Saturday, May 19 will be the 82nd anniversary of the birth of Malcolm X. This day, as has happened annually since he was assassinated on Feb. 21, 1965, will be celebrated by thousands of Malcolmites in cities throughout the country.
They will celebrate the life of a man whose love for and commitment to the empowerment and psychological liberation of Black people was total and inspiring.
One of these celebrations will be held in New York at the site of the Audubon Ballroom where he was assassinated. A part of it is now the Malcolm X-Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Education Center. One of the highlights of that celebration will be the showing of a 30 minute DVD on a reunion last summer of 18 founding/charter members of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which was founded by Brother Malcolm after his split from The Nation of Islam. It was the first time that most of us had seen each other since 1965.
From 1 o'clock in the afternoon until 10 o'clock in the evening, we fellowshipped and testified about our eyewitness memories of working with and learning from Brother Malcolm during the last 14 months of his life. It was a deeply emotional and historical experience. Since we had been there, serving on several levels, we had knowledge and insight that only we could provide. I had served as the editor of the organization's newsletter, "Blacklash."
One of my most personal memories about Brother Malcolm, whom I consider to have been one of the most valuable of human beings, was his focus on the intense, unrelenting psychological attacks on the minds and souls of our people by a White supremacist society. He once said that America's greatest crime against Black people was not just slavery or even lynching but that we "were taught to wear a mask of self-hate and self-doubt."
He was the first person I had ever heard speak so often, forcefully and knowledgably about that critical issue. He told us that when discussing slavery, the focus is usually on the slave traders and the slave owners. Too often ignored was the pivotal role of what Brother Malcolm called the slave maker, a person whose job was to systematically and brutally take a people who had their own beliefs, culture and traditions and break them down, not only physically but also psychologically, into slaves totally dependent on the whims of slave owners.
One of the most revealing examples of what self-hate and self-doubt has done to the minds and souls of many, if not most, Black people in this country, is exemplified by an observation made by George Schuyler in his book "Black and Conservative." Wrote Schuyler, who is often called the father of Black conservatism, "A Black person learns very early that his color is a disadvantage in a world of White folk. This being an
unalterable circumstance, one also learns very early to make the best of it. So the lifetime endeavor of the intelligent Negro is how to be reasonably happy though colored … ."
Unfortunately, perhaps the majority of Black people in this country share Schuyler's defeatist position. They believe White people always were, are now and always will be the dominating force in the world. Brother Malcolm didn't accept that. He strongly believed that our people needed a "revolution in the mind" to combat such psychological poison.
As we gather in cities from coast to coast on May 19 to celebrate Brother Malcolm's birthday, we must focus on developing ways to protect ourselves, and especially our children, from the psychological poison of the White supremacists and their self-hating and self-centered Negro allies in the entertainment, academic, civic, journalistic and political arenas.
A. Peter Bailey is former editor of the late Malcolm X's "Blacklash", the newsletter of the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Bailey is currently editor of "Vital Issues: The Journal of African-American Speeches."