It is interesting to ask what exactly Malcolm X had in mind when he formed the OAAU in Harlem 40 years ago. Specifically, I wonder what he had in mind for the endtimes. That is to say how far did the vision of freedom go and how would people know that the magic moment had arrived. Knowing that Malcolm was not of the sort to compare himself with Whitefolks, as various commandments would suggest about the sins of coveting, I don't believe it would be any level of integration. But what then is the destiny of the Afro-American as Malcolm would have us?
I am struck by the relative brevity of his paragraphs on politics and economics at the formation of the organization:
IV. Politics and Economics.
And the two are almost inseparable, because the politician is depending on some money; yes, that's what he's depending on.
Basically, there are two kinds of power that count in America: economic power and political power, with social power being derived from those two. In order for the Afro-Americans to control their destiny, they must be able to control and affect the decisions which control their destiny: economic, political, and social. This can only be done through organization.
The Organization of Afro-American Unity will organize the Afro-American community block by block to make the community aware of its power and its potential; we will start immediately a voter registration drive to make every unregistered voter in the Afro-American community an independent voter.
We won't organize any black man to be a Democrat or a Republican because both of them have sold us out. Both of them have sold us out; both parties have sold us out. Both parties are racist, and the Democratic Party is more racist than the Republican Party. I can prove it. All you've got to do is name everybody who's running the government in Washington, D.C., right now. He's a Democrat and he's from either Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, from one of those cracker states. And they've got more power than any white man in the North has. In fact, the President is from a cracker state. What's he talking about? Texas is a cracker state, in fact, they'll hang you quicker in Texas than they will in Mississippi. Don't you ever think that just because a cracker becomes president he ceases being a cracker. He was a cracker before he became president and he's a cracker while he's president. I'm going to tell it like it is. I hope you can take it like it is. : We propose to support and organize political clubs, to run independent candidates for office, and to support any Afro-American already in office who ansvvers to and is responsible to the Afro-American community.
We don't support any black man who is controlled by the white power structure. We will start not only a voter registration drive, but a voter education drive to let our people have an understanding of the science of politics so they will be able to see what part the politician plays in the scheme of things; so they will be able to understand when the politician is doing his job and when he is not doing his job. And any time the politician is not doing his job, we remove him whether he's white, black, green, blue, yellow or whatever other color they might invent.
"The economic exploitation in the Afro-American community is the most vicious form practiced on any people in America." In fact, it is the most vicious practiced on any people on this earth. No one is exploited economically as thoroughly as you and I, because in most countries where people are exploited they know it. You and I are in this country being exploited and sometimes we don't know it.
Malcolm goes on and on about what he won't do but not the first thing about what he would do. We are left to ask, is that all there is? In fact, there's got to be more I think than the problem child of the Nguzo Saba, Ujamaa. If so, where is it and who's working on it? What are the benchmarks and what is the progress to date? I ask these questions for two purposes. One is facetiously, to the extent that Afro/African-America has economically surpassed some fairly wild dreams simply by changing the law - and I harp on the fact that the Civil Rights Movement did just fine, thank you. The other is more seriously to assess the extent to which the bold bogarding beyond middle class standing for African Americans might still be inspired by Malcolm's vision, despite his own shortcomings.
Now I have mentioned before, in these pages, the vision of John Hope Bryant. If I were to answer my own question, then I would say that his financial program to boost the rate of black savings and home ownership is the most broad-based program for the black masses conceivable. But I don't actually believe it is the most powerful. The most powerful would be one of fairly well disciplined aggregation, one that unleashes some hardheaded black capitalists on the American fertile fields of business rather like the world-class wrecking crew of KKR. Let us try not to forget that this is precisely the capitalist engine that made Reggie Lewis, Our Billionaire.
I'll wrap this up quickly. My conclusion is that what blackfolks want and need is 'the sound of the drum'. That is to decolonize their minds so they can be free to actually pursue wealth and power in the ways free people have done since the beginning of time. To the extent that we don't we remain Negroes, Others, Objects, Victims and the otherwise Plantationified persons for which uppity unleashed individuals like me have so much passive contempt for. The little white men inside their heads still sends them coded messages ('Harold, call me') that unravels their nerves and shakes them into blubbering inaction, submission and impotence. Yes, for them RACISM is the greatest enemy in the world. They have not overcome. How I can manage to make light of their plight is what I suspect continues to be my fatal flaw in the eyes of my harshest black critics.
But I have Malcolm X, and other vectors of black mental liberation, and so does everybody else. What can I say? I'm educated. I suffer no illusions that I can force such education on those who refuse it and thereby live in relative poverty. Raise your hand if you think uneducated, unliberated and living in the ghetto is the way you ought to be.
But let me not get too off track. Part of the notion that birthed this essay was my perception of a distinctly uncoordinated black effort across black banking, education and labor to, piece by piece target and take over an industry as X alludes to with regards to politics. I mean now is the time to watch the Democrats descend like locusts on black communities and remind them how horrible their lives are going to be next week if they do not return Democrats to power in various contests. When has that kind of coverage ever happened by a college professor, banker and busineman to say hey we're taking over all plumbing in this neighborhood?
What happened to all the black maids, waiters, cooks, chefs, domestics and delivery boys? Why did they never unionize and form an institute of hospitality at Atlanta University Center? What is the name of the music school that every black gospel singer knows she has to attend to get to the very top of that part of the entertainment industry? Why is black labor and capital a diaspora?
The most cogent and hopeful response to those questions is that the Afro-American need not seek any distinction outside of the belly of the American beast. That had we followed X and Nkrumah, we'd be no better off than the poor slobs in Liberia, Kenya or Zimbabwe. But the alternative is that where there was one Reggie Lewis, there might have been 50.