Growing up in a black neighborhood in Oakland, California pretty much guaranteed that I was destined to be a Democrat. As a child whatever exposure I was given to politics had a simple message, Democrats are good and Republicans are bad. When I became a teenager I accepted this as gospel and when Barack Obama was elected President this confirmed all I had been taught and was excited to become old enough to one day follow in his footsteps and be a strong Democrat to fight the good fight and bring social justice to black folks all over. However, in my junior year of high school I was given an assignment to write a term paper and this changed my entire outlook on life and America. I chose to write my report on Malcolm X and by the time I was finished it was obvious to me that I was a Republican.
I’m not suggesting that Malcolm X was a Republican, in fact to my knowledge he never did align himself with either party, but it is clear to me that his philosophy for black empowerment was without doubt a conservative one and had he not been murdered his message of self-reliance and the importance of a black-owned business base would have led to a stronger black community today and less dependence on the Democratic Party and its desire to spread the growth of the welfare state.
To a lot of my friends and family, my becoming a young Republican was met with laughs and good-natured joking. My sister’s first reaction was “that makes sense, you’ve always been kinda white,” something she often made fun of me for, because of the way I talked and that I was a bookworm growing up. I love my sister very much and I know she did that just to get under my skin, but it is something that I’ve experienced with other black folks that has made me both sad and upset and is a huge part of the problem our community faces. Is it somehow “being white” to want to better yourself and make your mark in the world? For many in the black community, that is the feeling. And the anger that it brings up in me is because we have been conditioned to believe that, and that belief comes from our so-called political leaders and from the hip-hop community.
When I began my research on Malcolm X, I was a young “militant” filled with the same feelings of many of my generation. I sincerely believed that the black community suffered from effects of racism and that the history of slavery and Jim Crow still lingered and presented challenges to us that were responsible for the state of black America. I bought into all the notions that “we deserved” welfare as a sort of “reparations” for all that we had suffered. Even at the time, my plan was to go on to college, get involved in the Democratic Party and one day run for office and set about to make things right by “getting even” at the America that had done so much wrong to my people. I had a poster of Barack Obama on my bedroom wall that I would look at often, giving me inspiration that “yes we can” but in the span of a few short weeks all of this began to change for me.
As I started to pore through various speeches and writings of Malcolm X, there was one I highlighted early on and decided to base my report on. More than any other of his statements, this stayed with me, but also made me challenge everything I believed in. It honestly changed my life.
“I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.”
When I first read this, I looked at the “oppressor” as so many of my brothers and sisters do. Large corporations, the business world that wouldn’t hire us, racists in the KKK, the Tea Party I read about, Christian conservatives and of course the biggest oppressor, that evil Republican Party, who I’ve heard since I was a little kid were out to get black folks. I looked forward to the day I was an adult and could be part of that “clash” to bring down our oppressors.
But as a began to contemplate this statement, which I kept hearing in my mind more and more, I looked around and wanted to find the evidence of this oppression in my people, I wanted to find it so badly. But a funny thing happened, I didn’t see it. I did see oppression, but it wasn’t from these forces. The folks in my neighborhood who were “making it” were the ones who were part of this so-called oppression. They worked for the “evil corporations” or had their own business, participating in “unfair capitalism” and the one’s that were suffering were the people being “taken care of” by the people who said they understood our plight, who cared about the black community….the liberals.
I remember this time so clearly because I was in a bad mood all weekend. It was as if my entire world was being turned upside down. I even considered changing my topic because it was becoming so upsetting to me. This couldn’t be, I told myself. The liberals are the “good guys,” or at least that’s what everyone says. But this made me question even more, who is it exactly that says this? They say that, of course.
I decided to stick with the report and continued to research further. I then came across a speech he did in 1963, titled “God’s Judgement of White America” in which Malcolm got into the differences between white liberals and white conservatives. One piece from this speech really struck me, but unlike the first, didn’t disturb me as much as started to make everything seem clear to me:
The white liberal differs from the white conservative only in one way: the liberal is more deceitful than the conservative. The liberal is more hypocritical than the conservative.
Both want power, but the white liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor; and by winning the friendship, allegiance, and support of the Negro, the white liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or tool in this political “football game” that is constantly raging between the white liberals and white conservatives.
Politically the American Negro is nothing but a football and the white liberals control this mentally dead ball through tricks of tokenism: false promises of integration and civil rights. In this profitable game of deceiving and exploiting the politics of the American Negro, those white liberals have the willing cooperation of the Negro civil rights leaders. These “leaders” sell out our people for just a few crumbs of token recognition and token gains. These “leaders” are satisfied with token victories and token progress because they themselves are nothing but token leaders….
The white liberals hate The Honorable Elijah Muhammad because they know their present position in the power structure stems form their ability to deceive and to exploit the Negro, politically as well as economically.
Crumbs and token gains. The crumbs of welfare, the token gains, like black folks who could barely pay their bills but were supposed to be happy that Barack Obama was President.I was lucky, I felt, because I lived in a pretty decent neighborhood, but just a couple blocks down we could hear nightly shooting and I’ve personally had two cousins killed in drug and gang violence. I realized that there was no “football game” going on in our neighborhoods anymore. That game had been won a long time ago, by the liberals and the Democratic Party that they control.
I also started to think about the title itself, God’s judgement. I noticed that a lot of white liberals weren’t very religious, and often made fun of people who believe din God. They were forever making comments on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere about how stupid people who bought into the “fantasy” of God and Jesus were. Yet, when they would come to our churches and neighborhoods, they wouldn’t talk all that mess. They would talk the talk of the church, proclaim their Christianity, which made me think of the first part of that speech…the liberal is more hypocritical than the conservative. As I looked back at our history, it was religious conservatives who first started the abolitionist movement and Republicans who helped us gain our freedom. What happened in all that time between that brought us to the reality of today where there are more of who grow up without a father than with? Why are so many of our people on welfare or in prison? Why do we have more drug dealers than business owners? The more I searched for these answers, the more I saw the hand of the white and black liberal, telling us “the man” was responsible. They may be right about that, but “the man” isn’t who they say it is. They are that man.
As much as I’d been taught to “fear” conservatives, I always had to admit, Republicans were always consistent. They stood for what they stood for and didn’t seem to play the same game Democrats did. Even as the “young militant” some of what they said resonated with me, but I would fight it off like an instinct. I began to understand that even though I didn’t like hearing some of the things they said, like welfare makes people lazy and rewards poor choices, it was absolutely true.
All of this took place right around the time of the Trayvon Martin situation. As all of these words from Malcolm X were swirling in my head, I began to see the case in a different light. I saw how Al Sharpton and Jessee Jackson were whipping us into a frenzy over this. While I didn’t think Trayvon deserved to be shot over this, their message wasn’t about that. It was designed to tell me that my biggest fear should be getting shot by a white man, when all the people I’ve in known in my life who have been killed were killed by another black man. While they were telling me to be fearful of walking in a white area, it wasn’t there I felt nervous, it was in my own neighborhood that I had to be on alert and look over my shoulder.
I was almost done with my report when I came across a speech Malcolm X gave that sent chills up my spine. In it he spoke directly to the Democrat Party and our allegiance to it. Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House, Harry Reid was leader of the Senate and Obama was President. Every one of the elected officials in our neighborhoods are Democrats. Yet what were they doing for black folks? Like Malcolm said, we put them first but they put us last. We were, just like he said we were, “political chumps.” The full speech is long, but this section says it all:
I am not a Muslim and I don’t agree with everything Malcolm X stood for or believed, but from the time I finished my high school report on him, I’ve turned into a die-hard black Republican. But I believe strongly that if he were alive today, he would continue to speak out against the way the Democrat Party and liberals use black Americans for political gain. Today, the black community still does not have the place in our society that we by right deserve. This is our largely own fault, because we have been led to believe that by following a certain mindset, we will be “given” our due justice. Nobody will give us anything, nor should they. We are a people that are talented, gifted and have proven our ability to rise from the lowest circumstances to gain a place at the table of America. But none of the gains we made are because of charity, they came from hard work and good folks that helped us find a path where we could find our own place in the American society. A society that I believe with all my heart, and with all our problems, is the greatest on earth.
By Gary Youngston
Dignitas News Service Guest Columnist