Malcolm X on white liberals

So conservatives have been posting this over and over again over the past few days. It is allegedly a quote by Malcom X:

  1. Is the quote real? I’m struggling to find its source. There are other quotes on YouTube where X does bash white liberals.

  2. If so was it when he was with Nation of Islam or after its break. Or did he bash white liberals his entire career?

  3. Is there more context to his remarks?

It seems to me there is more to the story than what the quote is being used or misused for: “proof” that Democrats don’t act in the best interest of blacks because a black leader said so 55 years ago.
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It is apparently slightly misquoted.

Your link was behind a clickwall, so I’m excerpting the alleged quote:

I haven’t found this particular quote from Malcolm X anywhere except in a much-reprinted column by conservative black columnist Walter Williams, who doesn’t appear to cite its source. But it is definitely in line with Malcolm X’s views on the fundamental equivalence of white liberals and white conservatives on the issue of civil rights in the mid-1960s. His position, and not unreasonably given the political situation at the time, was that American whites in general were unalterably opposed to real equality for black people, but white liberals were more duplicitous in pretending to support it in order to gain the political support of black voters. Here’s a similar critique from an authenticated speech of his:

Of course, the conservatives who are passing around that first alleged quote are not at all interested in exploring Malcolm X’s political philosophy and historical circumstances a half-century ago. They’re just hoping to disrupt any political solidarity between black activists and white liberals in the present day.

It should not be lost here that at the time ‘liberal’ had a somewhat different meaning to a lot of people, e.g. Phil Ochs - Love Me I’m A Liberal.

CMC fnord!

This’ll do better in Great debates, I think.

Off we go.

Malcolm X was obviously no fool.

Perhaps not, but the liberals that he’s referring to are pretty different than the liberals of today.

No indeed, he certainly had some very clear insight into the tenacity of white supremacism in America. However, I tend to think he was overoptimistic about the capacity of his projected religious separatist movement to solve the racism problems that white America was (and to a lesser extent remains) largely unwilling to solve. As he also remarked in the speech I quoted and linked above,

If Malcolm X were alive today, he would doubtless feel, with some justice, that some of his expectations about race relations in America have been corroborated, while others may have turned out as he didn’t expect. Of course, he changed some of his views even during his lifetime, and as still a young man when he was assassinated, his maturer point of view may not be fully represented in his legacy of writings.

Still, octopus, it’s nice to see you demonstrating an ability to appreciate the nuances of admirable qualities even in the character of an Islamist-extremist and fervently anti-white zealot. Most white conservatives who are passing around Walter Williams’s chosen quote referenced in the OP don’t really know anything, I suspect, about Malcolm X’s actual political views. Instead they’re just putting their own preferred interpretation on Malcolm’s call for black people to “get together and solve our own problems”. Namely, some vague notion that Malcolm X’s “dream” would mean black people bootstrapping their own communities out of poverty and unrest, conveniently unaided, without bothering white people with all those annoying complaints about racist oppression and that scary destabilizing activism.

When you explain to those white conservatives that what Malcolm meant was divine destruction of the evil white world and White America being damned and doomed, they tend to be less enthusiastic about his critiques. As Malcolm remarked in his famous 1964 speech on “the ballot or the bullet”:

White liberal that I am, I can’t say I agree with Malcolm X in all of his militancy, but there’s no question that a lot of his views on race relations were accurate and even prescient. Definitely no fool.

I think Malcolm X might have had some insights on what the problems were. But I don’t think he had any good insights into the solutions.

Yes, black people needed to take action as part of solving their problems. They couldn’t just passively wait for equality to be given to them. First, it wasn’t likely to happen. And more importantly, working for equality is a major part of having it.

But Malcolm X was wrong in thinking that it was a process only for black people. There was the simple fact of numbers; if it came down to a conflict between blacks and whites, black people were going to lose.

But more importantly, true equality had to represent change on both sides. White people couldn’t give equality to black people. And black people couldn’t take equality from white people. Equality was something that both races had to agree existed.

Martin Luther King saw that civil rights had to be an interracial movement in order to succeed.

Hey, I don’t agree with 100% of what anyone says. And if I agree with something someone says I don’t care the source.

True, but you have to remember how the situation looked to him in early 1964 (and as he was assassinated less than a year later, he didn’t get to see a great deal of change from that situation.)

Wow, so you actually agree with Malcolm X that the white liberals and white conservatives of his day were united in an evil devil’s bargain to perpetuate white racism and oppression of black people, abdicating their moral responsibility to “solve the problems” of the racist culture whites had created, with the white liberals duplicitously pretending to ally with black people against the openly racist violence of the white conservatives while not really intending to do anything about it? That’s unexpectedly progressive of you, octopus.

Because make no mistake, that’s the indictment that Malcolm X was bringing against what he saw as the betrayal of black people by white liberals. It wasn’t white support for black civil rights that he was objecting to: on the contrary, what he was objecting to was the fact that, as he saw it, the white liberals who professed that support didn’t really mean it, and were in fact no better than the openly vicious white conservatives in their determination to keep black people subservient.
Or were you perhaps just thinking more along the lines of “hurr durr, this iconic figure of black liberation said something critical of white liberals, and I don’t like white liberals, so although I don’t really understand what he meant by it or the fact that it also reflects his condemnation of white conservatives, I’m gonna declare that I agree with what he said”?

That would be less interesting, but sadly quite a bit more likely. More and more these days, conservatives are revealing that the only thing they really care about is asserting their antagonism to liberals, at whatever cost to ethical consistency, principle, rationality or even the most elementary prudence. (See, for example, the continued conservative allegiance to Donald Trump, who has absolutely nothing to offer in the way of ethical consistency, principle, rationality or elementary prudence, but can always be relied on to antagonize liberals.)

Just an interesting aside today Howard Stern, yes I know not a leader on the level of Malcolm X, did share interesting anecdotes on the subject.

He said he grew up in a Long Island town and was surrounded by white 1960s liberals, all who preached to show respect for black people. But as soon as the first black family moved in, they sold their houses and fled as soon as they could. Sterns point is beware of white people that claim to support BLM, because as soon as a black family moves into their neighborhood, they will flee.

I don’t know if that is true in 2020 as it was in the 1965 “blockbusting” days (I’m white and live in a neighborhood surrounded by Latinos and a handful of black families and love our community diversity) but it was a thoughtful insight in how we as white people need to do more than just put up memes on social media.

Yup, I’ll quote my above cite,I cried when they shot Medgar Evers, Tears ran down my spine,
I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy, As though I’d lost a father of mine,
But Malcolm X got what was coming, He got what he asked for this time,
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberalThat is a sample of what a ‘leftist’ thought of liberals at the time.
(Sadly, those that understand don’t need read those lyrics but will and those that don’t understand need read those lyrics but won’t.)

CMC fnord!

1964 was pretty far into the civil rights movement. Malcolm X would certainly have been aware of the debate over whether violent confrontation or non-violent co-operation was the better path towards achieving civil rights (with the legislative/judicial approach arguably offering a third path). It had been going on for several years by that point.

To be brutally honest, I don’t have a lot of respect for Malcolm X. I think he’s a classic example of somebody who liked being a big fish in a small pond. Black people might have been better off an integrated society where they were equal to white people. But such a society would have no need for black leaders like Malcolm X.

Martin Luther King worked on building a world that didn’t need somebody like Martin Luther King. But Malcolm X didn’t want to live in a world that didn’t need somebody like Malcolm X and worked on pushing that world away.

That said, maybe in the final months of his life he had started to think about a cause that was greater than himself.

Mm, I think it was more about his view of collapse of white supremacy as a global phenomenon. AFAICT he thought the worldwide crumbling of colonialism was the most significant trend, and that the US civil rights movement was basically just a “backfire”, to use his own analogy, wielded to keep the global attack on white supremacy at bay. Give Malcolm his due, he would definitely have been a much smaller fish in the global revolution he advocated than in any incarnation of the US civil rights movement.

Well, he did change quite a bit over time, as is natural to many folks in their 20s and 30s. Wikipedia has a [istening to leaders like Nasser, Ben Bella, and Nkrumah awakened me to the dangers of racism. I realized racism isn’t just a black and white problem. It’s brought bloodbaths to about every nation on earth at one time or another.

Brother, remember the time that white college girls came into the restaurant—the one who wanted to help the [Black] Muslims and the whites get together—and I told her there wasn’t a ghost of a chance and she went away crying? Well, I’ve lived to regret that incident. In many parts of the African continent, I saw white students helping black people. Something like this kills a lot of argument. I did many things as a [Black] Muslim that I’m sorry for now. I was a zombie then—like all [Black] Muslims—I was hypnotized, pointed in a certain direction and told to march. Well, I guess a man’s entitled to make a fool of himself if he’s ready to pay the cost. It cost me 12 years.

That was a bad scene, brother. The sickness and madness of those days—I’m glad to be free of them."]quote]([L) from the last day or two of his life that ISTM emphasizes that:

What is certain is that the cherry-picking and reinterpretation of the quote referenced by the OP in that Walter Williams article is very far removed from Malcolm’s own stated views:

The idea that Malcolm X would have considered that instability in black families has “absolutely nothing to do with our history of slavery and discrimination” is total bullshit. The history of slavery and discrimination is still massively impacting black lives in any number of ways, as recent events have so starkly illustrated.

Walter Williams, a black conservative-libertarian who opposes liberal policies, has made up a conservative-libertarian viewpoint on black people “solving their own problems”, and borrowed Malcolm X’s anti-liberal rhetoric from a very different context in order to misleadingly imply that Malcolm would have endorsed his position. So it’s no wonder that conservatives are eating it up, but it’s nonsensical nonetheless. Walter Williams is exactly the sort of status-quo-enabling black bourgeois that Malcolm X excoriated in that linked speech as “Uncle Toms”.

I think it’s more complex and nuanced than just those positions. I do not doubt at all that those who gravitate towards the top of the ruling class exploit any form manipulation possible.

So claiming to be a liberal or conservative or Christian or Muslim or x or y or z is sometimes just a tool to manipulate folks for power. Do I think there is a sizable portion of the left that wants to exploit the plight of the benighted so they can look like saviors? Yes. Do I think that is reprehensible? Yes.

And I absolutely agree that the compassionate sounding platitudes are more dangerous than obviously hostile ones. That is one reason I am more worried about communism/socialism in the west than fascism. Everybody knows, well, being the internet at least 70% of the people know, that genocide is a terrible wrong. However, ‘free’ college, medicine, food, housing etc sounds Utopian regardless of how many current and past implementations have failed and led to death camps. Or just mass famine worse than death camps.

The danger of liberal whites is that they convince Black people that not all whites are bad, and so prevent the coming race war. Well, guilty as charged I guess.

Sorry for the highjack, but just exactly how long is this supposed to take? The US had free education starting in 1639, Medicaide since 1965, food stamps since 1939, and subsidized housing since 1965. Europe has had stronger policies than these for decades. Yet there is nary a wiff of Liberal death camps or mass starvation. If it’s a slippery slope it must be coated in sand paper.

I suppose it depends on how you define “socialism”. There are plenty of countries that the US right wing routinely calls “socialist”, and that call themselves some flavor of “socialist”, that provide higher education, health care, and other social benefits to their populations but have managed to avoid the whole death-camps-and-famine thing quite successfully.

Then there have been plenty of other countries that identify as some flavor of “socialist” or “communist” that have gone the death-camps-and-famine route. Clearly, it’s not the label “socialism” itself that’s determining the outcome.

:dubious: This sounds as though you think fascist regimes don’t employ “compassionate sounding platitudes” but just rely on “obviously hostile ones”. But that’s not true at all. All oppressive dictatorial regimes, whether communist or fascist, use a mix of compassionate-sounding ideals and menacing threats of harsh treatment to appeal to the populace.

Hitler’s fascist regime, for example, made lots of wonderfully compassionate-sounding promises to the German people about greater security, jobs, stability, pride, family unity, world power, divine blessings, health and education, all sorts of great stuff. Sure, there was also going to be some harsh treatment, but only for the “unfit” and “evil” who didn’t have any right to share in the German utopia in the first place. That’s exactly the same sort of carrot-and-stick combo that the communist Soviet regime employed.

I mean, c’mon octopus, no dictatorial regime achieves power in any even moderately democratic state solely by hostility and threats. Hitler didn’t come to power by assuring Germans “We are gonna be the nastiest most genocidal tyrants ever, I promise you! Harshness and pain is our eternal watchword!”

Computers may be twice as fast as they were in 1973, but your average voter is as drunk and stupid as ever. The only thing that’s different is me; I’ve become bitter, and let’s face it, crazy over the years. And once I’m swept into office, I’ll sell our children’s organs to zoos for meat, and I’ll go into people’s houses at night and wreck up the place. Muahahaha! - Richard Nixon, shortly before being elected to his third term