of action, get down and tell the mayor to tell the police department to pull the dogs in. That’s all you have to do. If you don’t do it, someone else will.
If you don’t take this kind of stand, your little children will grow up and look at you and think “shame.” If you don’t take an uncompromising stand—I don’t mean go out and get violent; but at the same time you should never be nonviolent unless you run into some nonviolence. I’m nonviolent with those who are nonviolent with me. But when you drop that violence on me, then you’ve made me go insane, and I’m not responsible for what I do. And that’s the way every Negro should get. Any time you know you’re within the law, within your legal rights, within your moral rights, in accord with justice, then die for what you believe in. But don’t die alone. Let your dying be reciprocal. This is what is meant by equality. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
When we begin to get in this area, we need new friends, we need new allies. We need to expand the civil-rights struggle to a higher level—to the level of human rights. Whenever you are in a civil-rights struggle, whether you know it or not, you are confining yourself to the jurisdiction of Uncle Sam. No one from the outside world can speak out in your behalf as long as your struggle is a civil-rights struggle. Civil rights comes within the domestic affairs of this country. All of our African brothers and our Asian brothers and our Latin-American brothers cannot open their mouths and interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States. And as long as it’s civil rights, this comes under the jurisdiction of Uncle Sam.
But the United Nations has what’s known as the charter of human rights, it has a committee that deals in human rights. You may wonder why all of the atrocities that have been committed in Africa and in Hungary and in Asia and in Latin America are brought before the UN, and the Negro problem is never brought before the UN. This old, tricky, blue-eyed liberal who is supposed to be your and my friend, supposed to be in our corner, supposed to be subsidizing our struggle, and supposed to be acting in the capacity of an adviser, never tells you anything about human rights. They keep you wrapped up in civil rights. And you spend so much time barking up the civil-rights tree, you don’t even know there’s a human-rights tree on the same floor.
When you expand the civil-rights struggle to the level of human rights, you can then take the case of the black man in this country before the nations in the UN. You can take it before the General Assembly. You can take Uncle Sam before a world court. But the only level you can do it on is the level of human rights. Civil rights keeps you under his restrictions, under his jurisdiction. Civil rights keeps you in his pocket. Civil rights means you’re asking Uncle Sam to treat you right. Human rights are something you were born with. Human rights are your God-given rights. Human rights are the rights that are recognized by all nations of this earth. And any time anyone violates your human rights, you can take them to the world court. Uncle Sam’s hands are dripping with blood, dripping with the blood of the black man in this country. He’s the earth’s number-one hypocrite. He has the audacity—yes, he has—imagine him posing as the leader of the free world. The free world!—and you over here singing “We Shall Overcome.” Expand the civil-rights struggle to the level of human rights, take it into the United Nations, where our African brothers can throw their weight on our side, where our Asian brothers can throw their weight on our side, where our Latin-American brothers can throw their weight on our side, and where 800 million Chinamen are sitting there waiting to throw their weight on our side.
Let the world know how bloody his hands are. Let the world know the hypocrisy that’s practiced over here. Let it be the ballot or the bullet. Let him know that it must be the ballot or the bullet.
When you take your case to Washington, D.C., you’re taking it to the criminal who’s responsible; it’s like running from the wolf to the fox. They’re all in cahoots together. They all work political chicanery and make you look like a chump before the eyes of the world. Here you are walking around in America, getting ready to be drafted and sent abroad, like a tin soldier, and when you get over there, people ask you what are you fighting for, and you have to stick your tongue in your cheek. No, take Uncle Sam to court, take him before the world.
- from Growing Up X by Ilyasah Shabazz (with Kim McLarin); p, vii:
If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I would have freed thousands more.
- p. 37: I’m not sure how much I really remember of my father. My mother and Attallah shared so
many stories with us that I honestly don’t know if I remember him or if the memories I have exist
only because they kept him so alive.
They both spoke about him as if he had just gone out for a newspaper. Mommy talked about him
when we were at dinner. She always called him “my husband.” My husband this, and my
husband that. Or, Your father. Or, Daddy. She told me how he would call me with
authority, calling “Ilyasah!” and how I would jump! He was the only person I reacted to with such
complete obedience. If my mother called me I would continue doing whatever it was I was doing, but
with my father it was, “Yes sir.”
I have a memory in which I used to come downstairs in our house and open the venetian blinds
to look for my father. When I heard him coming, I’d go running for the door, and he’d open it and
swing me up, up, up, high into the air for a big hug, then catch me under his arm like a big sack of
potatoes and together we’d take the oatmeal cookies Mommy used to make and go watch the evening
I’m a cookie fanatic to this day, and I sleep with the news on all night long.
- from Dark Days, Bright Nights by Peniel E. Joseph; p. 86: As he had done during the Kennedy
administration, Malcolm also publicly indicted Lyndon Johnson. He questioned why the president
claimed segregationist senator Richard Russell as a friend, arguing that Russell’s opposition to the
impending civil rights bill cast suspicion over LBJ by association. “I am inclined,” said Malcolm, “to
question Johnson’s integrity.” In saying this, he cast himself, once again, as a militant statesman
courageous enough to question the president’s commitment to civil rights and racial justice. In an
exclusive interview with the New York Amsterdam News, Malcolm chastised civil rights groups for
their “narrow approach to the whole race question.” He then promised to build a new organization
whose goals, strategies, and tactics would move beyond the political stalemate that bogged down
black nationalists and integrationists.