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From The Ramparts
Junious Ricardo Stanton
Malcolm X on Police Brutality
“This force that is so visible in the Harlem community, creates a spirit of resentment in every Negro. They think they are living in a police state, and they become hostile toward the policemen. They think that the policeman is there to be against them rather than to protect them. And these thoughts, these frustrations, these apparitions, automatically are sufficient to make these Negroes begin to form means and ways to protect themselves in case the police themselves get too far out of line.” Malcolm X during a 1964 interview with Mike Wallace
As we witness documented instances of US police brutalizing, murdering and intimidating people of color seemingly with impunity, this should snap us out of our stupor and help us reject the “delusion of inclusion” and any notion we live in a post racial society. As we pause to pay homage to the Earth day of Malcolm Little, aka “Red”, aka Satan, aka Malcolm X aka El Hajj Malik El Shabazz let us look at how far we have come (or regressed) since he attempted to wake us up from our slumber and prompt us to stand up for our human rights..
We must never forget the fact Malcolm X was unrelenting in his criticism of police brutality. If you study his speeches and examine his words carefully you will see Malcolm differed with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in his response to a 1962 incident of police misconduct and brutality that involved several members of the Nation of Islam. On April 27, 1962 the Los Angles police converged on Nation of Islam Temple Number 27 in LA and began shooting leaving one Muslim dead and five others wounded. Mr. Muhammad cautioned calm saying Allah would take care of the “Blue eyed devils” who did it. Malcolm on the other hand was irate and denounced the mayor, the police commissioner, the police and the white press in his speeches. He traveled to LA, met with the members conducted the funeral service for the victim and spoke to the community.
A report on the incident stated the ruckus started when two Los Angles police officers came upon a vehicle parked at 57th and S Broadway with an open trunk. The officers said they saw two Black men carrying clothing. The officers “suspecting” a burglary confronted the men and attempted to apprehend them. Things got a little rough and during the process, one of the men hit an officer and a struggle ensued. Several men ran out of the Nation of Islam Temple about a block away to assist the men fighting the police. The police called for back up and seventy-five officers responded from three LA Districts. http://www.nleomf.org/assets/pdfs/nlem/oral-histories/FBI_Arnold_in... The police converged on the NOI Temple not the site of the initial fight.
When the police were able to establish control they detained twenty-six persons and subsequently sixteen people were arrested. The fight provoked calls for an investigation but the Muslims refused to participate. They did subsequently agree to give their names under advice of their attorney. A Grand Jury was convened but its report was kept secret. It turned out the two men worked at a dry cleaners and were carrying clothes from the shop to the car!
Malcolm was uncompromising in his denunciation of the police. In an interview in the local Black newspaper Malcolm was quoted as saying, “Seven innocent unarmed men were shot down in cold blood by Police Chief William J. Parker’s city police.” In the article Malcolm called it “one of the most ferocious inhuman atrocities ever inflicted in a so called democratic civilized society.” In a speech on May 8, 1962 shortly after the police shot and killed Ronald Stokes and wounded five others Malcolm said “In order for you and me to devise some sort of strategy to offset a repetition of what happened here in Los Angeles recently we have to go to the root we have to go to the cause. Dealing with a condition itself is not enough we have to get to the root we have to get to the cause of it all… First I would like to congratulate and give praise to the so called Negro leaders and so called Negro organizations who did not allow the white man to divide us. The person you have come to know as Ronald Stokes we know him as Brother Ronald, one of the most religious persons who displayed the highest form or morals of any Black person anywhere on this earth. As some of the previous speakers who knew him spoke, had to give him credit for being a good man, a clean man an intelligent man and an innocent man when he was murdered (by the police)… Let us remember we are not brutalized because we are Baptists, we are not brutalized because we are Methodists, we’re not brutalized because we’re Muslims, we’re not brutalized because we are Catholics, we’re brutalized because we are Black people in America.”
The Muslims and police had many run ins during the 60’s and police brutality was rampant in urban communities. When he spoke, Malcolm often explained how the media demonized Black people to set the stage for the police to brutalize and run rough shod over the African-American community. Discussing the incident during an interview at New York’s WBAI Malcolm said, “… there was police brutality and there was atrocity, and the press was just as atrocious as the police. Because they helped the police to cover it up by propagating a false image across the country, that there was a blazing gun battle which involved Muslims and police shooting at each other. And everyone who knows Muslims knows that Muslims don’t even carry a finger nail file, much less carry guns. So that the blazing gun battle that the Los Angeles papers were writing about actually consisted of policemen’s guns who were blazing away at unarmed Negroes, so-called Negroes, whom they murdered and shot down in cold blood.” http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/7041/
During a speech in Detroit on February 14, 1965 a few days before he was assassinated Malcolm said, “ Right now in New York we had a couple cases where police grabbed the brother and beat him unmercifully- and then charged him with assaulting them. They used the press to make it look like he’s the criminal and they’re the victim. This is how they do it, and if you study how they do it there, then you’ll know how they do it here. It’s the same game going all the time, and if you and I don’t awaken and see what this man is doing to us, then it’ll be too late. They may have the gas ovens already built before you realize that they’re hot.
One of the shrewd ways that they use the press o project us in the eye or image of a criminal: they take statistics. And with the press they feed these statistics to the public, primarily the white public. Because there are some well-meaning persons in the white public as well as bad meaning persons in the white public and whatever the government is going to do, it always wants the public on its side, whether it’s the local government, the state government or federal government. So they use the press to create images. And at the local level, they’ll create an image by feeding statistics to the press-through the press showing the high crime rate in the Negro community. As soon as this high crime rate is emphasized through the press, then the people begin to look upon the Negro community as a community of criminals. And then any Negro in the community can be stopped in the street. ‘Put your hands up,’ and they pat you down. You might be a doctor, a lawyer, a preacher, or some other kind of Uncle Tom. But despite your professional standing, you'll find that you're the same victim as the man who's in the alley. Just because you're Black and you live in a Black community, which has been projected as a community of criminals. This is done. And once the public accepts this image also, it paves the way for a police-state type of activity in the Negro community. They can use any kind of brutal methods to suppress Blacks because ‘they're criminals anyway.’ And what has given this image? The press again, by letting the power structure or the racist element in the power structure use them in that way.” http://www.eightcitiesmap.com/media_abuse_exposed.htm
Does that sound familiar? It’s that what we’re still seeing today; the corporate mind control apparatus painting Black men as thugs, hooligans and criminals? Malcolm uttered those words over forty years ago and the same thing is still going on! Do you believe we live in a “post racial society”?
If Malcolm were still alive, what do you think he would say about what the police and courts were doing in Ferguson Missouri? What do you think his response to the New York police officers getting off Scott free in the choking death of Eric Gardner for allegedly selling loose cigarettes? What would he say about the courts in Ferguson, New York and other cities for failing to uphold the law when it comes to police killing people of color? What do you think he would say about Marilyn Mosby the courageous State’s Attorney who filed charges against six police officers for their involvement in the homicide of Freddie Gray?
One thing we do know is Malcolm loved Black people. He gave his life pursuing human rights on our behalf. He admonished Black men to defend their homes, families and communities. Malcolm was uncompromising in his stands and his standards. At a time when the focus of most Black leaders was on the limited goals of civil rights, voting and open public accommodations, Malcolm pushed for the core issue of human rights. He said, “We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.”
Let us continue the struggle for human rights and true freedom. As we celebrate the Earth day of Malcolm let’s live up to his high standards and expectations for ourselves as a people.