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Malcolm X in the time of Trump

24th Mar 2020
Malcolm X in the time of Trump

Malcolm X waiting for a press conference to begin on March 26, 1964
(Credit: US News & World Report Magazine)

Mahomed Faizal

Fifty-five years after the assassination of Malcolm X there are more questions than answers about who were the people or organizations behind his killing.

Now more than ever, in the time of Trump and the re-emergence of white supremacy in the United States and Europe, the identity of Malcolm’s killers need to be revealed because the courts, the police, the whole legal system denied Malcolm his justice.

In an in-depth new six-part documentary ‘Who Killed Malcolm X’, series producer, Phil Bertelson, said in an interview with PBS: “I think we not only look at who killed Malcolm X, but who did it and who was Malcolm X is also a big part of the story.

I think if you begin to ask yourself that question, who killed him? You want to know why. You know, what did he represent that made him such a threat that caused so many forces to align against him?“He was a powerful, galvanizing figure for many. And he posed a threat to the status quo in such a way that people felt he had to be eliminated. So you learn a lot about Malcolm you may not have already known. And you also learn that two men, it’s our belief, went to prisonfor 20 years for a crime they did not commit,” said Bertelson.

Abdul Rahman-Muhammad, the series historian who has spent the better part of his life researching the truth behind Malcolm X’s assassination said that the documentary “really pulled back the veil on this historic crime, that was an open wound, really is not just the African-American community, but the world community. And, you know, the fundamental understanding of who pulled that shotgun, who were involved.”

Bertelson adds: “And we go into the fact that it’s not just one man who killed Malcolm X. But, you know, a kind of complicity on the part of Governmental authorities and law enforcement as well. And those are entities that don’t like to be exposed. So, you know, we had to try to put the pieces together and to, you know, have an argument as to who killed Malcolm X.”

Three Harlem Nation of Islam members were arrested and convicted of the murder: Talmadge Hayer (aka Mujahid Abdul Halim and Thomas Hagan), Muhammad Abdul Aziz (aka Norman 3X Butler) and Khalil Islam (aka Thomas 15X Johnson).

Aziz and Islam insisted they were innocent, and Hayer swore in two affidavits that they had nothing to do with it. Both Aziz and Islam were later paroled from prison, with Islam dying in 2009.

“I was there, I know what happened and I know the people who were there,” Hayer testified in February 1966.

On April 22, 2010, on his blog, Abdul Aziz identified a man named William Bradley (later known as Al-Mustafa Shabazz) who he accused of firing the shot that killed Malcolm. Abdul Aziz identified him after spotting him in a campaign commercial for then-Newark Mayor and current Democratic US Senator Cory Booker.

Shabazz was first accused of involvement in the murder by Hayer in an affidavit, but a judge refused to accept it as new evidence and refused to reopen the trial.

Not only has the documentary reintroduced Malcolm X to a new generation, but it has also pushed the Manhattan District Attorney’s office into looking at whether or not this case is worth reopening.

How Malcolm X would have responded to the current occupant in the White House and the re-emergence of muscular white supremacism might not be altogether difficult to predict. Safe to say that Malcolm would not have been surprised by Trump’s election.

In a prescient 1964 op-ed in the American Sunday Evening Post, Malcolm wrote why he preferred Ku Klux Klan-endorsed presidential candidate Barry Goldwater over Democrat

Lyndon B Johnson, saying, “Since these are the choices, the Black man in America, I think, only needs to pick which one he chooses to be eaten by, because both will eat him,” he said.

With Goldwater, he noted, “They would at least know they were fighting an honestly growling wolf, rather than a fox who could have them in his stomach and have digested them before they even knew what is happening.”

Had Malcolm survived, the white American establishment together with their proxies in the Black communities would have continued in their attempts to silence his voice. It was a voice that reverberated and resonated across the world – from Accra, Cairo, Makkah, Oxford, New York, and his beloved Harlem.

In his eulogy for Malcolm X, Ossie Davis said: ‘Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did, you would know him. And if you knew him, you would know why we must honour him: Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood!’

Malcolm’s legacy requires constant and careful nurturing – that recognizes the man behind the legend. “Who Killed Malcolm X” reconfigures Malcolm’s legacy and rightfully places him as the most dangerous Black man in American history -*-*whose assault on the sensibilities of the White establishment cracked like the lash of a slave-owners whip.

Who Killed Malcolm X began streaming on Netflix on February 7.

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