Although this interview was conducted over 50 years ago, recent events easily confirm how Malcolm's astute analysis is just as correct today as it was decades ago. This week, former basketball player Charles Barkley was asked to comment on why some African folks refer to football quarterback Russell Wilson as "not Black enough." Barkley, as he has done since the 1980s, immediately launched into a typically a-historical diatribe that most assuredly warmed the hearts of white racists and apologists for the capitalist system everywhere. Barkley, never shy about expressing his opinions about anything, has become a go-to guy for the aforementioned communities. Even some African folk can be heard responding with "tell it like it is" when he talks about crabs in a barrel and how African people disrespect education as "too white" while celebrating people who go to prison as "having credibility." He goes on to criticize African people as being dysfunctional and being the primary reason we are in such terrible shape, even going as far as to tell his white interviewer that he hates to "involve white people in our problems" as if this entire issue has nothing to do with capitalism/white supremacy and is instead entirely our creation and responsibility...Amazing.
This is the same tired formula that is used by others like Bill Cosby. Take 10% of the truth, highlight that 10%, and ignore the other 90%. This is a formula that works in present day society where information and truth matters little when placed up against emotional sentiment and political manipulation and expediency. Let us illustrate how this formula is implemented. What you do is completely ignore the fact that African people are systematically denied access to opportunities at every conceivable turn in this society, in the areas that we need e.g. education, employment, and quality healthcare, while concurrently having overwhelming over representation in every negative category like police terrorism and incarceration. Anyone who has even a junior understanding of these issues knows there is an absolute abundance of information available for all to see to substantiate this claim of systematic discrimination. This is ill-refutable. So, denying and refusing to talk about that piece of the equation is like explaining where babies come from without talking about sex.
Sure, some of us glorify prison over college, but why would anyone think this way? Could it be that some of us have correctly figured out that the U.S. capitalist system doesn't have the interest of our people in mind in anything it does and so there is some disdain for those who are perceived as allying themselves with the system - doing everything it tells them to? And, there is some admiration for those who rebel against the system, even if that rebellion isn't entirely constructive? I mean, Dr. Martin Luther King did say that "in an unjust society, the only place for a just man is prison." Along those lines, there are also some who refer to people who speak what's called "proper English" as "being white," but this occurs because Africanized English - or Ebonics - has been shamefully discredited and disrespected in a barbaric racist attempt to devalue African culture. Plus, those African people who do not respect so-called "educated English" take that position because after 500+ years, we fail to see where most of these Africans with all this education have used it to fight against the unjust oppression against our people, the reason education was fought for by us in the first place. We see and hear the "educated" tone and the degrees. We see the big cars and houses, but we don't see how any of this has advanced our people's collective position, so consequently, the concept of the "educated Negro" is subject to disrespect by our people because we perceive - correctly - that these "educated Africans" sell out to advance themselves individually as house slaves within the capitalist system. This has nothing to do with us devaluing education. What's happening here is we know a scam when we see one. Our people are not stupid. We understand that the purpose of language is to communicate and so if one person communicates with another person, regardless of the method, and the communication is successful (in terms of the idea being transmitted from the first party to the second) than that's good communication. The style - which the capitalist system has made the primary concern e.g. the method in which people communicate - is highlighted above all else, simply to attempt to embarrass African people by forcing us to think that our way of communicating is inferior and the only acceptable way to do this is the way Europeans do it. This is offensive to our people so a natural result of that is for us to reject how white people communicate. This explanation would make sense to even a grade school child. The other aspect of this is if the majority of our people who achieve "higher" education used their personal advancement to do the work of people like Huey P. Newton, George Padmore, Kwame Nkrumah, Assata Shakur, Walter Rodney, Marcus Garvey, Imbalia Camara, Malcolm X, etc., instead of becoming oreo cookies for the European capitalist system, do you think this same phenomenon of people ridiculing education would be taking place? Clearly the answer to that question is no.
So, nothing against Charles Barkley or Bill Cosby. In fact, I was a huge fan of Barkley when he came out of Auburn and into the NBA in 1984. I was a follower of the Philadelphia 76ers at that time because I liked Dr. J, Maurice Cheeks, and Moses Malone. So, when Charles Barkley was drafted in that great 1984 class and became a dominant inside player at 6 foot 4 I made it my mission to go and see him play in person whenever I could. By having this focus on him, I also observed quite quickly that his off the court behavior was so immature at times (spitting on children, cursing fans, getting drunk in public) that I honestly don't understand why and how he came to this place that he feels he can serve as some sort of moral voice for African people. I would say the same for Cosby. His early film, television, and stand up roles paved the way for African people in comedy, long before the Cosby Show of the 80s, and I grew up watching him in films like "Uptown Saturday Night," but after multiple women have accused him of sexual assault, it's hard to dismiss that totally and it certainly also calls into question his right to be some sort of moral voice to anybody. Still, even if both of them were saints, the primary point is that their attacks against African people are fueled and supported by a fictional analysis that ignores the truths of oppression in this society. I know this and there is no question about that. The part that confuses me is why African people continue to ignore Malcolm's clear analysis from 50+ years ago? Why when something occurs like Ferguson, Missouri, Ebola, the zionist attacks against Gaza, etc., the first place we turn to get perspective (or at least reaction) isn't the front-line organizations/fighters who have the proper analysis on those situations. They are the right people to steer us in the proper direction, but we aren't trying to hear them are we? Instead, our focus remains on what Jay Z, Pharrell, Beyonce, and Charles Barkley are saying? This is to be expected from our enemies, but we - African and other people dedicated to justice - have to rise up and do better. We have the responsibility to use our education to expose the backwardness of this system and defend our people where defense is appropriate. So why don't you start by spreading and sharing this analysis as much as you spread what Kanye West has to say about African people?