Malcolm X Much More Than A Heckler

Billed as a insightful author and columnist, Stanley Crouch has revealed shallowness of thought and abject ignorance in a recent article entitled “Truth about Malcolm X”

In the article Mister Crouch sprinkles his evaluation of Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam and the movement for Black liberation with half-truths and he misinterprets the dynamics of their legacy. He even goes out of his way to describe Malcolm as “light-skinned, freckle faced and red haired” as though he had not known that Blacks, because of centuries of sexual subjugation and miscegenation, come in a variety of shades and colors. Furthermore, judging from Mister Crouch’s own appearance, it would be better for him not to arrive at conclusions based upon physical traits for there are few people (of any color) who are as physically repulsive as he.

His understanding of the Nation of Islam, its methodology and its struggle for freedom, is at best sketchy. For example, he suggests that Malcolm was murdered because of the accusations and diatribes he directed at the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, yet he makes no mention of the FBI’S counter insurgency program (COINTELPRO) which was notorious for targeting the Nation of Islam and other Black organizations and used every means including frame-ups, illegal bugging, vicious rumor campaigns, and even murder to accomplish its objectives. COINTERLPRO was also actively involved in preventing a coalition between Malcolm and Martin Luther King Jr.

Although its true that Malcolm initially blamed the N.O.I. for plotting to assassinate him, it is also true that in the last weeks of his life he stated that there were incidents happening to him (both domestic and international) that were outside the scope of what the N.O.I. could do. And according to writer and friend, Alex Haley, who collaborated with him on his autobiography, Malcolm told him just days before his murder that he was “going to stop saying that it’s the Muslims.” One of the incidents that prompted this was Malcolm being banned from entering France for no other official reason than of being “undesirable.” After Malcolm’s murder it came to light that the New York police had infiltrated his organization (OAAU) so effectively that one of it’s undercover agents, Gene Roberts, had become Malcolm’s chief bodyguard.

Mister Crouch also skims over Malcolm’s accomplishments as an activist, organizer and orator, and depicts him as essentially a media creation. He also blasts and ridicules the N.O.I.’s mythological theology describing it as “a cartoon version of Islam.” Yet he fails to perceive the power that myths exert, not only in the Nation of Islam, but within the culture of White America itself. Over the centuries it is largely through White myths that Black people have been subordinated and contained. The myth of White superiority, the myth of the invincibility of White authority, the myth of the founding fathers and the myth of the unquestionable righteousness of America. In fact, from the furthest reaches of its past right up until the present, Euro/American history is rife with the most outlandish and ridiculous stories. Myths also provide a sense of belonging and cohesiveness, and they galvinize people to work together for common goals and group gains. Crouch not only fails to identify this but fails to examine the group psychology behind the N.O.I. myth of the mad scientist Yacub and to qualify it.

N.O.I. theology was devised as an antidote for centuries of the most virulent strain of White racist domination. Black Americans , who had been brainwashed for centuries into perceiving themselves as inferior, were presented with the mythological ammunition to free themselves. They were taught that( far from being inferior) they were the originators of civilization and the sciences. And that Whites (who they had been conditioned to admire and emulate and thus participate in their own domination) were a concocted mis-creation of devils.

The purpose of N.O.I mythological stance was not formulated as a hate teaching tool, it was designed as psychological dynamite to free the minds of Black Americans from centuries of mental bondage. Yet, Mister Crouch is so intent on aiming his gun at the tree of Black nationalism, that he is oblivious to the mighty forest that surrounds it.

Crouch further displays his short-sightedness when he states that Martin Luther King Jr.observed that many Blacks who went to hear Malcolm X were less impressed with his ideas than they were with the contemptuous way he spoke to White power. In fact during the last years of their lives both Malcolm and Martin (who had developed respect and a grudging admiration for each other) were moving closer together in terms of ideology and tactics. Martin in the last year of his life had stepped outside the limited arena of civil rights and had identified both capitalism and war as twin evils of oppression and injustice .And Malcolm, like King, had become increasingly active in political affairs and was linking the struggle of Black Americans with the struggles of people of color in Africa and in Asia. During the last year of his life in 1964, Malcolm spent 9 of the twelve months over seas establishing coalitions and studying the tactics of some of the greatest liberation movements of the twentieth century.

Incredibly, Mister Crouch accuses Malcolm of being thrown in the lap of the Black community by White liberals “where he was passed off as a great hero.” A statement such as this makes me suspicious of Mister Crouch’s motives, for it is difficult to believe that he could be this misinformed.

Anyone with even a slight understanding of Malcolm X and the era in which he came to prominence would know that Malcolm was antithetical to White liberals. In fact, he rarely missed an opportunity to criticize them for their hypocrisy and for being an impediment to Black unity and progress. He would often tell them that if they were really sincere they should go to their own communities and work on their neighbors, instead of trying to take over or water-down Black organizations.

In turn, the White liberal establishment had little use for Malcolm. How could they? He had banned them from his organization and was distrustful of them throughout his religious and political life.

Lastly, if we study the writings of Mister Crouch and how, regardless of their questionable merit, he has been inducted into the abode of White liberal approval and acceptance we would have to conclude that it is Crouch, not Malcolm, who is the darling of White liberals. And contrary to Crouch’s depiction of Malcolm as a mere “heckler” it is Crouch who is most worthy of the label. But even in this he is a failure, for he is not courageous enough to confront the forces of White institutionalized power and oppression, so he stands on the side-lines and takes cheap shots in an attempt to diminish the accomplishments and the legacy of a true Black man and brother, Malcolm X.


“Truth About Malcolm X” by Stanley Crouch, the New York Daily News, posted February 21, 2005