As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I am reading the late Dr. Manning Marable’s Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, which the New York Times chose as one of its Ten Best Books of 2011. One of the things that has been so striking for me is how “in process” Malcolm X was.
Today I learned more about the strategy Malcolm was beginning to formulate and initiate in his final months. He was making overtures to mainstream civil rights leaders and his rhetoric was far less violent. Yet his approach to civil rights didn’t fit neatly into either of the two dominant camps at that time: separatism or integration. Instead, Malcolm X’s strategy was one of internationalism, connecting the struggle for civil rights for blacks in the United States to human rights struggles around the world. He even planned on going to the United Nations to lodge a formal protest against the United States. This was brilliant. I’m not saying I prefer it over Dr. King’s philosophy of integration, but it is a good example of the “mind at work” I talked about yesterday. I know that South African apartheid (apartheid is Afrikaans for “apart-ness”) was part of the U.N. agenda from the very start. It never occurred to me that there might have been discussion about involving the U.N. in matters of American racial segregation.
In general, Malcolm preferred the term “human rights” over the term “civil rights.”
The problem, number one, of the black man in America is beyond America’s ability to solve. It’s a human problem, not an American problem or a Negro problem. And as a human problem, or a world problem, we feel that it should be taken out of the jurisdiction of the United States government and the United States courts and taken into the United Nations in the same manner as the problems of the black man in South Africa, Angola, and other parts of the world, and even the way they’re trying to bring the problems of the Jews in Russia into the United Nations because of violations of human rights. We believe that our problem is one not of civil rights but a violation of human rights. Not only are we denied the right to be a citizen in the United States, we are denied the right to be a human being.
Malcolm X talks about all this and more in an extraordinary clip from CBC-TV’s “Front Page Challenge,” filmed just weeks before his assassination. It’s less than eight minutes long and definitely worth watching.