Why Are Black People Still Punished for Their Hair?
Only black people are shamed when they choose to wear hairstyles consistent with their natural hair texture.
Ms. Tabacco Mar has represented black women in race discrimination lawsuits.
It was the fall of my first year of law school, in 2005, and I was headed to my first interview for a legal internship. I wore my only interview outfit, a conservative navy skirt suit and a cream blouse. A classmate complimented me on the look. Then she added, “But you’ll never look really professional with your hair in dreadlocks.”
I was reminded of that day as I watched video footage of a black student in Gretna, La., crying as she was forced to leave school because school officials objected to her hair. They claimed her box braids violated a dress code prohibition against “unnatural” hair styles because the braids included hair extensions. Extensions are sometimes used in black hairstyles, like braids, that don’t require the use of damaging chemical straighteners. The student and a classmate sent home for the same reason were not allowed to return until a judge issued a temporary restraining order against the school after both girls had missed several days of classes.
Far too often, black students are humiliated, shamed or banned from school because of bias against natural black hair. Just one week earlier, a 6-year-old black boy in Florida was barred from school because of his locs, also known as dreadlocks. And last year, twin sisters in Massachusetts were barred from extracurricular activities and threatened with suspension from their charter school because of hair extensions in their box braids, even though white students at the school were allowed to wear hair extensions in other styles.
The shaming and regulation of black people’s hair starts in school, or even earlier, but it doesn’t end there. Consider the case of Chastity Jones, who was selected for a customer support position in Mobile, Ala. After Ms. Jones completed an interview, the company’s human resources manager told her she could not be hired “with the dreadlocks.” Locs, the manager feared, “tend to get messy,” although she acknowledged that Ms. Jones’s weren’t. When Ms. Jones refused to cut off her hair, she was told she would not be hired.
Ms. Jones sued the company for race discrimination, arguing that its hair policy was unfair toward black employees, but a federal appeals court in Atlanta rejected her claim. The court reasoned that discrimination based on race is forbidden because, it said, race is immutable, while hairstyles can be changed. It’s true that hairstyles involve some degree of personal choice, but that doesn’t give employers free rein to discriminate against workers who wear dreadlocks, a hairstyle said to be named by slave traders who viewed African hair texture as “dreadful.”
When it comes to hair, only black people and multiracial people of African descent are punished when they choose to wear styles consistent with their natural hair texture. It’s unthinkable that a court would uphold a policy that effectively required white workers to alter their hair texture through costly, time-consuming procedures involving harsh chemicals. Yet that’s exactly what the appeals court apparently expected Ms. Jones to do to keep her job. In May, the Supreme Court refused even to allow Ms. Jones to petition for review, letting the appeals court’s bad reasoning stand uncorrected.
I was luckier than Chastity Jones; I got the internship. But I never forgot the hurtful comment.
Years later, when I joined a large corporate law firm, I noticed that I was the only professional woman of color with natural hair. Most young lawyers at the firm removed their suit jackets when they arrived at work and didn’t put them on again until they left the building. I wore mine whenever I stepped away from my desk, afraid people would see me without it and assume I wasn’t a lawyer.
It’s frustrating that schools, employers and federal courts continue to judge us based not on what we can contribute but on who we are and how we wear our hair.
But there has been some progress. Last year, the Army lifted its ban on locs and twists; the Marine Corps did the same in 2015. That move is a powerful antidote to the notion that hairstyles involving untreated black hair are unnatural and unprofessional. After all, if service members can do their jobs while wearing locs, surely the rest of us can, as well.
Opinion: 50 years ago, LAPD raided the Black Panthers. SWAT teams have been targeting black communities ever since
In the early morning hours of Dec. 8, 1969, Bernard Arafat awoke to explosions rocking the library of the Black Panthers’ 41st and Central Avenue headquarters in Los Angeles. Above him, footsteps stomped across the roof. Then gunfire erupted.
Arafat wasn’t a seasoned Panther. He was a 17-year-old runaway from juvenile hall whose parents had both died when he was 13. After years of committing small-time crimes, Arafat was taken in by the Panthers and gained a sense of purpose. He helped with the organization’s breakfast program, feeding hungry kids on their way to school.
Arafat had never fired a gun. But as he listened to the sound of bullets and heard the screams of his fellow Panthers, he made a decision.
“I found an automatic shotgun and defended myself.”
Arafat didn’t know it then, but he was part of an experiment in policing. On that morning 50 years ago, the Panthers became the targets of the world’s first major raid by a Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT, team. More than 350 officers took on 13 Panthers, ostensibly to execute arrest warrants. The group they battled included three women and five teenagers.
Before the day was over, police would detonate explosives on the Panthers’ roof and call in a tank for reinforcements. Six Panthers were wounded, as were four SWAT officers, before the men and women in the house surrendered. Combined, the two sides exchanged more than 5,000 rounds of ammunition.
Miraculously, no one was killed.
For one of the most dramatic moments in American policing, the raid on the Panthers headquarters is a relatively small historical footnote. But in the years since, SWAT has become a mainstay of modern policing. Between 2000 and 2008, more than 9,000 of the nation’s roughly 15,000 law enforcement agencies employed a SWAT unit. Thanks to the Pentagon’s controversial “1033 program,” even small-town police departments across the country have stocked up on military-grade hardware, including armored vehicles built to withstand roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. SWAT deployments increased by more than 1,500% nationwide between 1980 and 2000.
The LAPD’s official history says the department created the nation’s first SWAT team out of concern that officers couldn’t handle sniper and hostage incidents, such as those they encountered during the Watts riots of 1965. Darryl F. Gates, then a young inspector in the department, green-lighted the concept, which he called “Special Weapons Assault Team” until leveler heads at LAPD thought better of the optics.
Former SWAT Sgt. Patrick McKinley cut his teeth in the LAPD during the Watts riots. His most vivid memory from the unrest was seeing an old woman in pajamas calling to her cat in the front yard of her bullet-ridden home, shortly after the National Guard had shot up the property in an attempt to stop a shooter holed up in her neighbor’s place.
McKinley was on the SWAT team from the start, but early on, it didn’t figure heavily among his duties. Extreme tactical situations such as hostage taking or sniper fire, it turned out, were fairly rare. Using the SWAT team to serve the Panther arrest warrants was not only its first major deployment, it was a deviation in the unit’s original mission.
Yes, the Panthers were armed and certainly might be dangerous if provoked. But that hadn’t stopped the LAPD from detaining or arresting any number of them over the preceding several months. There were no hostages at 41st and Central Avenue, and the Panthers weren’t barricaded in. The wanted members had to leave the building at some point, where waiting officers could arrest them.
Across the country at the time, police antipathy toward the Panthers was rising, in part fueled by dirty tricks from the FBI’s conintelpro unit. As McKinley, who participated in the raid, said: “We had to take them out.”
The Panther raid also has to be looked at in the context of the department’s racial history. Until just a few years before the raid, the LAPD had been headed by William Parker, who once complained during a television news interview that an influx of African Americans moving to L.A. to escape the Jim Crow South had “flooded a community that wasn’t prepared to meet them. We didn’t ask these people to come here.” For most of his tenure he refused to hire black officers to police their own communities and instead sought white recruits from across the country.
In its Panther deployment, SWAT was transformed from a tool of surgical precision into a blunt-force battering ram, and that’s ultimately how it would find its calling in police departments across the country — especially in African American communities.
Last year, Princeton assistant professor of politics and public affairs Jonathan Mummolo published a data-driven analysis of militarized policing in the United States. He found that less than 5% of SWAT raids involved the kind of high-risk scenarios they were intended for, such as terrorist attacks, hostage situations or active shooters.
“These are really rare events in the day-to-day scenarios of police departments,” says Mummolo. “So these teams have been adapted to handle more mundane situations.”
In Maryland, where Mummolo conducted most of his research, more than 90% of SWAT deployments were in service of a search warrant, and black communities were overwhelmingly on the receiving end of these non-emergency militarized raids.
Mummolo further found that these types of raids neither reduced crime nor made police officers safer. But they did erode public trust in police.
Peter Kraska, professor of police studies at Eastern Kentucky University, has studied the militarization of American policing for more than two decades. He says LAPD’s SWAT team “unequivocally served as the model for the rest of the country,” which hasn’t been positive.
“SWAT uses Navy SEAL techniques to go on fishing expeditions,” says Kraska. “They bust down the door, throw flash grenades, handcuff everyone inside, ransack the place and leave. And these techniques are predominately used on communities made up of racial minorities.”
The SWAT Panther raid in Los Angeles was just such an expedition. It resulted in 13 arrests and a total of 72 criminal counts being filed. But at trial, the Panthers’ attorneys, including a young Johnnie Cochran, argued that the group had acted in self-defense. SWAT had entered the building unannounced with guns blazing.
A mixed-race jury agreed, finding the Panther defendants not guilty on almost all charges, including the most serious ones of assault with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to murder policemen. Arafat, who had skipped bail and fled underground to Puerto Rico, returned to Los Angeles.
For SWAT, the whole incident was, in many ways, a spectacular fiasco. The raid failed to produce the kind of convictions prosecutors had envisioned; it was also a failure of mission. A unit created for the explicit purpose of preventing uncontrollable armed conflict instead initiated a full-on battle in a crowded urban setting, played out before the entire nation.
But that lesson didn’t take hold across the country. Instead, in the years since, law enforcement has increased its reliance on militarized policing, especially in communities of color, sabotaging community relations and making no one safer.
Fifty years after waking up a target in SWAT’s crosshairs, Arafat believes this was all part of the design.
“SWAT evolved as a way to control people, places and things. It started with us. Now it’s everywhere.”
Move Over Colin Kaepernick—This NFL Star Wears Che Guevara Cleats
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Source: AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton
“This week, the Seahawks are proudly showing off their game shoes for the NFL’s annual Week 14 My Cause My Cleats initiative. Players across the league will be wearing special shoes customized to causes and charities of their choices during games,” The News Tribune reported. “(Defensive end) Quinton Jefferson’s have Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Che Guevara and other revolutionaries stenciled into the side of his—drawn by King County teenagers rehabilitating from incarceration.”
“It’s pretty cool that they were in touch with freedom fighters,” Jefferson said. “So it was pretty dope.”
(I’m guessing the term “dope!” has morphed from its traditional meaning. But the traditional meaning fits ideally here.)
It was off-field, during a press conference denouncing the jailing of blacks, that black activist-quarterback Colin Kaepernick wore his t-shirt honoring the jailer and torturer of the longest-suffering black political prisoners in the Western Hemisphere.
It will be on the field this Sunday that black activist-defensive-end Quinton Jefferson will honor Fidel Castro’s Stalinist sidekick who regarded blacks as “lazy, drunken and averse to baths.”
So it’s a toss-up, as to who wins this play-off.
In fact, Jefferson comes across as a decent family man with good intentions. He simply seems—like the kids and administrators in the “rehabilitation program”—a victim of modern public education/indoctrination.
“The negro is indolent and lazy, and spends his money on frivolities and drink.” This comes straight from Che Guevara’s diaries, better known subsequently as The Motorcycle Diaries. But for some reason Robert Redford saw fit to omit this charming observation from his charming movie on the young Ernesto Guevara.
In fact, many Cuban blacks suffered longer incarceration in Castro and Che’s dungeons and torture chambers than Nelson Mandela suffered in South Africa’s (relatively) comfortable prisons. In fact, these Cubans qualify as the longest-suffering political prisoners in modern history. Eusebio Penalver, Ignacio Cuesta Valle, Antonio Lopez Munoz, Ricardo Valdes Cancio, and many other Cuban blacks suffered almost 30 years in Castro’s prisons. These men (and many women too, by the way, black and white) suffered their tortures 90 miles from U.S. shores.
But you’ve never heard of them, right? And yet from CNN to NBC, from Reuters to the AP, from ABC to NPR, Castro’s Stalinist-Apartheid fiefdom hosts an abundance of U.S. and international press bureaus and crawls with their intrepid “investigative reporters.”
On the other hand, you can’t swing a dead cat in the media without hitting the name Nelson Mandela. Interesting how that works.
“Reporters in Havana are either insensitive to the pain of the opposition or in clear complicity with the government.” (Black Cuban torture-victim Jorge Antunez in the Miami Herald.)
During a press conference shortly upon Castro and Che’s entry into Havana in 1959 Luis Pons, a prominent black Cuban businessman asked Che Guevara what his revolution planned on doing to help blacks. Che answered: “We’re going to do for blacks exactly what blacks did for our revolution. By which I mean: nothing!”
Che was much too modest. “Nothing” is not exactly accurate for the Castro regime’s treatment of Cuba’s blacks. In fact, these lily-white icons (Che and Fidel) of American black “leaders” and celebrities forcibly overthrew a Cuban government where blacks served as President of the Senate, Minister of Agriculture, Chief of Army, and Head of State (Fulgencio Batista), a grandson of slaves who was born in a palm-roofed shack. Not that you’d guess any of this from the liberals’ exclusive educational source on pre-Castro Cuba: Godfather II.
“The Cuban government tries to fool the world with siren songs depicting racial equality in our country,” explains Cuban black dissident Bertha Antunez. “But it is all a farce, as I and my family can attest, having suffered from the systematic racism directed at us by Castro’s regime. Cuban blacks suffer the scourge of racial hatred every day. The beatings by the police are always accompanied by racial epithets. They set dogs on us. The only thing we have to thank the Cuban revolution for, is for restoring the yoke of slavery that our ancestors lived under.”
In fact, most of the dissidents against the Castro regime (co-founded by the racist/Stalinist honored on Quinton Jefferson’s shoes) are black and have named their group after Rosa Parks (also honored on Quinton Jefferson’s shoes.) If only SNL were still funny they could have a ball with skits on such thundering ironies.
“It is simply a sociological fact,” casually remarked an official of the Castro regime (whose co-founder is honored on Quinton Jefferson’s cleats) to a visiting American scholar a few years ago, “that blacks are more violent and criminal than whites. They also do not work as hard and cannot be trusted.”
“N**ger!” taunted my jailers between tortures,” recalled the world’s longest suffering black political prisoner* to this writer. “’We pulled you down from the trees and cut off your tail!’ laughed my Castroite torturers. For months I was naked in a 6 x 4 foot cell. That’s four feet high, so you couldn’t stand. But I felt a great freedom inside myself. I refused to commit spiritual suicide.”
(*Eusebio Peñalver, a black Cuban jailed and tortured by the Castro regime longer –and freedomracmuch more horribly–than Mandela was by South Africa’s–yet utterly unknown to Americans thanks to the U.S. media/Castroite collusion.)
source: Move Over Colin Kaepernick—This NFL Star Wears Che Guevara Cleats
Opinion: Getting To The Truth Of Why Malcolm X Left The Nation Of Islam
The circumstances around Malcolm X and his split with the Nation of Islam remain a complex and polarizing topic. One of the reasons for this is because there are many sides to this story. In this piece I want to specifically focus on the version of events that Louis Farrakhan gave and contrast that with what Malcolm himself said about his split with the Nation of Islam. Farrakhan explained his version of events in this interview with Sway below:
I want to state from the onset that Farrakhan certainly was not sympathetic about Malcolm’s murder, as the two videos below demonstrate. Farrakhan stated that Malcolm was “worthy of death” for his stance against the Nation of Islam. In recent years Farrakhan has toned down a lot of his vicious rhetoric against Malcolm X, but I mention this to provide some context for what Farrakhan says regarding Malcolm’s split from the Nation of Islam. Farrakhan was not a neutral observer in this split, but rather someone who viciously attacked Malcolm and who believed that Malcolm deserved to be killed.
Farrakhan was not alone in this thinking. Muhammad Ali also expressed the view that Malcolm would die for opposing Elijah Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad himself suggested that Malcolm’s “foolish teaching brought him to his own end.” Thomas Hagan admitted that he was motivated to murder Malcolm because of Malcolm’s criticisms of Elijah Muhammad. I mention all of this to demonstrate the type of environment that existed at the time to provide some context for what Farrakhan says about what was happening between Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam at the time of the split. Farrakhan’s reflection on these events in his interview with Sway fails to convey just how much the Nation of Islam hated Malcolm at the time.
Farrakhan’s narrative of the events contradicts Malcolm’s version in certain areas. Around 4:40, Farrakhan says that Malcolm first told him about Elijah Muhammad’s personal life over dinner at Malcolm’s house. Farrakhan explains that Malcolm offered to trick the women into telling Farrakhan that everything that Malcolm told Farrakhan was true and that Malcolm told Farrakhan not to tell anyone. In his autobiography, Malcolm offers a different version of events. Malcolm stated:
I told them. And then I told them why I had told them-that I felt they should not be caught by surprise and shock if it became their job to teach the Muslims in their mosques the “fulfillment of prophecy.” I found then that some had already heard it; one of them, Minister Louis X of Boston, as much as seven months before. They had been living with the dilemma themselves.
According to Malcolm, Farrakhan knew about Elijah Muhammad’s affairs long before Malcolm himself found out, yet in Farrakhan’s version of the events, Farrakhan claims that he was so shocked by the information that Malcolm told him that Farrakhan could not sleep that night. Now, whose version of these events you believe depends on which side you take in Malcolm’s dispute with the Nation of Islam, although it is worth noting that Farrakhan was the same man who, as noted before, stated that Malcolm deserved to die for criticizing Elijah Muhammad. Farrakhan would have good reason to cover up any evidence that he was aware of Elijah Muhammad’s affairs and to make it appear as though he found out from Malcolm because that creates the perception that Malcolm began telling other Muslims about the affairs in an attempt to turn them against Elijah Muhammad. I mention this because, as I will address later on, Farrakhan implies that Malcolm was out to destroy the Nation of Islam. In his autobiography Malcolm also complained that the officials in the Nation of Islam made it appear as though Malcolm had started the problem:
I never dreamed that the Chicago Muslim officials were going to make it appear that I was throwing gasoline on the fire instead of water. I never dreamed that they were going to try to make it appear that instead of inoculating against an epidemic, I had started it.
Malcolm was certainly hurt to find out that Elijah Muhammad had fathered several children out of wedlock, which was violation of the strict moral code that was imposed on Muslims, but this is not why Malcolm X left. In fact, in his autobiography Malcolm X explained that his first reaction was to rationalize Elijah Muhammad’s behavior, explaining: “David’s adultery with Bathsheba weighed less on history’s scales, for instance, than the positive fact of David’s killing Goliath.” As I stated, Malcolm’s faith in Elijah Muhammad took a blow, but he continued to remain loyal to Elijah Muhammad. In fact, Malcolm continued to remain loyal even after he left the Nation of Islam. When Malcolm first publically announced his separation, Malcolm explained:
I am and always will be a Muslim. My religion is Islam. I still believe that Mr. Muhammad’s analysis of the problem is the most realistic, and that his solution is the best one. This means that I too believe the best solution is complete separation, with our people going back home, to our own African homeland.
Malcolm did not publically take a stance against Elijah Muhammad even after leaving the Nation of Islam. Moreover, Malcolm always maintained that he was forced out of the Nation of Islam and that he did not leave under his own free will. Malcolm explained: “Internal differences within the Nation of Islam forced me out of it. I did not leave of my own free will.”
Malcolm’s main issue was the fact that Elijah Muhammad had hid these affairs from the public. The Nation of Islam maintained a strict moral code and Malcolm was forced to shun his own brother when it was discovered that his brother was carrying on an affair with a secretary. At the 8 minute mark in the video above, Farrakhan says that Elijah Muhammad married the women that he impregnated, but this raises the question of why didn’t the Nation of Islam publically expose this information at the time to counter what Malcolm was saying.
One reason for this is because Elijah Muhammad did not want the public to know that he had fathered children outside of his marriage to Clara Muhammad, who was Elijah Muhammad’s only publically recognized wife. Two of these women had filed paternity suits against Elijah Muhammad. Regardless of Farrakhan’s statement that Elijah Muhammad had married the women that he fathered children with, the reality was at the time Elijah Muhammad was not acknowledging these women or the children that he produced, which was Malcolm’s biggest issue with the situation. As Malcolm explained: “ You can’t take nine teenaged women and seduce them and give them babies and then tell me you’re moral. You could do it if you admitted you did it and admitted that the babies were yours. I’d shake your hand and call you a man. A good one too.”
The other thing to keep in mind is that according to FBI reports, Elijah Muhammad’s affairs impacted his marriage to Clara, which Karl Evanzz documents in The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad. Clara was apparently threatening to leave Elijah Muhammad, so his domestic situation with the other women that he fathered children with was causing problems in his own personal life. The Nation of Islam only publically acknowledged these women after Elijah Muhammad died, but this was never done publically when Elijah Muhammad was alive. The claim that Elijah Muhammad took these women as wives is complicated by the fact that marriage is a state-recognized political union, which obviously was not the relationship that Elijah Muhammad had with these women. Farrakhan refers to them as wives in a nominal sense, but legally Clara was Elijah Muhammad’s only wife.
At around 2:15 in the interview with Sway, Farrakhan suggests that Malcolm “broke ranks” with the Nation of Islam over Elijah Muhammad’s personal life, but this was not the case. As I said, Malcolm himself explained that he did not willingly leave the Nation of Islam, so he did not break ranks. Moreover, the disagreements that Malcolm had with Elijah Muhammad were greater than Malcolm’s issues with Elijah Muhammad’s personal behaviors.
There were growing political disagreements between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad. This became apparent in the aftermath of Ronald Stokes’ murder. Malcolm X wanted to directly confront the LAPD over this situation, but was ordered to stand down by Elijah Muhammad. The tension between the two was that Malcolm believed that the Nation of Islam should have been more directly involved in the civil rights struggle and should have done more to directly confront racist attacks against African Americans. Malcolm’s brother Philbert explained:
It was Malcolm who sparked the growth of the Nation all over the country. He was in demand. Nobody was asking for Elijah Muhammad to speak, they were asking for Malcolm to speak. And naturally, Malcolm got more involved with the civil rights struggle and his argument became more an argument that you would expect from someone who was in the civil rights struggle than you would for someone who was following the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
Also keep in mind that the FBI was actively working to create divisions within the Nation of Islam, as the following document below demonstrates. The document specifically mentions Malcolm’s split with the Nation of Islam as an example of this division. This is something that Farrakhan speaks about around 14:40 in the interview with Sway.
It is rather interesting to me that although Malcolm was accused of being a traitor to the Nation of Islam, there is no proof that he actually betrayed the movement. In fact, during the period of Malcolm’s suspension the FBI tried to bribe Malcolm for information about the Nation of Islam. Malcolm X recorded this encounter, which can be heard below:
There were members of the Nation of Islam which were not as loyal as Malcolm was. John Ali, the national secretary and the man who publically announced Malcolm’s suspension from the Nation of Islam, was an FBI informant. Malcolm himself stated that the Nation of Islam was “thoroughly infiltrated.” In the interview with Farrakhan above, Farrakhan suggests at around 11:20 that Malcolm was trying to destroy the Nation of Islam. The venom, anger and hatred that was directed at Malcolm was not directed against John Ali and other agents who were freely operating within the Nation of Islam, but Malcolm became a target because of his popularity within the movement. The perception that was created was that Malcolm X was a hypocrite who was trying to discredit Elijah Muhammad and destroy the Nation of Islam.
There were groups such as the New World of Islam and the Young Muslims who split from the Nation of Islam and then launched violent attacks against the Nation of Islam. These confrontations happened after Malcolm was assassinated, but when Malcolm was alive he expressed concern and regret for the fighting that was taking place between the Nation of Islam and other Black groups:
The only thing that I regret in all of this is that two Black groups have to fight and kill each other off. Elijah Muhammad could stop the whole thing tomorrow, just by raising his hand. Really, he could. He could stop the whole thing by raising his hand. But he won’t. He doesn’t love Black people. He doesn’t even want to go forward. Proof of which, they’re killing each other. They killed one in the Bronx. They shot another one in the Bronx. They tried to get six of us Sunday morning. And the pattern has developed across the country.
Malcolm was not trying to destroy the Nation of Islam, as Farrakhan suggests. In fact, Malcolm was concerned about the fighting that was taking place among Muslims and had the Nation of Islam listened to Malcolm’s warnings further violence and bloodshed may have been avoided — but that is a separate discussion. The point I am making here is that Malcolm is often singled out and condemned by the Nation of Islam as a traitor, yet there were individuals who were truly working to destroy the Nation of Islam and it seems that many Muslims have forgotten about these individuals. Elijah Muhammad himself complained that “while trying to make unity, the Muslims are faced with murderers and killers coming to them from among our Black brothers.”
Also keep in mind that Malcolm never stopped acknowledging that the Nation of Islam was an organization that reformed himself and many others. He stated:
So, I feel responsible for having played a major role in developing a criminal organization. It was not a criminal organization at the outset. It was an organization that had the power, the spiritual power, to reform the criminal. And this is what you have to understand. As long as that strong spiritual power was in the movement, it gave the moral strength to the believer that would enable him to rise above all his negative tendencies. I know, because I went into the movement with more negative tendencies than anybody in the movement. It was faith in what I was taught that made it possible for me to stop doing anything that I was doing and everything that I was doing. And I saw thousands of brothers and sisters come in who were in the same condition. And whatever they were doing, they would stop it overnight, just through faith and faith alone.
So I do not think Malcolm was out to destroy the Nation of Islam. I would also add here that I think critics of the Nation of Islam often fail to recognize just how successful the Nation of Islam was at reforming individuals like Malcolm. One specific account which I reference in my ebook The Hate that Hate Producedwas the account of a former prostitute who joined the Nation of Islam. She stated:
Respect and love showed to Black women by the members of NOI played a great part in making me become Muslim. Some of them knew my past but it did not matter. I had never seen and experienced an acceptance as a sister and a person with such sincerity and warm environment as shown by brothers and sisters in the Nation.
I also mentioned a former member of the Nation of Islam who stated: “He [Elijah Muhammad] stopped making me smoke reefer, stop me from smoking cigarettes, stop me from drinking liquor and everything else. Now who benefitted from that, he or me?” Another former member stated: “I have used the discipline in the Nation of Islam to become a better human being, to become a better husband, to become a better a better father to my children, and to become a better citizen…” Na’im Akbar credited the Nation of Islam with making him a more effective psychologist: “I didn’t know what the answer was, with the limited tools that I had been given with my training in Western Psychology, but I knew that Elijah Muhammad had hit upon something that was making a real difference. It was generating impressively productive behavior from the least productive elements of American society.” Akbar also stated, “ it is important to recognize that Elijah Muhammad was able to accomplish with his followers what the “sophistication” of all Western technology, psychology and theology had failed to accomplish.”
I mention all of this to present as balanced a picture as I can because I think the feud with Malcolm tends to cause some to overlook just how powerful and transformative the Nation of Islam was under Elijah Muhammad’s leadership. As John Henrik Clarke said: “Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad’s message made a whole lot of people feel whole again, human being again. Some of them came out and found a new meaning to their manhood and their womanhood.” I don’t want the positive aspects of what the Nation of Islam did to be completely overshadowed, but at the same time I also think that we should not ignore the reality of the hateful rhetoric that the Nation of Islam engaged in towards Malcolm either. This balance is what makes this particular topic such a difficult and polarizing topic, but I am digressing a bit here.
There is also a question of whether or not Malcolm was trying to get back into the Nation of Islam before his assassination? Farrakhan says this around 11:50 at the video above. This is very interesting to me because I have seen a number of Muslims from the Nation of Islam assert this, but where is the proof of this? Publically Malcolm had very clearly distanced himself from Elijah Muhammad in the months leading to his assassination. Malcolm also formed two separate organizations, the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) and the Muslim Mosque, Inc. Why would Malcolm go to the effort of forming two separate organizations, including an Islamic organization, if he really wanted to return back to the Nation of Islam — an organization which Malcolm believed was trying to kill him.
Farrakhan makes it appear as though Malcolm was “wandering” for one or two years outside of the Nation of Islam, and then became a Black Nationalist and an orthodox Muslim. Farrakhan is mistaken on some of the facts here. Malcolm announced his separation from the Nation of Islam in March, 1964. Malcolm was assassinated on February 21, 1965, so Malcolm was not officially out of the Nation of Islam for two years — although in fairness to Farrakhan, he may be referring to when Malcolm was first suspended in 1963, but Malcolm still remained with the Nation of Islam throughout the 90 days that he was suspended. Malcolm also remained a Black Nationalist even after his conversion to orthodox Islam, which is one of the reasons why he maintained two separate organizations; one for his religious views and the other for his political views. Farrakhan seems to give the impression that Malcolm went from Black Nationalism to orthodox Islam, which was not the case.
Malcolm obviously wanted to be reinstated after he was suspended and Malcolm himself said that he never willingly left the Nation of Islam, but after he left and formed his own organizations, how strongly did Malcolm want to return back into the Nation? I have seen some offer this recording of Malcolm X apologizing to Elijah Muhammad as proof that Malcolm wanted back into the Nation shortly before his assassination:
I have yet to see anyone present a date for when this tape was recorded and I suspect that it was recorded in 1963 or early 1964, but not in 1965. We know from FBI files that before Malcolm was suspended there were tensions between Malcolm X and members of Elijah Muhammad’s family, and that during this period Malcolm was sending apologetic letters to Elijah Muhammad.
In June 26, 1964, Malcolm sent an open letter to Elijah Muhammad in which he stated, “we should be working in unity with other leaders and organizations in an effort to solve the very serious problems facing all Afro-Americans.” To put this letter into context, Malcolm officially announced his departure from the Nation of Islam in March of that same year and then went to Mecca in April. Malcolm returned to America in May and then left for Africa again in July. It would appear by this point that Malcolm had no interest in returning back to the Nation of Islam, and this would become more apparent when Malcolm began to publically denounce the Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm was not extremely critical of the Nation of Islam during the time that he was traveling throughout Africa. In fact, in his autobiography Malcolm explained that he defended Elijah Muhammad while he was speaking in Ghana:
At a jam-packed press club conference, I believe the very first question was why had I split with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. The Africans had heard such rumors as that Elijah Muhammad had built a palace in Arizona. I straightened out that falsehood, and I avoided any criticism. I said that our disagreement had been in terms of political direction and involvement in the extra-religious struggle for human rights. I said I respected the Nation of Islam for its having been a psychologically revitalizing movement and a source of moral and social reform, and that Elijah Muhammad’s influence upon the American black man had been basic.
If there are letters and tapes which confirm that Malcolm was looking to return to the Nation of Islam after he joined the OAAU, I have not come across them. There seems to be scant evidence to suggest that Malcolm was trying to return to the Nation of Islam in the final months of his life, which contrasts with the numerous public statements which he gave condemning Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. Moreover, Malcolm repeatedly accused Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam of trying to kill him. In one of his last interviews, Malcolm X told Al- Muslimoon, “Elijah Muhammad himself had already given the order to have me killed because he feared I would expose to his followers the secret of his extreme immorality.”
Malcolm also publically accused the Nation of Islam of being responsible for bombing his house. In private, Malcolm did seem to have some questions over whether or not the Nation of Islam was truly behind the various attempts on his life, including Malcolm being poisoned in Egypt. Although he publically blamed the Nation of Islam for firebombing his house, Malcolm privately expressed to Ella Collins that he felt that firebombing of his home was much bigger than the Nation of Islam. This was after a bottle which was apparently filled with gasoline was planted in Malcolm’s home to make it appear as though he started the fire.
And it was he [referring to Leon Ameer] who heard Elijah Muhammad, Jr., come to New York when Elijah Muhammad was at the armory in June of last year. Junior stood up and told the Fruit — many of whom are here now also — that I should have been killed. That my tongue should have been put in an envelope and sent back to Chicago by now.
According to FBI files, Elijah Muhammad privately denounced Malcolm and claimed that the Nation of Islam should cut off the heads of hypocrites in the organization. This again demonstrated the animosity that the Nation of Islam felt towards Malcolm. Given that Elijah Muhammad was expressing such strong views against Malcolm and that Malcolm was openly accusing the Nation of Islam of trying to kill him, it is difficult to see why Malcolm would have been trying to return to the Nation of Islam in the months prior to his assassination, as Farrakhan suggests.
Moreover, Malcolm X publically renounced the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and embraced orthodox Islam. Malcolm X referred to the Nation of Islam as “Elijah’s distorted version of Islam.” So there is no apparent reason for why Malcolm would have even wanted to return to the Nation of Islam in1965. By 1965, Malcolm had moved in a political and religious direction which was no longer inline with the Nation of Islam’s teachings. It wouldn’t have seemed productive for either Malcolm or for the Nation of Islam to have Malcolm return.
Space won’t permit me to really address the complexities of the circumstances surrounding Malcolm’s split with the Nation of Islam, but the purpose of this piece was to demonstrate that there are conflicting narratives around the situation. As I noted before, I think one’s view on this issue will depend on where you stand. Those who are supporters and followers of Louis Farrakhan are likely to believe Farrakhan’s account of the story, whereas others would be more inclined to support Malcolm.
This article was originally published on Medium. It is reposted here with the permission of the author, Dwayne Wong (Omowale). Read the original.
Opinion: We Can’t Trust Police To Protect Us From Racist Violence. They Contribute To It
Some U.S. law enforcement officers have been found supporting, protecting or being members of white supremacist groups.
Despite an increase in mass violence perpetrated by white nationalists in recent years, the police are widely seen as not offering any solutions for protection since some also contribute to the violence, according to an opinion piece in the Guardian by Rashad Robinson.
Robinson is the president of ColorOfChange, an online civil rights organization. He previously served as senior director of media programs at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and held leadership roles at the Right to Vote Campaign and FairVote.
A 2015 FBI report indicated that “domestic terrorism investigations focused on militia extremists, white supremacist extremists, and sovereign citizen extremists often have identified active links to law enforcement officers”.
Police officers have been found to be stoking and celebrating violence perpetrated by white nationalists and promoting their hateful rhetoric.
Police with ties to Charlottesville violence
One of the best examples is the case of a school resource officer assigned to a high school being outed as a longtime white nationalist and recruiter for Identity Evropa, which has ties to the Charlottesville hate rallies and violence.
Cases of white nationalist law enforcement officers have been reported across the country from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Portland and more. They are there in police departments, border patrol, coast guard and military units.
White nationalists are dangerous in law enforcement and in many roles in government, such as prosecutors because they routinely abuse their power to attack and debilitate communities of color, including harassment and coercion, financial exploitation and acts of sexual and racially-targeted violence.