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The Legacy of Malcolm X
May 17, 2011 9:23 PM   Subscribe

The Legacy of Malcolm X: Why his vision lives on in Barack Obama is an affecting essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn (58 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bull Connor’s world fell as the fortunes of Barack Obama rose. Yet its collapse was not assured until November of 2008. Now I see its amazing doom in ways both absurd and replete—Will Smith’s conquest of cinema, his son as the new Karate Kid, the wild utterings of Michael Steele, the kids holding out for Lauryn Hill’s mythical return.

Steele.

Funny how in some senses, to have within one's grasp the right to be treated without reference to race, also means sharing in the mediocrity of it all. Steele is more of a real bellwether of the change he's talking about not Obama. Steele's "friends" care more about his blackness than the rest of us, who just think of him as an idiot. Nobody laid off of calling him out for being an idiot and it finally had nothing to do with blackness.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:35 PM on May 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


great post. I think it's a tragedy that X has been marginalized in many portions of mainstream history as the violence-embracing counterpoint to MLK when the truth is he was saying a lot of the same things King did, only 3-4 years earlier. Like Coates I find the "who taught you to hate yourself" segment so powerful.

the clip in question: youtube link.

Anyone who hasn't heard 'The Ballot or the Bullet' absolutely has to listen when they get an opportunity: part 1, part 2
posted by the mad poster! at 9:41 PM on May 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


related? The Obama Deception: Why Cornel West Went Ballistic
Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, has, West said, phoned him to complain about his critiques of Obama. Jarrett was especially perturbed, West says, when he said in an interview last year that he saw a lot of Malcolm X and Ella Baker in Michelle Obama. Jarrett told him his comments were not complimentary to the first lady.

“I said in the world that I live in, in that which authorizes my reality, Ella Baker is a towering figure,” he says, munching Fritos and sipping apple juice at his desk. “If I say there is a lot of Ella Baker in Michelle Obama, that’s a compliment. She can take it any way she wants. I can tell her I’m sorry it offended you, but I’m going to speak the truth. She is a Harvard Law graduate, a Princeton graduate, and she deals with child obesity and military families. Why doesn’t she visit a prison? Why not spend some time in the hood? That is where she is, but she can’t do it.
posted by kuatto at 9:43 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


kuatto, that's interesting. The whole recent fiasco with Fox News and Common just shows how people want to pummel the story of the urban black civil rights struggle into the realm of the unacceptable, the weird, the anti-American. We're talking within people's lifetimes here that you couldn't get a cup of coffee at a lunch counter cause you were black! But god forbid someone have a strident reaction to that
posted by the mad poster! at 9:48 PM on May 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


Three interesting essays there, but no real central point.

And, no, Malcom's legacy doesn't live on in professional politician Obama.
posted by orthogonality at 10:26 PM on May 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


But god forbid someone have a strident reaction to that

That would be, what's the word? Uppity.
posted by orthogonality at 10:27 PM on May 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


I find it laughable to say that Pres. Obama is the legacy of Malcolm X. Obama has spent his political career making the power elite feel comfortable. For example, we can see him embrace of Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and Rahm Emanuel. Malcolm X spent most of his adult life making the power elite profoundly uncomfortable. For example, he was subject to massive, hostile police and FBI surveillance, and advocated that African Americans start rifle clubs for self defense.

One interesting point re: the rifle clubs. The U.S. government used to sell surplus military rifles to NRA affiliated rifle clubs, through a government department called the DCM, the Department of Civilian Marksmanship. These rifles at the time included the M1 carbine, which was a light, semi-automatic carbine easily used in urban areas. It's the weapon that Malcolm has in the famous photo. By 1964 the DCM stopped selling the carbines to the public...and wouldn't start up again until a few years ago.
posted by wuwei at 10:56 PM on May 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


Obama is way more Proffesor X than he is Magneto.
posted by Artw at 11:12 PM on May 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


But god forbid someone have a strident reaction to that

"You can say black people have made progress, but to say black people have made progress is to mean we deserved to be segregated." - Chris Rock making an really astute observation about how the Civil Rights Movement has been framed in language to erase culpability and shift responsibility about the whole thing.

I'm also generally amused by the longstanding freakout about "by any means necessary" and the way in which people overlook that "any means" could be as simple as, "Hey, give us equal rights" "Ok", and ignore the point that peaceful discussion is also a means, one that wasn't working, not for lack of trying. Ta-Nehisi hits on both that issue and the point of re-framing in talking about one of the few American wars actually about freedom being painted as tragic instead of heroic.

Certainly, it's easy to see militancy as being an overreaction if you only think of things like eating at different counters or having separate drinking faucets, and not communities gathering for murder or "During the Jim Crow era, women’s bodies served as signposts of the social order, and white men used rape and rumors of rape not only to justify violence against black men but to remind black women that their bodies were not their own."

Generally, the folks who are the most freaked out about black militancy, are usually also the ones least educated on the scale and savagery of white violence. Ironically, they'll usually hold up MLK as an icon, and emphasize how important it is that the oppressed suffer and not strike back, while ignoring that he, too, was assassinated, despite his non-violent methodology.

It takes a lot of cognitive dissonance to imagine that the problem was that it was black people who needed to be more peaceful.
posted by yeloson at 11:28 PM on May 17, 2011 [43 favorites]


I guess they're both black. What else you got in terms of comparisons?

Smart, yeah.
Politically active, yeah.

I can't wait to see the article about how Barrack Obama is the political legacy of Frederick Douglass.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:41 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Malcolm X is a great demonstration of change and life; but I don't see a connection between Obama and Malcolm X. The hair thing certainly is not doing it as a connection either.

For certain, Malcolm X would not approve of recent rapper visit to the white house. Violence and hate were something Malcolm stepped away from. The whole wearing a suit, the discipline, proper respect for women. Rapper at the white house? Um.

I'm indifferent about the wtf rapper visit; but it would be a distinct discord between the comparasions here.
posted by buzzman at 11:48 PM on May 17, 2011


For certain, Malcolm X would not approve of recent rapper visit to the white house. Violence and hate were something Malcolm stepped away from. The whole wearing a suit, the discipline, proper respect for women. Rapper at the white house? Um

Why not?

Not all rap is the same. I'm not sure that Common is the "fuck all the bitches, bitches ain't shit", "shooting cops is what niggas do" type.

Rap is a kind of poetry - why wouldn't it be appropriate for him to be at a poetry slam?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:03 AM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


For certain, Malcolm X would not approve of recent rapper visit to the white house.
Really? Common? LOL
posted by wuwei at 12:07 AM on May 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


Let me clarify: Common? A representative of thugishness and violence? Really?
posted by wuwei at 12:08 AM on May 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


Common has pledged to stop using anti-gay lyrics. He should be more thoughtful, considerate, and understanding of the sexuality of others in his future musings.

Now please get your hand out of my pocket.
posted by buzzman at 12:18 AM on May 18, 2011


Lol. Another thing for Bill O'Riley to have an aneurysm over.
posted by delmoi at 1:19 AM on May 18, 2011


For certain, Malcolm X would not approve of recent rapper visit to the white house. Violence and hate were something Malcolm stepped away from. The whole wearing a suit, the discipline, proper respect for women. Rapper at the white house? Um.
You're not even at "I watch the daily show" level of awareness here. The guy, common, is not someone who promotes violence and misogyny.

A couple of days ago people were talking about how, now that Bin Laden had been killed no one could say Obama wasn't a real American. This common thing is an obvious, and obviously racist attempt to prove that they can still do it. It's a freak-out and a panicked attempt to prove that theory wrong.
posted by delmoi at 1:41 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Common used to be known by a longer stage name, Common Sense. Something lacking in this thread, for sure. It's telling that some of his nearest (spiritually) acts are the like of A Tribe Called Quest and Black Star era Talib Kweli/Mos Def than the usual "Hip hop = scary black men out to fuck the police/white man" acts being trotted out in recent (ahem, Fox News) discussions of his appearance at the poetry reading.

The NPR interview with Mr. Coates today was most interesting because it did a decent job of framing the Malcolm X/Barack Obama connection (such as it may be) in terms of the latter-day Malcolm X, which of course is never the Malcolm X that lives on in most white peoples' memories. The knee-jerk reaction to this topic from white people, it seems to me, is always framed in the terms of the earlier narrative of Malcolm X that white people largely don't know about if for no other reason than he was killed before the media narrative caught up to it.
posted by axiom at 2:18 AM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, MLK wouldn't be doing drone strikes, that's for sure.
posted by delmoi at 2:26 AM on May 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


MLK would be such a pussy if he droned on, amirite?
Yeloson, fantastic, thanks.
posted by hypersloth at 2:36 AM on May 18, 2011


"I have a dream today that one day right there in Afghanistan little brown boys and brown girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers, while we, irrespective of their color, rain death on all of the, remotely and from above.

"I have a dream today!

"I have a dream that one day every valley in Afghanistan shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; all by means of high explosive delivered by flying robots."
posted by orthogonality at 4:28 AM on May 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Just want to say here that TNC is great. I've loved watching him grow up in public. He thinks out loud, shows his work, and shares his sources.
posted by whuppy at 4:40 AM on May 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Lovely essay, for sure, but it feels like it was written two or two and a half years ago. I understand that there's a symbolic connection between X and Obama that Coates mention, but like many commenters here, there are some disappointing performances by Obama that render Coate's comparison slim.

However - really lovely essay on Malcolm X.

Oh, and, I don't know if people have been paying attention to the Common controversy, but it's pretty much a racialized version of "palling around with terrorists," not "omg rap sexism violence!"

Whatever you think of Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu-Jamal, it's hard not to acknowledge that there have been racially and politically motivated convictions of vocal black people, and the possibility of their innocence of the crimes of which they are accused.
posted by entropone at 5:08 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm really eager to hear from even more white people about what Obama means to black people. Thanks, guys!
posted by shakespeherian at 5:46 AM on May 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


the kids holding out for Lauryn Hill’s mythical return

I was not aware of this.

I was also surprised than an essay purporting to explain why Malcolm X's vision lives on in Barack Obama spends one or two paragraphs on its last page doing so.
posted by Trurl at 6:32 AM on May 18, 2011


I was also surprised than an essay purporting to explain why Malcolm X's vision lives on in Barack Obama spends one or two paragraphs on its last page doing so.

Backstory. He gives you all these elements, Malcolm, Coates' own mother and father, himself, and Barack. And then ties many of the elements together at the end.

If people aren't getting it, reread those last few paragraphs. It's about two things - how Malcolm helped to beat back the idea that being black is something awful to be, and also about how you can create yourself and your own life, and accomplish your goals.

Coates flat out shows how Malcolm was unable to get as high as he wanted to go - he hit a ceiling in coming from a broken background and trying to become a lawyer. Barack came from a tumultous background and succeeded in becoming a lawyer at what is considered the highest educational institutions in the land, and then became the president of that land.
posted by cashman at 6:54 AM on May 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Barack came from a tumultous background and succeeded in becoming a lawyer at what is considered the highest educational institutions in the land, and then became the president of that land

Also, his robot army is unstoppable.
posted by fuq at 7:11 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


The hair thing certainly is not doing it as a connection either.

In The Autobiography of Malcolm X, a good deal of the first part of the book is dedicated to Malcolm's coversion to Islam. He made a very strong connection between "conking" (relaxing kinky hair with very caustic materials) and self-hate. He himself was a practitioner. He saw it as a failure that black people were essentially mutilating themselves to achieve some kind of "white approved" beauty.

So the writer is trying to connect to that.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:23 AM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Great piece, thanks for posting. The thing about having a non-white president, I think, is that it forces white guys like me (in small and incremental ways) to begin to confront some of the ambiguities of American history and culture. Obama's books have gone to some length to address and expose his own struggles with identity and self-definition, and TNC's writing frequently comes back to those themes. Where other presidents have crafted a mythos to try to hide those ambiguities (born again and sober; from a little place called Hope, etc), I appreciate that Obama has shied away from doing so.

Everybody has some good and bad; everybody struggles to reconcile their life and their identity with the broader narrative of their community and society. That black leaders like the Obamas or like Malcolm X choose to have that struggle to some degree in public should be cause to think about forms of racism, both explicit and imbedded, in the culture.
posted by Apropos of Something at 7:53 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aaaah. Still trying to paint corporatist Obama with a revolutionary brush. This notion, pushed by Coates and backed up by Marable Manning's odious whitewashing (or limousine liberal-washing) of Malcolm X's strident legacy in order to be able to mention Obama's name in the same sentence as Malcolm's, smacks of the sort of PR operation that the current administration seems to prefer over actually giving a shit about concerns of the black community. And Coates seems perfectly happy with his role of equating our Spokespresident with someone who would have denounced Obama and his actions to no end. But hey, the sooner we start imagining Malcolm as some closet bisexual intellectual (yes- Marable goes there on the flimsiest of pretexts) who'd be happier hanging out with you at Starbucks than making the bad guys squirm.
posted by jake1 at 7:55 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


(continued)...., the sooner we can sell that awesome 2012 campain t-shirt of Malcolm and Obama fist bumping each other.
posted by jake1 at 8:02 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Folks, TNC isn't saying that Obama is the second coming of Malcolm, or that they agreed on everything or that they would be best friends or that they are identical. Read the goddam article.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:10 AM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


jake1, that's an extremely prejudiced and wrongheaded misreading of Marable's immense and ponderous scholarship in a great biography. Wow. Don't do that just cause you disagree with him putting seeing a fleeting relationship to Obama somewhere.
posted by the mad poster! at 8:15 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


in fact one of Marable's mains theses is that Alex Haley whitewashed Malcolm X's later ideology into a safer view than the internationalist, anti-war, anti-capitalist approach Malcolm was beginning to adopt.
posted by the mad poster! at 8:17 AM on May 18, 2011


Read the goddam article.

I did.

And as best as this white person could tell, the sole similarity between them is that they both inspirationally rose above the circumstances of their birth.

But then so did James Brown, who also advocated black pride, and who far more closely resembles Obama in his accomodation to the white power structure.
posted by Trurl at 8:17 AM on May 18, 2011


And as best as this white person could tell, the sole similarity between them is that they both inspirationally rose above the circumstances of their birth.

C'mon, man. The writer is tracing an evolution. An evolution of extreme change and extreme doubt. An evolution that is much further along than it would have been without Malcolm X and MLK and the Freedom Riders.

Maybe you are too young to remember, but the hatred and violence and fractiousness of the Civil Rights era was hard to exaggerate. When one side is massive and basically organized, and the other side is scared and torn between using peaceful tactics and burning the fucking place down, it's amazing we saw it through.

That we now have a black president (regardless of what you think of him) is a massive achievement, considering how short a time it's been. It's one of the things all Americans should be proud of.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:47 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Read the goddam article.

Malcom X: I'm OK, You're OK?

The essay seems to be mainly about feeling good about your nappy hair, which I know is broadly allusive to Alex Haley's Malcom X, but still... Growing up in West Baltimore, Coates knows just how segregated black america still is... and he mentions this as part of his personal biography but oddly inverts the issue as if growing up segregated says something more about his own intellectual limitations than the limitations of Obama's America:
Last summer, I moved from Harlem to Morningside Heights, a neighborhood around Columbia. It was the first neighborhood I’d ever lived in that was not majority black, and one of the few that could not properly be termed a “hood.” It has bars and restaurants on every corner, two different farmers’ markets, and a supermarket that’s open 24 hours and stays stocked with fresh vegetables. The neighborhood represents my new, fully cosmopolitan life.

Because this is the central feature of the post-"civil rights era" America IMHO: that upwardly mobile black people can get a job as a writer at right-leaning publications like the Atlantic and move out of the ghetto... or become President. But meanwhile, West Baltimore is as segregated as ever. I'm sure Malcom X has something to say about this, but Coates doesn't seem to...
posted by ennui.bz at 8:53 AM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Rap is a kind of poetry - why wouldn't it be appropriate for him to be at a poetry slam?

Slam poetry is actually rather specifically known for being very urban-centric, very racially aware - Saul Williams is one of the most well known slam performers, and he is as hip-hop as it gets.

"I will not rhyme over tracks - niggas on a chain gang used to do that."
posted by FatherDagon at 9:07 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Stirred into a glass of cold water, a penny matchbox full of nutmeg had the kick of three or four reefers."

-Malcom X
posted by clavdivs at 9:24 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The reason that oppressed people need to use non-violence is not because it's more moral (though I happen to think it is), but that in most circumstances* it is the most effect means to fight oppression. Violence usually just gives the oppressor an excuse to come down even harder and more violently - as in Israel, Sri Lanka, with the Mau Mau (who hadn't even gotten as far as violence, but white Kenyans were able to convince the government that there was a threat of it). The sacrafices that civil rights activists made by not striking back against their attackers gave their movement even more legitimacy, and led directly to the de-legitimizing of their attackers (who claimed to be protecting the rest of society) even in the eyes of people who were prejudiced against non-whites.

Non-violence is not effective if the oppressor has no stake in appearing to be acting legally or legitimately - such as when the oppressor is the only law that counts - as in Nazi Germany or (perhaps, not sure yet) in contemporary Libya or Syria.
posted by jb at 9:53 AM on May 18, 2011


I can't wait to see the article about how Barrack Obama is the political legacy of Frederick Douglass.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:41 AM on May 18 [+] [!]


Well, he is that, as well as many other things.
posted by jb at 9:55 AM on May 18, 2011


In other words - I disagree with calls for violence against oppression not because I don't understand the desire, but because too often it just doesn't work. I can't help but wonder whether Israel/Palestine would be a much better place today for everyone involved if there had been a Palestinian movement which embraced non-violence - or be grateful that the Civil Rights movement had MLK (and so many others) to promote non-violence. If they had not, I don't think we would be talking today about civil rights activists being hosed down, but rather that they could have just been mowed down with machine guns.

I don't know much about Malcolm X, and I really appreciated this rather nuanced (though not the mostly tightly structured) essay about him. I hope that the historical memory could become as nuanced.
posted by jb at 10:06 AM on May 18, 2011


why is it more moral to take a beating rather than hit back at the guy who's beating you? that's all Malcolm said, if someone's hitting you, you hit back
posted by the mad poster! at 10:08 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


The reason it's complicated is because oftentimes the people doing the beating of black people are police officers and they automatically get the moral authority for some reason. It saddens me to know this whole "I'll beat you to a pulp and then charge *you* with assault" thing cops do today was going on back then too like clockwork. Depressing
posted by the mad poster! at 10:12 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


but that in most circumstances it is the most effect means to fight oppression.

I actually think the basis is different.

The situations where we've seen non-violent protest work for massive change are the places where the oppressed make up such large numbers that they're capable of shutting down society. There's a secondary factor that by showing they're capable of organizing in such numbers it has an intimidating effect - "What IF they DID get violent?!?"

In places where the oppressed group makes up too little numbers, non-violent protest doesn't really work. A look through a lot of labor and later American Indian history are pretty solid examples of it.

Violence, on the other hand, works only a deterrent in the threat, rather than in actuality, and only rarely. For example, in California, when the Chinese were being lynched, the Chinese communities that could get guns stopped having lynchings. (Then other means, legal, and organized, were set to run the Chinese out, but at least they weren't being lynched anymore, so that's something).

Right now (for the US, anyway), we see few organized protests work well at all- while people do stuff like starvation protest or sit-ins to shut down a building or two, you're not seeing stuff like entire cities shut down or boycotts of entire industries. Not to mention that the methods of inserting agents and such to divide movements has been well mastered at this point.
posted by yeloson at 10:23 AM on May 18, 2011


the mad poster! - but when it was witnessed that the victims really did nothing to provoke the beating, even cops lost their moral authority.

as for the morality, I said that was personal. I happen to believe that morality is predicated on not hurting other people, so I believe non-violence is more moral. But that's not why I would argue in favour of it.

yeloson - I did note that there are circumstances in which non-violence cannot work. When the authority has no fear of appearing to be violent, or that violence won't hurt their legitimacy, it doesn't work. Violence against native Americans didn't hurt the legitimacy of the US government because a) it happened away from the eyes of the minority, and b) the government used threats of violence from native Americans to justify their actions. (Whether these threats were true or not is not important - white Americans believed that they were). Non-violence as a tactic does rely on visibility - what Ghandi did relied on world-wide communication. It may be that non-violence is, because of this requirement, a modern tactic.

Minorities can work through non-violence against oppression. African-Americans are still only a small minority in the US. In the civil rights movement, bus boycotts may have show the economic power of blacks in the south, but de-segregating schools and businesses didn't have an economic basis. Instead, what they got was the majority of the rest of the nation to agree with the civil rights movement because their non-violence made them appear to be the reasonable and civilized side (which they were) and undermined the legitimacy of the segregationists who claimed to be protecting society from potential conflict/violence -- because it was obvious that segregationists were the ones with violence as their means.

Yes, this is predicated on the larger society believing that violence is immoral; it doesn't work against fascists, because they have rewritten the basis of morality/legitimacy to legitimize violence. Also, non-violent protest won't work against lynching, which is by its nature an extra-legal activity. There is no authority, no figure who stands behind lynching; it's very secretiveness shows that it already lacks some legitimacy, even if those who are in power still allow it to continue. There may be ways to shame authorities for their toleration of lynching, but this doesn't act against the specific people who do it.

That said, the beating of Mathew Sheppard did a great deal to raise awareness of violent homophobia. It was a horrific crime that should never have happened, but publicizing it has helped de-legitimize homophobia (a process still on-going). Just as publicizing the lynching of Emnett Till -- not revenge, but public shaming -- promoted civil rights. In either case, violent revenge, or even just publically arming, probably would have led to a "Well, both sides are wrong" response from third parties or "See? Blacks are inherently violent. We have to get them before they get us." We already see this with Israel/Palestine.
posted by jb at 10:52 AM on May 18, 2011


For certain, Malcolm X would not approve of recent rapper visit to the white house. Violence and hate were something Malcolm stepped away from. The whole wearing a suit, the discipline, proper respect for women. Rapper at the white house? Um.

I, for one, am gratified that you seem to have access to Malcolm X's thoughts beyond the grave 46 years after he was assassinated. I applaud your skills.
posted by blucevalo at 11:00 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mad Poster: Sorry dude, but that shitty Mirable book, as well as the Coates article are hit pieces on Malcolm X. I read about 100 pages to give it a fair shake, but a hit piece is a hit piece. Ever since I read Woodwards slamming of Belushi disguised as a biography when I was a little kid, I've been a bit sensitive to it. They are not tring to demonize him so much as knock him down a peg or two. Make him seem like some comprimised, navel gazing pet intellectual when he wasn't. That dude made the earth shake and none of those dudes, not Coates, not Mirable, not Henry Gates and certainly not Obama would be anywhere near comfortable in the same room with the man. I mean, seriously. Van Jones was too much of a firebreather for this administration.
posted by jake1 at 11:10 AM on May 18, 2011


You said he's depicted as a starbucks-sipping bisexual intellectual when there's like two sentences about how he might have manipulated a wealthy patron to orgasm in his Detroit Red years. Like I said, Marable said Malcolm was MORE separatist in the end than Alex Haley gave him credit for, so why would you say Marable's agenda is to paint him as some sort of simpering intellectual? It's not.
posted by the mad poster! at 11:22 AM on May 18, 2011


More like someone palatable to simpering intellectuals. Here's a fun one. Marable's intellectual soulmate Gates had already written a gushing blurb for the jacket when his magazine ran into a little problem.
posted by jake1 at 11:32 AM on May 18, 2011


Coates on WBUR's Here and Now on the article (mp3).
posted by Apropos of Something at 11:33 AM on May 18, 2011


The new Marable biography is poorly written, poorly researched garbage that was more about publicity for Marable (that he thankfully never got). A critical analysis by Karl Evanzz (author of The Judas Factor) absolutely shreds any credibility Marable might have had on this topic. As for the laughably stupid idea that Obama has demonstrated any connection to Malcolm X....well, I'll just leave this right here.

I'll have more to say tomorrow.
posted by antihostile at 12:24 PM on May 18, 2011


antihostile: that was more about publicity for Marable (that he thankfully never got)

Is that a crack about Manning Marable being dead? If so ..... classy! Also, from what I gather, Karl Evanzz has some biases of his own. So I'm skeptical of the "shreds any credibility" claim.

jake1: That dude made the earth shake and none of those dudes, not Coates, not Mirable, not Henry Gates and certainly not Obama would be anywhere near comfortable in the same room with the man.

Wow, you seem to have have special access to knowledge about the mental states of people you've most likely never met too. Lot of that going around in this thread. I'll just join the fun and say that I'm 100% sure that Malcolm X, a man who grew up at a time when the best job a black man could get was shining shoes or waiting tables, would have had his mind blown if he'd had any inkling that in the lifetime of his daughters a black man from Hawaii who grew up with a Kenyan father, an Indonesian stepfather, and a white mother would be elected President, and that he would be not all that unlikely to capture a second term in the White House. I think he'd be less surprised by the racist bullshit that has attended his term in office ever since, starting with emails and postcards comparing him and his wife with gorillas and depicting the White House lawn as overgrown with watermelons, and leading on up to the whole manufactured bullshit birth certificate controversy, not to mention the recent Drudge-spawned Common hysteria that never really took off in the same way that the whole Jeremiah Wright controversy did or the whole Shirley Sherrod brouhaha did. Now, of course, I don't have any access to Malcolm X's thoughts. But why should that stop me? It hasn't stopped others in this thread!
posted by blucevalo at 1:12 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Blucevalo: The reason that I doubt that Gates, Coates, etc. would be comfortable in the presence of Malcolm X is because those men are at best timid academic incrementalists with no stomach for actual confrontation. They exult in their positions and minor influence while being presented to the masses as what passes for black intellectual discourse. Malcolm on the other hand, was an actual crusader for justice with a stunning and always evolving intellect and worldview. But his focus was always justice. Not tenure. Not the chance to play cheerleader for a corporatist president who refuses to even acknowledge the unique problems of african americans or anyone else who isn't one of those ever elusive swing voters. Can you picture Malcolm X drinking beer at a photo-op with the cop that manhandled him at his own house? And personally, I think Malcolm would be deeply antagonistic of Obama, especially about issues concerning our criminal justice system and our war on drugs, both of which disproportionally target african americans . And most imporantly he was persuasive. Obama style persuasive.He took the Nation of Islam from creepy cult status to creepy powerhouse cult status and had he survived the breakup there is little doubt that all of the non-crazies would have gone with him. He was beginning to be recognized cross culturally and his understanding and influence certainly became international towards the end. And the Autobiography of Malcolm X still inspires today like no tepid tome of Gates or Marable ever will. People with ability like that who denounce injustice at every opportunity and can't be bought tend to make the comprimised a bit nervous.
posted by jake1 at 2:18 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Woah, jake1 beat me to the punch! Couldn't agree more! My two cents, blucevalo:

a) No, not a crack about a man dying. I just don't think he deserves any publicity for his work because it is so shoddy.

b) "From what I gather" What did you gather? The Judas Factor is incredibly well researched, extensively footnoted, and he obtained unprecedented access to the FBI's files on Malcolm X. I don't think I detected any bias or really any questionable conclusions or shoddy research. The man knows his Malcolm and is a very credible source.

c) I don't have any access to Malcolm X's thoughts. Yes you do! Check out some of the Malcolm X videos on youtube, most of them put there by me! I think they might change your mind about what Malcolm X would think of Obama, but again I think jake1 put it perfectly. (Apologies for the sort-of self-link. As you may have guessed, I'm really into Malcolm X!). As he was asked once about progress being made....

"If you stick a knife in my back nine inches, and pull it out three inches, that's not progress. If you pull it out six inches, that's not progress. If you pull it all the way out, that's not progress. Progress begins by healing the wound that the blow made, but they haven't even begun to pull the knife out...in fact, they won't even admit the knife is there."
posted by antihostile at 2:33 PM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


How Fox News Uses 'Big, Scary Hip-Hop' to Race-Bait its Viewers: This week's outrage over Common and Jill Scott was ridiculous, but there was a more pervasive, nefarious issue at hand.
posted by homunculus at 10:04 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


antihostile, thanks for your work putting the videos up. I'm glad they haven't been taken off for copyright reasons because they're a vital resource to people like me as we dig into the history. As I've been looking at videos and speeches from that era I've been finding James Baldwin quite captivating as well
posted by the mad poster! at 10:21 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just can't be sure that there wouldn't have been one of those "at first I was like", "but then I was like" gifs. People grow and evolve and while I don't think he would have been defending Obama, I don't think he would have had nearly as much of an antagonistic relationship with him as many imagine.

Is what I was going to say.

Coates on WBUR's Here and Now on the article (mp3).

Listening to this mp3, Coates does a pretty good job of explaining it for those who are still not seeing the links. I also think that there is a bit of superhero creation going on, making him larger than life and not capable of evolving or changing, which he most certainly would have.
posted by cashman at 11:50 AM on May 19, 2011


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