Sunday, May 19, 2013

Happy birthday, Malcolm X

“Well, I am one who doesn’t believe in deluding myself. I’m not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on that plate. Being here in America doesn’t make you an American. Being born here in America doesn’t make you an American. Why, if birth made you American, you wouldn’t need any legislation; you wouldn’t need any amendments to the Constitution; you wouldn’t be faced with civil-rights filibustering in Washington, D.C., right now. They don’t have to pass civil-rights legislation to make a Polack an American. No, I’m not an American. I’m one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy. So, I’m not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver — no, not I. I’m speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.”
                                                                      — Malcolm X, The Ballot or the Bullet, 1964

Its breathtaking, to think of where we could be as a people and as a nation, if our black leaders who came to prominence during the civil rights movement hadn't been slaughtered, in many instances at the behest of the federal government.  This country might have lived up to its true promise, and the ideals we like to believe that we embody -- things like "freedom and justice for all" -- wouldn't be handy catchphrases and branding favorites.  Anyone who attempts to console themselves by saying those things repeatedly isn't somehow making any of it true -- and it doesn't minimize guilt or entitlement.

Ultimately, the brochure doesn't match the destination hotspot. There isn't freedom and justice for all. There isn't equality for everyone. We aren't a democracy. (Not really.) And no one seems particularly interested in addressing any of this. Probably because everyone has been lulled into a functional stupor by reality tv, fast food and middle class poverty. (What's the first sign of malnutrition? Apathy. No wonder they don't want us to have vitamins...) If people were taught to think critically in schools, if we ate nothing but clean food and were given a living wage, this would be a completely different country.

There, I said it.

For your listening pleasure, here is Malcolm X's seminal speech The Ballot or the Bullet in its entirety. Anyone who considers themselves to be an American should listen to this very carefully. 

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