Malcolm X/ Courtesy image
As We approach what would have been Malcolm X’s 93rd birthday, it’s important, now more than ever, to closely examine matters related to Black Nationalism, and our noble ancestor’s Pan-African vision, in which the masses of Black people living in the United States identify with, and strive to build significant connections with, Black people living in Africa, and more generally oppressed humans around the globe.
In the midst of an impending global war precipitated by the United States and Israel, widening wealth inequality domestically, and a perpetual loss of geopolitical footing among Black nations and entities, many among Us still refuse to embrace the revolutionary philosophy that prioritizes Our collective interests, at all levels of sociopolitical engagement, above that of other racial and political groups, so-called allies or otherwise.
In the era of Donald Trump, amnesia seems to have taken over segments of the global Black community, enamored by mainstream calls for unity from so-called white progressives, all the while issues specific to Black people, at home and abroad, constantly get overlooked, just as was the case long before, and after, Trump made his now infamous “shithole” comments.
An emotional appeal to the consciousness of those who value power above all else won’t suffice at this critical juncture in Our fight for liberation. Instead, consolidation of power among the Black masses at the grassroots, and eventually higher, will bolster efforts for widespread change among those who identify as such, and have been severely affected in the global racial caste system by that classification.
However, schisms within the Black family, nationalistic, cultural, and all else in between, prevent such unity. While Black people, like other racial groups, shouldn’t be expected to be a monolith, Our collective third-world status, even when one includes the wealth of Our mavens of industry, reveals common needs that supersede Our differences, many of which have been exasperated in the mainstream press and by multi-issue, left leaning interest groups. This phenomenon shows an ignorance around the mass political movement Malcolm X demanded in 1964 during his Ballot or the Bullet address.
A failure to heed Malcolm X’s words in the decades after his murder have fermented the abysmal conditions of Our existence, including intra-community violence, police-orchestrated murders, food insecurity, and low educational attainment. When the time comes for concerted action, all We can offer is reactionary movement against forces impeding Black progress, when all along We should have been prepared to tackle Our current-day issues with an established Black-centered infrastructure, ran similarly to a separate government, or at the very least, a federation of Black governing bodies.
In practicing Black Nationalism, an ideology and livity that espouses political, social, and economic self-determination and independence, in the District and abroad, D.C.’s Black community, shows an investment in the well-being of its people, while ensuring that the educated and empowered among Us work for the greater good of the Black masses, particularly the working class, instead of corporate overseers and malicious politicians.
Realizing this vision isn’t without its challenges, one of the most crucial being gentrification, a process that decimated large, majority-Black communities over the last 10 years. Pan-Africanism proves more elusive: Beyond D.C.’s “conscious community,” continental Africans and descendants of enslaved Africans remain at odds, often citing cultural differences, spurred by their allegiance to their nation, rather than the global collective.
Additionally, a “bootstrap” mentality among the Black Baby Boomer generation, a group whose conditions in the Post-Civil Rights era favored their economic advancement, creates a go-get-it-yourself attitude where Our elders, who received all the spoils of Civil Rights legislation, provide little guidance on how to pass on generational wealth. Black immigrants, also beneficiaries of past Black liberation struggles on American soil, can be indicted for similar offenses, due mainly to a penchant among a significant number to dissociate and differentiate themselves from those designated as African Americans, as if that demarcation brings shame.
This dilemma has also affected the younger generations. Black teenagers, a demographic now including the American-born sons and daughters of Black immigrants, significantly consume and influence mainstream forms of entertainment. Such programming, and real-world conditions, cause them to lack a collective Black identity rooted in love for one another, ancestral knowledge of self, and a passion for advancing Black causes in all areas of life.
The current socioeconomic landscape dissuades such a mindset, for the alternative — watching out for yourself and who you know, to the detriment of others within the community — often proves more lucrative in the eyes of those lacking race consciousness. In the age of corporate hegemony, co-optation of grassroots and organic movements by distant figures with deep pockets threatens true Black liberation. Overtly Black messages and crusades get abandoned, for softer, more “inclusive” alternatives, even as they snuff out the Black perspective. The few voices on the periphery representing pro-working class Black, anti-establishment politics get vilified, oftentimes by other Black people.
In D.C., as well as on the national stage, this trend has manifested in the arts, an industry that shapes public opinion and supports a color-blind cultural shift among Black youth, to the detriment of an identity rooted in love for self.
As they decry displacement and mass gentrification, members of D.C.’s creative class, a group overly represented by transients, Black and otherwise, perpetuate such systems while erasing the organic, raw form of the indigenous Black D.C. culture they romanticize in corporate-sponsored festivals and programming. Nationally, Black artists and athletes handpicked by the establishment as Our voices on political and social matters have defined and created, for the impressionable public, a movement devoid of class analysis and calls for a true revolution that reaches all levels of the Black liberation struggle.
On the surface, Our collective mission, in the years since Black consciousness reappeared in the mainstream, hasn’t been to form an independent Black nation. Even if this goal proved impossible at this point, Black people aren’t taking strides to build among one another, beyond the, once again reactive, short-lived mass exodus to Black-owned businesses during a boycott.
Instead of fighting for and concentrating power among Ourselves, We settle for sparse opportunities to watch corporate-sponsored artists and politicians address our gripes against America on mainstream platforms, even as their actions barely shift paradigms. Such euphoric sound bites, blown up on a bevy of social media platforms, briefly take our attention away from the real-life conditions that prevent us from attaining Black unity, while inspiring us to emulate these people, who ultimately harbor questionable motives along their advance within the system that holds back Black people.
Reversing these trends, and setting Ourselves along a path where, in every segment of Our lives, and collectively, We’re advancing the interests of the Black nation, starts with educating ourselves about the true nature of the Babylon system, all the while dedicating Our human capital, arguably our most vital resource, to eradicating said system from the inside-out, through simultaneous, incremental, and methodical movements similar to what the powers that be have used against us.
While learning Our revolutionary history, young people must envision and prepare to create a world where they can pursue interests conducive to the uplift of the race. Our adults must prepare to organize politically, economically, and in other sectors to support institutions that advance Black self-determination.
Last, but not least, class and ethnic divisions within the Black family must be addressed, keeping in mind that not every relationship should be salvaged, specifically with adults not committed to racial advancement or solidarity. An allegiance to community is imperative as We work together to change Our dire conditions.
Toward the end of his life. Malcolm X embraced the greater human rights struggle, understanding that holding the Babylon system accountable for its global mistreatment of Black people, through concerted action, would greatly benefit the entire human race, which as a whole been affected by inequities levied by capitalism, imperialism, and racism. Detractors and liberal apologists, white and otherwise, often paint Malcolm X’s evolution in the wrong light, calling it an abandonment of race consciousness, when in fact it’s the globalization of the Black Nationalist program he endorsed in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the United States, the epicenter of global oppression against Black people, and more specially D.C., the same movement can take place. However, like Malcolm X, we have to be passionate about our Blackness, eager to improve Our conditions through education and self improvement, and understand that, in a system buoyed by aggression and manipulation, there’s no viable alternative to Black power, even if that means starting from Our collective position at the bottom of the ladder with the few resources we possess.
Want to learn more about Malcolm X and celebrate his legacy? Take part in some events take place during Malcolm X Week.