Reconstructing the Great Speeches – Malcolm X:  Police Brutality Speech

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Perhaps no speech that I can “reconstruct “has more relevance to our country today than the speech given by Malcolm X on police brutality.  I first “discovered” Malcolm X during the seventies.  I was in my early thirties.  I was totally enthralled by his ideas and his passion for his ideas.  I will not bore you with a history of Malcolm Little, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, or Detroit Red.  Each of his names signifies a life that Malcolm X lived through.  There are many books written about him.  He wrote many speeches and an autobiography.  There are numerous videos on YouTube of his speeches and talks.  I would highly recommend watching his debate with James Baldwin which I found to be thought provoking and relevant to the world today.

Malcolm X Debate with James Baldwin September 5, 1963

Malcolm X was an intellectual, a radical, a revolutionary and a man who had a family, wife, and children that he loved.  He was a man who was not afraid to speak his mind and to tell the truth as he saw it.  His truth telling got him into trouble and was the primary reason for his murder and assassination.  By the time of his death, he had created many followers and perhaps as many enemies.  The US government regarded him as a threat to the American way of life and democracy itself.  Malcolm X’s death was proof to a comment made by Bernardine Dohrn (Leader of the Weather Underground and once on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List), that “You can say anything you want in America, until someone starts listening to you.”

Context:

Malcolm X, birth name Malcolm Little, was born in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19th, 1925.  He died on February 21, 1965 at the Audubon Ballroom in NYC.  His remarkable life spanned almost 40 years.  Few people have ever made such an impact in so short a time as Malcolm X.  Malcolm X was in the middle of a Civil Rights Movement that had America in upheaval.  After two hundred and fifty years of slavery, Blacks in America had endured another 100 years of systematic and overt legal discrimination in every area of the country.  Finally, sick of riding at the back of the bus, inferior schools, voter discrimination, inability to sit at a White restaurant or a White hotel, Black folks and many White folks started a movement to end racial discrimination.

One element of the movement led by people like Martin Luther King believed that “non-violence” was the answer to overcoming racial discrimination.  Another element led by people like Malcom X, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) and Eldridge Cleaver believed in the idea that you meet fire with fire.  Malcom X said: “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.”  There was a respect among African Americans for all of these leaders, but arguments abounded on what would be the most successful path to end racial discrimination.   Ironically, both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X died by assassination.

Fifty-five years after Malcolm X’s death.  It is now almost 2021 and racial divides and unrest still permeate and separate Americans.  Slavery has been abolished.  Jim Crow laws have been overturned.  The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.  Nevertheless, racism seems as prevalent as ever in this country.  The number of White Supremacy groups has increased dramatically in the past twenty years.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Georgia, there are over 700 racist groups in the USA.  Noted politicians continue to make racist remarks and a soon to be past president of the USA openly applauds and supports these racist groups.

The Black Lives Matter Movement is born to protest the seemingly wanton discrimination and murder of Black men, women, and children.  Hardly a day goes by that a Black person is not egregiously murdered on some public street in America for the most trivial of offenses and many times for no offense at all, except being Black.  Walking while Black, driving while Black, sitting on your porch while Black are all possible reasons for a Black man or woman or child to be murdered in America.  The primary instrument of these murders is not the White Supremacist groups but the police.  The same police whose duty is to “Protect and Serve” and who all too frequently think this means to “Protect and Serve” only for White folks.

“On April 27th, 1962, Los Angeles police fatally shot Nation of Islam member Ronald Stokes. Officers mistook him and a group of Muslims removing clothes from a car outside a Los Angeles mosque for criminals. The conflict quickly escalated to a police raid inside the mosque, leaving a total of seven Muslims shot, one killed, and one paralyzed from a bullet wound to the back.

ronald stockes

Stokes’s death compelled Malcolm to engage in new dimensions of the black freedom struggle. He discovered a new center of political gravity by returning to the arena that had launched him: America’s racially scarred criminal justice system. Decades before protests against mass incarceration galvanized the black freedom struggle, Malcolm indicted the entire justice system as racist.” — Peniel Joseph, The Death That Galvanized Malcolm X Against Police Brutality

Against this backdrop, the words of Malcolm X ring as true and valid today as they did when he spoke them back in 1962 on a sunny day in Los Angeles, California.

Speech on Police Brutality: (Malcolm X comments in bold print)

1962 – Malcolm X

In order for you and me to devise some kind of method or strategy to offset some of the events or the repetition of the events that have taken place here in Los Angeles recently, we have to go to the root. We have to go to the cause. Dealing with the condition itself is not enough. We have to get to the cause of it all. (crowd concurs) Or the root of it all. And it is because of our effort toward getting straight to the root that people oft times think we’re dealing in hate.

2020

The KKK, the Proud Boys, The Aryan Nation and many other White supremacist groups are according to Homeland Security the most dangerous threat to America today.  They are responsible for numerous cases of violence and terror.  But while the Black Panthers and Nation of Islam were once labeled de facto as terrorist organizations, no effort has been made to label any (not a single one) White supremacist group as a terrorist organization.

Eric Garner (43) “I can’t breathe” July 17, 2014

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1962 – Malcolm X

The White man is tricking you! He’s trapping you. He doesn’t call it violence when he lands troops in South Vietnam. (applause) Please, please, please! He doesn’t call it violence when he lands troops in Berlin. When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, he didn’t say get non-violent. He said, “Praise the Lord, but pass the ammunition.” But when someone attacks you, when someone comes at you with a club, when someone comes you with a rope, when someone comes at you with a gun, despite the fact that you’ve done nothing he tells you, “Suffer peacefully.” (murmuring) “Pray for those who use you to spite me.” “Be long suffering.” And how long can you suffer after suffering for 400 years?

2020

The Black Lives Matter Movement has been mainly peaceful with only sporadic violence erupting throughout hundreds of protest marches.  But the right-wing media portrays the Movement as communistic, anarchistic, atheistic, and espousing overt violence.  When White people stand up for themselves, it is called “fighting for freedom” or exercising our constitutional rights.  When Black people and other people of color even speak out publicly against racist and violent discrimination, they are exhorted to remain peaceful and let the courts handle the problem.  But to people of color, hundreds of years of court decisions have often made matters worse.

Michael Brown (18) “I don’t have a gun.  Stop shooting.”  August 9, 2014

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1962– Malcolm X

The controlled press, the White press inflames the White public against Negroes. The police are able to use it to paint the Negro community as a criminal element. The police are able to use the press to make the White public think that 90%, or 99%, of the Negroes in the Negro community are criminals. And once the White public is convinced that most of the Negro community is a criminal element, then this automatically paves the way for the police to move into the Negro  community, exercising Gestapo tactics stopping any Black man who is in this… on the sidewalk, whether he is guilty or whether he is innocent.

2020

Donald Trump calls it the “Fake” news.  It is not fake news.  It is exploitative news.  It is sensationalist news.  It is news designed to sell newspapers that are full of advertisements.  The newspapers today as they have always been are on the side of so-called “law and order.” Without order, they cannot sell their newspapers.  Newspapers are owned by billionaires who cherish order and predictability above all else.  Chaos is not good for newspapers unless it can be turned into a story.  A Black murder is not news.  A White murder is news.  A Black woman raped or abducted is not news.  A White woman raped or abducted will be headlines for several days.

Amadou Diallo (23) “Mom, I’m going to college.”  February 4, 1999

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1962 – Malcolm X

Once the police have convinced the White public that the so-called Negro community is a criminal element, they can go in and question, brutalize, murder, unarmed innocent Negroes and the White public is gullible enough to back them up. This makes the Negro community a police state. This makes the Negro neighborhood a police state. It’s the most heavily patrolled. It has more police in it than any other neighborhood, yet it has more crime in it than any other neighborhood. How can you have more cops and more crime?

2020

How many Black people do you know who live in a gated community?  A Black person entering a gated community takes their lives in their own hands.  White people fleeing from the media’s obsession with crime, rape, mayhem, serial killers, home invasions have taken to gated communities like ducks to water.  If you can’t afford a gated community, then you join the NRA and stockpile ammunition and firearms.  If you are White, you never know when the Black folks will stage an uprising and come in to take your silverware or your blond wife.

Trayvon Martin (17) “What are you following me for?”  February 26, 2012  

Trayvon Martin Dead 

1962 – Malcolm X

There’s no case against the Muslims. It has no case against these brothers whom they shot down. And because it has no case, it’s trying to create a case. It’s trying to manufacture a case. And therefore they set up a grand jury hearing of the case so that they could hear it behind closed doors, and after hearing what we have to say then they’ll… their particular strategy or defense against the actions that they committed on that April the 27th.

2020

Whether or not there is a case seldom seems to matter.  How many times have we seen “Grand Juries” ignore evidence and let the perpetrators off Scott free?  Every time I hear of a Grand Jury taking a case in hand, I assume no charges will be brought against the offenders if the victim was Black.  I am not sure how they pick Grand Juries but if a deck of cards always turned up aces for the other side, you would sure as hell know it was a crooked deck.

“Ferguson grand jury props up a rotten, racist system.” – December 2014

“In Breonna Taylor grand jury decision, Berkeley scholars see grave racial injustice.” – September 23, 2020

“The Persistence of Discrimination in Jury Selection”June 2018

Kimani Gray (16) “Please don’t let me die.”  March 9, 2013

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1962 – Malcolm X

He told the brother; ‘Put down your hands.’ Brother was talking, he’s not a criminal. A man has a right on the sidewalk to talk with his hands. ‘Put down your hands, don’t talk with your hands.’ And when the brother continued to gesture with his hands the Officer grabbed his hand, twisted it around, ’round behind his back flung him up against the car and then that’s when hell broke loose. That was when hell broke loose. A struggle ensued; shots were fired by the police.

Breonna Taylor a 26-year-old African American woman was fatally shot in her Louisville, Kentucky apartment on March 13, 2020.  She was asleep with her boyfriend when the police burst into her apartment at 12:40 a.m.  Police fired 32 shots supposedly in self-defense wounding Breonna’s boyfriend and killing an unarmed Breonna.  Even on the face of it, consider what everyone admits happened and ask yourself “Does it sound logical, shooting into a dark apartment at night over thirty times?”

Police need to defend themselves when threatened and should use reasonable force to do so.  However, putting yourself into a situation where violence is likely to occur (consider how many White gun owners would not draw a gun should anyone suddenly burst into their house) and then claiming self-defense is not only disingenuous but it is the height of stupidity.  In such a situation with bullets flying everywhere and only thin walls separating apartments, the police endangered innocent people and killed a woman against whom they had no charges.

Breonna Taylor (26) “Who’s there.”  March 13, 2020

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1962 – Malcolm X

And two of the brothers who were shot in the back were telling me that as they lay on the sidewalk, they were holding hands. They held hands with each other saying Allahu Akbar. And the blood was seeping out of them where the police bullets had torn into their insides. Still, they said Allahu Akbar and the police came and kicked them in the head. Police kicked them in the head telling them to shut up that noise while they were laying on the sidewalk in front of our temple. Kicked them in the head. Shut up that noise.

2020

George Floyd lay in the Minneapolis street under the knees of a police officer.  The officer’s knees cutting off the ability of George to take a breath.  The plight of George was ignored by two other officers who stood by while George was strangled to death by their lead officer.  George was stopped for possibly possessing a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill.

A week ago I was in a Circle K gas station in Arizona when one of the men standing just ahead of me in line mentioned that he had been given a counterfeit ten-dollar bill in another Circle K a few days ago.  He had decided to use it at this Circle K.  I guess he figured that they gave it to him, so they deserved it back.  Anyway, the clerk saw that it was counterfeit and declined to take it.  I was standing just behind him with my wife Karen and I asked to see the phony bill.  For the life of me, I could not tell it from a real ten.  The guy did not seem bothered and laughed it off.  No police were called.  No harm done.  No need to kill anyone.  No major counterfeiters at the Circle K.

If you have the stomach, watch the video below of the death of George Floyd.  Let me know if you can remember the last time a White man died like this.

George Floyd (46) “Mama! Mama!” May 25, 2020

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lirHz93qJ50&bpctr=1605987468

1962 – Malcolm X

We are oppressed. We are exploited. We are downtrodden. We are denied, not only civil rights, but even human rights. So, the only way we’re going to get some of this oppression and exploitation away from us, or aside from us is come together against the common enemy.

2020

We are experiencing an unprecedented acknowledgement of the systemic racism and White privilege that permeates our police departments, courts, prisons, and entire criminal justice system including juries, lawyers, prosecutors, and judges.  Millions of people who once seemed blind to the overt discrimination that exists in American society towards minorities have now become “Woke.”  Once you become mindful of something, you can never go back.

Nevertheless, there are at least as many people in America who still deny that racism exists and who still see Black Lives Matter advocates as terrorists and criminals.  A new chapter in the history of civil rights in America has been engaged and only time will tell where it will lead.  The one thing I am sure of (beyond a shadow of a doubt) is that the words and life of Malcom X still ring down the halls of time with an unbelievable power to skewer and penetrate the hypocrisy of American society.  We must continue to move beyond the denial that allows deaths like George Floyd’s to happen on a regular basis in Black and minority communities.

“I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.” – Malcom X

P.S.

Two days after I wrote the above blog, I purchased a copy of the Arizona Republic newspaper.  I found a very disturbing article in it called “When Police Dogs Bite, No One is Accountable.”  It was written by A. VanSickle, C. Stephens, R. Martin, D.Brozost-Kelleher and A. Fan.  The date of the article was Sunday, November 22, 2020.  It concerned an investigation into the use and abuse of police dogs.  It was based on research sponsored by the Marshall Project and titled “Mauled, When Police Dogs Bite.”  The Marshall Project is a non-profit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system.  The following is an excerpt from the newspaper which I think you will notice reflects on my above blog.

“Investigations into the police departments of Ferguson, Missouri and Los Angeles, California found that police dogs bit non-White people almost exclusively.  Police dog bites sent roughly 3,600 Americans to emergency rooms every year from 2005 to 2013 according to a recent study published in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, almost all were men, and Black men were overrepresented.”  

Lest you think that most of the people bitten were hardened criminals who deserved it, the study found the contrary.  Most people bitten were unarmed and accosted for NON-Violent crimes like jay walking, problems with license plates, even a man looking for a lost cat.

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