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Updated on August 26, 2015

Barack Obama vs. Malcolm X


“Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” Dr. King


Martin Luther King’s comments on serving, has fitted black leadership like Malcolm X, Marcus Gravey, Paul Roberson and others for years. Now we have elected the first African-American to become the President of the United States. He was chosen to serve all of America, not just blue states or red states, but the United States. Several days after this historical feat, came the announcement that the President-Elect has asked Rahm Emanuel to serve as White House Chief of Staff. I wondered if President-Elect Obama’s position on America’s oneness and serving all the people of America was taking a detour. Would the President-Elect abandon the hopes and desires of the American Moslem community? Would he allow America’s struggle with Islam to continue downhill unabated? Since I was sure that Mr. Emanuel and his father’s pro-Zionist stand on Israel wasn’t going to sit well with the Moslem community. Furthermore, I must admit I was concerned after Obama’s speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in June. The morning after winning the Democratic nomination, President-Elect Obama spoke to the pro-Israel lobby and made a pledge that surprised many of his skeptics in the audience. With the statement that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided,” I asked myself, why he would want to infuriate the Moslem community before he even gets into office. I wondered who were his advisors and possible speech writers who would even touch the subject of Jerusalem. Their leadership further came into question at a rally and speech in Detroit when campaign volunteers prevented two Moslem women wearing traditional Moslem headgear from sitting behind the podium or appearing in photographs or on television with the candidate.

Let me state with conviction that I am not anti-Semitic nor am I a Moslem. I support the state of Israel and deeply believe that all people have a right to live in peace and dignity. The holocaust, like the middle passage, were the two most inhuman acts in the history of humanity. Consequently, I understood the desire to resettle Jews, so that they could start to put their lives back together and begin to heal their families. 

I questioned the conception and foundation of the state of Israel by colonial powers. These colonial powers annexed Palestinian lands with little or no compensation for the massive disruption to their lives. Thus I believe that Moslems throughout the world have the right to articulate their concerns, and emphasize their perceptions of the President-Elect Obama’s intentions, that is, any Moslem other then Ayman al-Zawahri, Deputy Chief of Al Qaeda. It is interesting that the Al Qaeda chief’s first comment on the election of Barack Obama would be an attack on his racial identity. Ayman al-Zawahri’s use of Malcolm X to compare Obama’s blackness is mind blowing. Calling Obama a “house Negro” and Malcolm X a “field Negro” is like using those terms as if they have some kind of universality, or even more sinister, the hopes that he could someway divide the support that the Moslem community has shown President-Elect Obama. This support came even from America’s so-called enemy. A Washington Post article, said that, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad congratulated President-Elect Barack Obama on his victory. This was the first time since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution that an Iranian leader had offered such wishes to an American counterpart. Ahmadinejad wrote a letter to Obama saying Iran would welcome “major, fair and real changes, in policies and actions, especially in this region.” Analysts here say the letter indicates that Iran is ready to improve relations with the United States.  

A house Negro and field Negro were terms from a different time in America history, when black people had no choice and no ability to change the direction of this country. At that time in history, black people didn’t enjoy being called or being in a position to be a “house or field Negro. They were both slaves and suffered equally the oppression of racist America. Today 96% of black American voters, voted for the so called “house Negro;” we make our own choices. I find al-Zawahri’s comments very disingenuous and disrespectful to black people. Furthermore, al-Zawahri should know that while black Americans have displayed kinship with Africans and Arabs, we have not forgotten the role Arabs played in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. 

Malcolm X was a beloved leader from the neighborhood, who had been educated on the streets, by the school of hard knocks. No Harvard or Columbia University degree, he was a master linguist, who could handle himself with scholars anywhere in the world. Malcolm X learned about Islam under the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Mohammed. Malcolm X and the other followers of the Nation of Islam were taught a brand of Black Nationalism coupled with the teachings of Islam. It wasn’t until Malcolm X made the pilgrimage to Mecca that he became a Sunni and a Moslem for all people. Malcolm loved black people and said different things at different times in his protection of them. But at no time in his history of leadership did Malcolm X advocate or carry out violence against anyone or religion. 

El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz is Malcolm X’s real name, and as a Moslem, al-Zawahri should know to address Malcolm as a Moslem first. Furthermore using a die person to give a comparative analysis of today’s black man is quite disingenuous. Why doesn’t he call on the words of Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan? Mr. Farrakhan is the most highly respected Moslem in the black community who referred to Barack Obama as the Messiah. And this from a Moslem that President-Elect Obama has denounced several times for his statements and beliefs.Minister Farrakhan, like Rev. Wright, are radical clergymen in the black community who have defied the US government, and confronted white racist control over America. But neither of these leaders has called for suicide bombings or violence to redress the treatment of black people in America. Minister Farrakhan has stated clearly that you are not a Moslem if you go around killing other Moslems or call for Moslems to commit suicide.  

President-Elect Obama, like El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, (Malcolm X) envisions himself as a citizen of the world. The goal of this new citizen is to uplift humanity, take humankind to the next level of development. They both understood that America is the centerpiece in this evolutionary journey for humanity. Furthermore they also understood that America would be catalysis for an abrupt change in humanity’s evolutionary path. Brother El-Hajj in a speech in Detroit 1964 stated the following: 

“America today finds herself in a unique situation. Historically, revolutions are bloody. Oh, yes, they are. They have never had a blood-less revolution, or a non-violent revolution. That don’t happen even in Hollywood. You don’t have a revolution in which you love your enemy, and you don’t have a revolution in which you are begging the system of exploitation to integrate you into it. Revolutions overturn systems. Revolutions destroy systems. A revolution is bloody, but America is in a unique position. She’s the only country in history in a position actually to become involved in a blood-less revolution. The Russian revolution was bloody; Chinese revolution was bloody; French revolution was bloody; Cuban revolution was bloody; and there was nothing more bloody then the American Revolution. But today this country can become involved in a revolution that won’t take bloodshed.”

As Don King the famous boxing prompter once said, “Only in America,” when referring to his success. Over the last five hundred years America has been the biggest beneficiary of economic and political development in the world. The results of that development have made us the leader in the evolution of humanity. The contradiction that we find ourselves today is that the ideologies and theologies that have led that development are antiquated for the movement forward. To change America we must step up to the responsibility for leading the new revolution for humanity. This new revolution must win hearts and minds of all Americans, to become the material force to inspire the world of the need for change. America must step forward as an example of human beings who practice a new vision of energy/climate-change, healthcare, wealth distribution, and political and religious tolerance. To accomplish this, America must break out of the old paradigms that control our thinking and practices. For example President-Elect Obama led his campaign with a popularist theme of governing from the bottom up. But how do you teach the masses in a constitutional republic that they should be moving toward a participatory democracy? One way would be to transform the millions of supporters who were the body of the change campaign, into a movement for participatory democracy. This can be done by forming the millions of supporters into study groups. These study groups would come together to participate in a study plan recommended by the Secretary of Education, which would give the Obama vision clarity. They could certainly start with Thomas Friedman’s book, “Hot, Flat, and Crowded,” Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America. Another way the Obama team can step out the box is to support a three-state solution for the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Even if Israel dismantles all of the settlements and returns all captured land, there still would be no peace. As long as Jerusalem remains in control by hand or the other, there will be conflict. To Jews, Christians and Moslems, Jerusalem is the holiest land on earth. The solution, what if the United Nations made Jerusalem a sovereign state, like Vatican City in Italy, an independent country governed by a proportional representative body made up of the three significant religious groups? Billed as a land of peace and worship, like Mecca and the Vatican it would quickly start generating income, from tourism. 

This three state solution would be a major step in defusing the Moslem belief that America supports a one-sided answer to this Middle East conflict. American’s relationship with Islam could improve overnight with a settlement in Israel. It will not completely improve our image with the Moslem community, but it would be a start. President-Elect Obama could build on that improvement by appointing an at-large Ambassador for Moslem affairs. That Ambassador would travel to Moslem countries to listen to their perception of American policies with the goal of reconciliation. The perfect person for that job would be Minister Farrakhan, one of the most respected Moslems in the world. The appointment of Minister Farrakhan would show the world that President-Elect Obama believes in reconciliation at home and abroad. John McCain said and supported some pretty nasty things about Obama and the President-Elect found reconciliation in his heart for McCain. In 1988 Libya and its leader Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi was accused of supporting the bombing of Pan Am 103, but in May of 2006, the United States supported reconciliation with Libya. Why should a black man in America be chastised and punished more than terrorists who killed Americans. Malcolm X broke away from the Honorable Elijah Mohammed after his trip to Mecca when he realized the truth, that humankind was stronger when you nurture the rainbow coalition rather than dividing it. President-Elect Barack Obama will have his own paradigms to break out of and I hope he seeks help in more places than the Washington Beltway.    By Robert J Butts 2008




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