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Black History

Malcolm X Predicted That We’d Still Be Marching 50 Years After King’s March on Washington


by Yvette Carnell

by Yvette Carnell

As we edge closer to the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, we’re forced to acknowledge that in many economic areas, Blacks are actually in just as dire a situation as they were back then. Although most Black leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., weren’t prescient enough to predict such a bleak future, Malcolm X seems to have predicted the outcome.

In a speech, Malcolm X said Blacks didn’t have the moral high ground to criticize whites for job discrimination when Blacks themselves hadn’t begun to set up factories and job opportunities. As far as Malcolm X was concerned, Blacks would live their lives as beggars so long as they didn’t put forth a collective effort to raise capital for the benefit and betterment of the Black community.

In Malcolm’s mind, Blacks seemed to be at a standstill, and wouldn’t progress until we understood how to pool wealth. If Malcolm X were still alive, I doubt that he’d be surprised that the response of Black leaders to both social and economic injustice is still, decades later, to plan a march. It’s all we know. It’s the tool of the powerless and penniless.

Regardless of how you feel about Black nationalism, the data doesn’t lie.

From the New York Times:

As of 2010, white families, on average, earned about $2 for every $1 that black and Hispanic families earned, a ratio that has remained roughly constant for the last 30 years. But when it comes to wealth — as measured by assets, like cash savings, homes and retirement accounts, minus debts, like mortgages and credit card balances — white families have far outpaced black and Hispanic ones.

And Blacks know that things haven’t improved nearly as much as they’ve been told, which explains why Black respondents to a Pew poll released today said they felt mistreated by every American civic institution:

For example, seven-in-ten blacks and about a third of whites (37%) say blacks are treated less fairly in their dealings with the police.

Similarly, about two-thirds of black respondents (68%) and a quarter of whites (27%) say blacks are not treated as fairly as whites in the courts.

I’ve included two clips of Malcolm X below that go to the heart of the matter. Play close attention to how Malcolm X cautioned Blacks against listening to so-called Negro leaders, who were overwhelmingly focused on symbolism. Also focus on his criticism of former President John F. Kennedy.

As you watch President Obama speak at the 50th anniversary of MLK’s March on Washington, keep the words of Malcolm X squarely in mind. Malcolm X wasn’t perfect, and I’m no fan of the Nation of Islam, but more and more, his words are ringing in my ear. If how Blacks are fairing in America in the 21st century is indication, our method for obtaining freedom through integration was woefully short-sighted. Back to the drawing board.



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