Today is the 54th anniversary of Civil rights leader Malcolm X’s assassination at the hands of three members of the Nation of Islam. Of the mainstream Civil rights leaders, he was the most controversial — and for a good reason.
Born Malcolm Little, Malcolm X went through a rough childhood. His father Earl Little died at a young age and his mother, Louise Norton Little, had to take care of him and his 6 other siblings. Louise Little simply could not make ends meet and eventually had a nervous breakdown and was committed to the Kalamazoo State Mental Hospital. As a result, Malcolm X and his siblings were placed in separate foster homes.
From there, Malcolm X turned to the streets for guidance and became a criminal, adopting the nickname of “Detroit Red”. Eventually, his criminal ways caught up to him and he was sentenced to ten years in prison. While in prison, he became part of the Nation of Islam and took on the name of Malcolm X.
With a new identity, Malcolm X pivoted toward political activism and advocated for black nationalism. During his early years in the political arena, Malcolm X declared himself a Communist and became a fierce opponent of whites. By the 1960s, Malcolm X was one of the leading Civil rights leaders alongside Martin Luther King Jr.
Why the Establishment Prefers MLK Over Malcolm X
MLK ended up becoming the more respected of the two Civil rights leaders.
And it should come to no surprise. Malcolm X’s more aggressive nature and anti-white views were a stark contrast to MLK’s calm and hopeful demeanor. Additionally, MLK’s integrationist vision, which formed the basis of top-down legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, received considerable praise in progressive circles.
In the church of progressivism, where the state is God, advocacy for statist causes is enough for you to receive sainthood. Even conservative go overboard in their praise of MLK, especially when MLK’s socialist views are considered.
Tom Woods did an excellent job exposing MLK’s disdain for capitalism in 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask. MLK was candid in his anti-capitalist views asserting that capitalism could not “meet the needs of poor people” and even advocated for a “democratic form of socialism.”
For these reasons, MLK is a darling political figure for legacy institutions.
Race Hustlers Selectively Interpret Malcolm X
In contrast to MLK, Malcolm X embraced the teachings of the black leader Marcus Garvey, who believed in entrepreneurship and economic self-sufficiency as a means of gaining both economic and political freedom for African Americans. This is overlooked in many political circles where Malcolm X commands considerable respect.
In fact, Malcolm X is often praised for the wrong reasons. Cliché talking points about “black power” and hatred of white people have dominated conventional Malcolm X fandom. Unfortunately, many often forget that Malcolm X not only disavowed many of his previous views on whites, but he also held on to the strategies that focused on the private initiative as opposed to government intervention.
Malcolm X was no doctrinaire free-marketer but he understood the corrosive nature of the welfare state. After he was released from prison in 1952, he met his mother for the last time at the Kalamazoo State Mental Hospital. Due to her fragile mental state, Louise Little was not able to recognize her son, leaving Malcolm X devastated.
This heart-breaking moment made him pause and reflect on how the Michigan welfare state destroyed his family. In his autobiography, Malcolm X recognized the state’s destructive impact on his family:
“I truly believe that if ever a state social agency destroyed a family, it destroyed ours. We wanted and tried to stay together. Our home didn’t have to be destroyed. But the Welfare, the courts, and their doctor, gave us the one-two-three punch.”
These unfortunate series of events were ominous signs of what would be in store for millions of African Americans under the Great Society welfare programs of the 1960s. And they very likely made X skeptical of government as a solution to people’s problems.
Libertarian rapper Eric July made an excellent video covering Malcolm X’s views on integration. Malcolm X’s vision was economic centric — emphasizing black entrepreneurship rather than political action.
He specifically denounced sit-ins and other actions that led to the adoption of forced integration measures like public accommodation mandates. He expressed his disagreement with this strategy in an interview with Eleanor Fischer:
“Instead of the Negro leaders having the black man begging for a chance to dine in white restaurants, the Negro leader should be showing the black man how to do something to strengthen his own economy, to give himself an independent economy or to provide job opportunities for himself, not begging for a cup of coffee in a white man’s restaurant.”
During a speech in Detroit, Michigan in 1964, Malcolm X re-asserted the necessity for blacks to set-up their own businesses and avoid integrationist activism:
“So our people not only have to be re-educated to the importance of supporting black business, but the black man himself has to be made aware of the importance of going into business. And once you and I go into business, we own and operate at least the businesses in our community. What we will be doing is developing a situation wherein we will actually be able to create employment for the people in the community. And once you can create some employment in the community where you live it will eliminate the necessity of you and me having to act ignorantly and disgracefully, boycotting and picketing some place else trying to beg him for a job.”
Ironically, any suggestions of black self-improvement through entrepreneurship and de-emphasizing political activism are met with accusations of being a “race traitor” or “Uncle Tom” these days.
Resurrecting and Preserving Malcolm X’s Ideas
On February 21, 1965 — the fateful day in which Malcolm X was murdered — his ideas died with him.
These ideas still have relevance to this day. In a time where the black community is socially disintegrating — as evidenced with the pervasiveness of black on black on violence and the collapse of the black family unit — a message emphasizing entrepreneurship and less reliance on government initiatives is critical.
It would behoove minorities to carefully review the unheralded facets of his economic views. In there, they can find the keys to breaking free from the cesspool of government dependency.
This part of the Malcolm X story should not wither away into the historical ether. It should be resurrected and preserved for future generations.
Rest in peace.