One of the more gratifying aspects of my career as a researcher and
scholar is the opportunity to lecture at some of nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities. This semester I’ve been teaching at The George Washington University (GW) in Washington, D.C., and next semester I’ll be on the campuses of both GW and Georgetown. I am usually invited as an authority on Islam in America, Black Muslims, and the life and legacy of Malcolm X. In my most recent talks on Friday, I compared and contrasted the differences between the so-called Nation of Islam and the religion of Islam, which was all pretty much academic. However, during those two 90 minute classes, I felt compelled to share with the students some of my own thoughts on the legacy of Malcolm X in light of Barack Obama’s stunning victory.
Like most African American Muslims, the Autobiography of Malcolm X had a huge impact on my decision to accept Islam, but it would be many years later before I really understood the complications associated with his life. In researching his story, I had to free myself of the hero worship and romanticism which afflicts most Muslims whenever this topic comes up, and rely solely on primary sources and scholastic detachment.
In my research there were moments of great exhilaration and profound disappointments. I remember vividly sitting one day in the special collections division of the Library of Congress examining the papers of Ken McCormick, Alex Haley’s editor at Double Day Press, when to my astonishment, the original contract for the Autobiography of Malcolm X fell into my hands! Folded in threes, I opened it to find both men’s signatures, ALEX HALEY, MALCOLM X. Incredible! For those interested to know both of them had to split a twenty thousand dollar advance. That was thrilling.
The disappointments were also many, and really too much to go into in the space of a blog. All that I will say here is that so much of what Muslims believe about Malcolm X is myth, derived mostly from the Autobiography. The book cannot under any circumstances be read as straight history, and I’m on sound scholarly ground here when I say that huge portions of it are pure fiction. I have devoted an entire chapter on Malcolm X in my forthcoming book.
Over the years I have had the benefit to meet and know many of Malcolm X’s closest colleagues, both when he was in the N.O.I. and after. I knew and shared the stage with brother Benjamin 2X Karim at a program I organized in 1991, who was Malcolm’s assistant Minister and the man who introduced him that fateful day in 1965, when he was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom. In fact, as God would have it, the last time I spoke to Ben was two days before his death in August of 2005. I also wrote his obituary which was syndicated in a number of Black newspapers.
Two months ago, I was granted an exclusive interview with Brother Luqman Abdul Rahim, mentioned in the Autobiography (though not by name) as the man Captain Joseph ordered to wire Malcolm X’s car. Luqman has never agreed to a taped interview in the 43 years since Malcolm’s death, but because he’s now in poor health and feels the end is near, he decided to share his story with me. And man does he have a story to tell! I asked Dr. Manning Marable, founder of the African American studies Department at Columbia University and Director of the Malcolm X Project, if he would participate in the interview since he is in the final leg of completing his massive biography of Malcolm X, and he agreed.
I could also mention Miss Sarah Mitchel, the last person to speak with Malcolm before his death, back stage at the Audubon, and Peter Bailey who edited the O.A.A.U newsletter for Malcolm, who lives not far from me here in Washington, D.C , both of whom I count as friends. I could go on, but I think I’ve made the point that I know a little something about Malcolm X.
So why have I brought all of this up? Let me explain. Over the past few of years I have noticed a disturbing trend among some Muslims to claim to speak for Malcolm X, and that were he here today he would endorse the philosophies they espouse or groups they belong to. This is especially true of second generation immigrant Muslims, who are fighting desperately to portray themselves as some kind of oppressed group in this country, and see in the slain leader a champion for their cause and a vehicle to “indiginize” themselves. So taking things full circle, the other day one of these immigrant kids had the audacity and unmitigated gall to comment on a Black Muslim blog that were Malcolm here today, he would NOT be talking about race or the magnificent victory of Barack Obama. This is the kind of arrogance and disrespect that immigrant Muslims have always exhibited towards us, Black American Muslims, and its really nothing new. But I think that if anyone is qualified to proffer an opinion about what Malcolm would say or believe today, it is someone like myself, who has researched his life for many years. I will match my credentials on this subject with anyone in any forum, but the sad truth is that not even Malcolm knew what he believed, or would say, even then. In his last year his thoughts were as confused as his program was disorganized. It is simply preposterous for anyone, so many years later, to know what the man would say or believe today! And I certainly will not dignify the ridiculous assertions of immigrant kids so completely ignorant of Black history, and who only wish to high jack the little bit of it they know for their own selfish agenda. Groups like MANA also claim to represent Malcolm’s legacy. However in a short while it won’t matter who wins the mantel of Malcolm X, because Barack Obama’s victory as the first Black President of the United States has demonstrated that he was completely wrong in his views on race in America,
I’m not an American, I’m one of the twenty two million Black victims of Americanism,
The overwhelming number of African Americans categorically repudiated that statement on Nov. 4, 2008. This is precisely what I am teaching at the universities, that in the final analysis, the militant Black Nationalism espoused by Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, The N.O.I, the Republic of New Afrika, and on and on, is a relic of the past. Anti-Americanism is a relic of the past. All of the angry, belligerent, anti-productive hostilities have been supplanted by a fierce patriotism and pride in the flag. In fact, radicalism of any kind is finished, especially Islamic radicalism. No longer will immigrants be able to exploit Black grievance to further their seditious agendas. The game is up, its over, its dead. If someone stands up today and starts talking “Khalifah” and “Islamic State” the first ones to fight them will be Black people, who have a new sense of ownership of the country. And this is a great thing.
This is the message that I will be sharing in my lectures all this year, and if the response I received at George Washington University is any indication, It looks like I’m on to something. Its a great time to be alive Black people.