Tag Archives: Presidents Day

On President's Day: Malcolm X

Malcolm X

Cover of Malcolm X

Black. Muslim. Teapartier?

In honor of President’s Day, I’d thought I would, well never mind. Today marks the 46th anniversary of Malcolm X‘s assassination. So, I thought I would share some quotes from my reading from this week’s Monastic Monday, in By Any Means Necessary; Speeches, Interviews, and a letter by Malcolm X.

As I was quoting Malcolm en mass on Twitter today, I noticed that his rhetoric (apart from his collectivist economics) echoed that of a Tea Partier, especially on the 2nd Amendment.  No, I am not suggesting Malcolm would be a part of an astro-turf movement funded by Newt Gingrich, the Koch Brothers, or Dick Armey.  I think he would also not participate in the political mechanisms sponsored by Arianna Huffington or George Soros either, and with good reason. Without further ado, Malcolm X quotes, and my commentary.

white people are intelligent enough to know that the [race] problem will never be solved in Washington DC-Malcolm X

Like the Tea Party, which blames every problem that the US has on Washington, DC (Congress, President, SCOTUS), Malcolm is suspicious of the federal government (when it comes to race relations). Instead (unlike a conservative) he suggested that the Negro appeal to the United Nations. This brand of thinking globally is what I think is needed in this day and age. Quite provocative, and as I think about it more and more, he was right: it was a human rights issue, not just a domestic civil rights struggle.

I believe in human beings, and that all humans beings should be respected as such regardless of their color.- Malcolm X

It seems as if Malcolm X, while desiring a form of racial segregation for racial upliftment, still desired to see a color-blind society. Hmmmmmmmmm, I think color blindness is typical of the conservative movement.

As long as the black community and the leaders of the black community are afraid of criticism, collective criticism, as a stereotype no one will ever be able to pull our coat.

The same I believe can be said today. Since I have made it my practice to be less critical of black culture for the time being, I’ll let the quote stand on its own, but note that black conservatives do seem themselves as a critique of the black progressive hegemonic discourse.

Registering is all right. That only means ‘load your gun.’ Just because you load it doesnt mean you have to shoot it. You wait until you get a target and make certain you are in a position to put that thing up next to the target, and then you pull the trigger. And just as you dont waste bullets at a target that’s out of reach, you dont throw ballots just to be throwing ballots

Um Sarah Palin anyone? Don’t retreat, reload! Yeah, and we think that political conversations are uncivil. Puleeeze!

Number one. I don’t know too much about Karl Marx.

And neither do the Tea Partiers even though they bring up his name.

Any Negro who registers as a Democrat or a Republican is a traitor to his own people. […] We are going to encourage our people to register as independent voters.

Most of the TP claims to be independent, and they do criticize both the Democratic Party and the Republican party.

The black man in this country is within his constitutional rights to have a rifle. The white man is too. The Constitution gives you the right to have a rifle or a shotgun.

Hello, second amendment solutions, anyone?

And last and certainly my favorite:

we can see where Christianity has failed us 100 percent. They teach us to turn the other cheek, but they don’t turn it.

Speaks for itself. Look at the Defense budget.

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Eisenhower and Empire

Bipartisanship, Patriotism, and the  Politics of Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. of Harlem

Harlem had spent close to two decades mired in an economic depression when the city burst into flames in March 1937.  Adam Clayton Powell Jr. was a tireless advocate for nonviolent community action as a form of protest against economic and racial injustice.  The reason being, according to Adam Clayton Powell Jr., was that Harlem had become the world’s largest racial ghetto, and while the population had quadrupled, not one new hospital or school had been built.[1] The area hospitals refused to serve African Americans; to make matters worse, the unemployment rate was on the rise.  The black community was without leadership or organization.  Powell Jr. started the Coordinating Committee for Employment; Reverend Powell opened up the group and included disciples of Garvey and Harrison.[2] They followed him because in the pulpit, Powell preached to his congregation about self-respect.  Left-wing radicals from the West Indies also placed themselves under Powell’s leadership because he had aided them in their fight to save the Scottsboro Boys (a group of nine young black men accused of raping two white women in Alabama; eight of them were convicted by all white juries and sentenced to death).  After successful boycotts under the motto, “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work!,” Powell ran for and then served as City Councilman (as an Independent) and then won election as Congressman.[3] Clayton Powell learned early on from his ministerial experience how to work with people of differing ideologies.  Years later, Powell would defend Christianity against the arguments of Harlem’s own Malcolm X who claimed that Christianity was the white, blue eyed, blond man’s Jesus; Powell countered by pointing the Coptic cross in Abyssinian Baptist church, stating that Christianity was first recognized as a religion in Ethiopia.[4]

Powell did not see himself as being limited only to represent the people of Harlem.  Because there was only one other congressman of African descent besides himself, Powell viewed his purpose in Congress as representing the black people in the South who had no one to hear their concerns.[5] He committed himself to fighting racial discrimination, defamation of all forms, as well as rolling back the tide against any and all forms of colonialism and imperialism.[6] Washington, D.C. was still racially segregated and Powell was on a mission to make it more racially inclusive.  Among other actions that he took, he brought with him as many African Americans as he could in the hopes that he could “bring down the prejudices within the Capitol itself.”[7] Later on in his political career, Congressman Adam Powell Jr., during the Montgomery bus boycotts of 1956, called for and lead a National Day of Deliverance, in the hopes that the spiritual forces at work in the United States would change people’s minds about racial injustice.[8]

The most significant convert on the issue of desegregation was Powell’s new political ally, President Dwight Eisenhower (a Republican), whom Powell (a Democrat) campaigned for out of disgust at Adlai Stephenson’s weak Civil Rights agenda and Eisenhower’s surprising record during his first term.[9] During President Eisenhower’s second term, the first Civil Rights legislation since the days of Reconstruction was passed.  In a sermon entitled, “Brotherhood and Freedom” based on 1st John 2:9-11, Powell first calls all Negro churches to take a leadership position in battling segregation and fight for economic rights as well; and then secondly, he says that all black leaders should be “armed with the Christian spirit” in order to join the frontlines of international relations and “to apply the imperative of the Christian spirit.”[10] Powell demonstrated this new vision for Christian foreign missions by his unofficial participation in the Bandung Conference of 1955.

Powell saw the world changing as decolonization movements continued to grow stronger.  When Powell arrived back in Washington, D.C., he suggested to President Eisenhower and the State Department that the United States no longer remain neutral on the question of colonialism. “With our Yankee courage, our Madison Avenue know-how, our religious heritage, and the bulwark of the Bill of Rights behind us, we can launch a drive for peace and for full equality now in Asia and Africa.”[11] Powell was working to disprove the Hubert Harrisons of the world that the Negro church, as well as the Christian religion in general, could be used as a source for decolonization.   Perhaps looking back, however, there seems to be a danger in having too much confidence in our system, especially if we look at critics of neocolonialism, where the world is arranged by international markets and monopolies.  Perhaps it was Congressman Powell’s anti-imperialism and influence as friend of President Eisenhower in Ike’s farewell address as the 34th President warned us:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”


Powell,  Adam Clayton. 1967. Keep the Faith, Baby! New York: Trident Press.

1971. Adam by Adam; the autobiography of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. New York: Dial Press.

[1]( Powell 1971), 61-62.

[2] Ibid, 62.

[3] (Powell 1971), 64, 68,70.

[4] Ibid, 244.

[5] Ibid, 74.

[6] Ibid, 72.

[7] Ibid, 82.

[8] Ibid, 125.

[9] Ibid, 129-131.

[10] (Powell 1967), 237.

[11] Ibid, 117.