Malcolm X Address To The British Black Middle Class: As Transcribed By Alatenumo
On 21 February 1965, civil rights activist Malcolm X was assassinated in Harlem, New York. Malcolm X was uncompromising in his convictions and he passionately articulated the rage and concerns of Black America to White America, thus earning him the title: The Most Dangerous Black Man In America. In the words of Ossie Davis, “Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood! …. a Prince, our own black shining Prince!” Besides putting white America on the spot, Malcolm X was also critical of the black middle-class who he believed betrayed poor African Americans.
To mark the 51st anniversary of Malcolm X death, in this piece, I attempt to channel the voice of Malcolm X to today’s Black British middle class. Please note that this message is equally relevant to other middle class around the world irrespective of location, colour or creed. As Martin Luther King eloquently put it, “The bourgeoisie — white, black or brown — behaves about the same the world over.” I hope the message would be digested with an open mind and if not: Don’t Hate the Messenger.
Following is the transcript of Malcolm X’s address to the Black British Elite Forum, as transcribed by Alatenumo.
MALCOLM X: As-salamu alaykum. In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, Master of this Day of Judgment in which we now live. The one who came to us in the person of Master Fard Muhammad and raised up the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Amen.
Good evening distinguished guests, brothers and sisters, friends, and even our enemies (LAUGHTER). You might find my acknowledgement of our enemies amusing, but we would be naïve to think that there are no enemies within our midst. Anytime black progress and black issues are discussed there would always be informants lurking around and traitors reporting back to their paymaster — Massa (LAUGHTER). I would like to thank the trustees of the Black Elite Forum for inviting me to Oriel College to speak at this gathering of successful black Britons. This is my second visit to Oxford University; my first trip here was in 1964 when I came to take part in a debate at the Oxford Union. A lot has changed since then apart from the statue of the racist Cecil Rhodes which is still standing (LAUGHTER). Well I didn’t come here to talk about Rhodes, because if I did, we will be here all night. What I’ve come to discuss tonight is the so-called black middle class in Britain.
I must point out that I’m going to be very frank with you. I didn’t come here to make you feel good or make you laugh. I’m here to speak the plain truth and make you uncomfortable. By the time I finish, I expect half of the audience to leave. Infact, even if there is only one person left here after I finish my speech, I will still be satisfied. So let us take the advice Paul gave in the Bible and toss our emotions aside and reason together.
There has been some progress since my last visit to the UK. Back in the day, you could hardly see a black man wearing a suit or a black woman driving a car, but today things are different. When I got to the car park, I saw all sorts of flashy cars and I can also see that you are all neatly dressed. Many of you hold top positions in well paying jobs. We have doctors, lawyers, politicians, architects, engineers, bankers and business owners well represented here (CHEERING). You are the crème de la crème of black Britain. I understand that you even have the ear of the Prime Minister and that he has been visiting your churches to get your votes. Well that’s what I call power (APPLAUSE).
But because life has been good for you, the so-called black middle class, it doesn’t mean that all is well with most of the black folks in Britain. I am disappointed that some of you here are supportive of the British government’s immigration policies. You parrot the very racist immigration rhetoric that comes from the mouth of British politicians. Some of you talk as if you’re some kind of Nigel Farage or Donald Trump tribute act. How can a black person say, “We shouldn’t let these immigrants into our country because they will take our jobs” or “If these Syrians come here, they will start begging for money?” Without a doubt, the so-called black middle class have outsourced their thinking to the Daily Telegraph, the Times and Sky News. The media is the most powerful institution in the world and if you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing. I still don’t understand why you have such a deep contempt for migrants even though all of you in this room are immigrants (JEERING).
All right, so because you wear a suit and tie, hold a red passport and speak as if you are pinching your nose, you think you are British. You’ve lost your mind and your identity (MORE JEERING). You ain’t British but Africans who happen to live in Britain. Since you continue to delude yourself into believing that you are British, may I suggest you commit a crime and see if you will still be called a Brit. Look at Ben Johnson. When he won the 100 meters, he was called Canadian and the whole of Canada rejoiced. But when it was discovered that he was doping, they stopped calling him Ben the Canadian Olympic champion, instead he became Ben the Jamaican born cheat. You don’t even need to do wrong, see Sister Serena Williams. She has won everything that needs to be accomplished in tennis, yet the American media would rather support a blond blue-eyed Russian tennis player than a so-called American player. You might deceive yourself and think that your nice job, nice house and nice car makes you British, but do you know what they call you when you turn your back? A plastic Briton at best and a nigger at worst (JEERING); yes a nigger — just like those refugees you look down on. White supremacy has taught us to hate ourselves. That’s why many of you have changed your names since coming to Britain. When you first came here, you had beautiful names like Ajanlekoko, Folorunsho and Andisiwe but because the white man couldn’t pronounce it, you changed it to AJ, Florence and Andy.
The so-called black British middle class have been used as pawns in Cameron’s war against the poor. You might wonder why I keep using the word “so-called” to describe the black middle class. There are two reasons. First, even though many of you feel comfortable being called “Middle-class”, the reality is that most of you are just one, two or three pay cheques away from poverty. If you lose your job today, would you still be able to pay your mortgage or send your children to those private schools that you brag about? Second, when God created mankind, he made us all equal, but the human race decided to create a classification system which put the rich and influential at the top and left the poor at the bottom of the so-called social ladder. This classification has contributed to the denial of humanity to the poor. Even though you have more in common with the poor than the rich, you think you are superior to your poor brothers and sisters. I can even imagine you folding your legs and sipping your tea as you browse the Sunday Times Rich List thinking that your names will appear in next year’s edition (BOOING).
Why do you hate the poor so much? Cameron’s austerity measures are killing poor folks, yet you choose to look the other way. Infact, some of you act as cheerleaders as he incinerates them. You parrot every single word that George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith say about the poor. Some of you say, “Why should I work hard when there are so many lazy unemployed people who do nothing than to sit at home behind closed blinds sleeping of a life of benefits?” My brothers and sisters, wake up. Who caused the financial crisis? It wasn’t the poor folks, but those gentlemen in the so-called City. If my memory serves me right, it wasn’t a poor man who rigged Libor; it wasn’t the unemployed woman that made taxpayers cough out a trillion pound to bail out the banks. The problem with the so-called middle class in this country is they are addicted to poverty pornography. The so-called middle class are aroused when they see the nakedness of poor people, which is beamed live to their TV screens. You have been spending too much time watching documentaries that peep on the poor such as ‘Benefits Street’ and ‘Benefits Britain’. Don’t you realise that you have all been had, you’ve been took; you’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled; led astray; run amok (VOICES JEERING)? The government has deployed the oldest trick to get you to hate your poor black and brown brothers — divide and rule.
Look at what’s happening in London where poor people are being shipped out to make way for expensive homes for the rich. As the government demolishes social housing inhabited by the poor to make way for privatized housing, you keep mute, but when your own privileges are impacted you whinge. As the poor black masses struggle to find a roof over their head, you spend your time behind the safe confines of your gated communities monitoring property prices, checking school league tables and driving flashy cars. Many of you have blind faith in capitalism and never bother to question its flaws. You might have gone to the best schools, but what is the purpose of having a good education if you can’t engage in critical thinking. Going to college and university doesn’t make you educated (BOOING). You have fallen for the myth of the so-called “market”. Once you are told that “Mr. Market” says this or that, you accept it as the gospel truth. Let me tell you something, you can’t have capitalism without racism, militarism, colonialism, imperialism and any other kind of ‘ism’. Why do you think there is so much inequality in Britain and American, the so-called bastion of capitalism? It’s because capitalism needs some blood to suck. Capitalism used to be like an eagle, but now it’s more like a vulture. It used to be strong enough to go and suck anybody’s blood whether they were strong or not. But now it has become more cowardly, like the vulture, and it can only suck the blood of the helpless (AUDIENCE SWEARING).
The political situation here in Britain is in shambles. For the sake of clarity, I am not a Labour supporter. As far as I’m concerned, both Labour and Conservatives are two sides of the same coin. The political parties are not answerable to the British public, but to their masters in the so-called City. Labour claims to represent the working people, but the party has sold the poor for thirty pieces of silver. Seven years after bailing out their friends in Liverpool Street and Canary Wharf, Mr. Gordon Brown and Mr. Alistair Darling have now taken up consulting roles in these firms while the people affected by the financial crisis have been left chained in the dog house (INAUDIBLE). The jury is still out on Jeremy Corbyn, but so far, so good. As for David Cameron and George Osborne, if I were to dine with them, I would use a long spoon. At face value, they appear cool; they dress smart and speak well. But do not be deceived, they are foxes. They now claim to represent the voices of the working people and think that wearing high visibility jackets, rolling up their sleeves and strolling along the factory floor qualifies them to be spokesmen for the man on the street.
I have more respect for people like Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump than Cameron and Osborne (JEERING). Why don’t you wait to hear me out before moaning? With Trump and Farage, you know where they stand, which gives you the opportunity to take preventive action. They tell you what they want you to hear. They practice what they preach and if they stab you, they do it from the front with a frown on their face. In contrast, Cameron and Osborne make you believe they are on your side. They tell you what you want to hear. They don’t practice what they preach and when they stab you, they do it from behind with a smile on their face. They have the blood of poor people and refugees dripping down their jaws like bloody-jawed wolves and they still have the nerve to tell the poor to work harder. I was informed that Cameron came to one of your churches looking all holy during election time. Instead of challenging him and asking him to respect black and poor people, you were all clapping especially when he called your General Overseer — “Daddy.” That’s the problem with you people in church, you do too much clapping (INDISTINCT VOICES). If only you could appreciate the importance of your votes, you would stop selling yourself cheap. I’m not going to tell you who to vote for; all I want you to do is use your vote wisely. The ballot is like a bullet and politicians are aware of this and that’s why they go the extra mile to pacify the so-called middle class to get their votes. Unfortunately many of you vote based on the crumbs that politicians leave on the carpet. All they need to get your vote is inflate the housing bubble, call your pastor daddy and promise you that they will clamp down on immigrants or people on benefits.
Before I finish, I must say something about your attitude towards racism. A number of you are in denial about racism. Your ability to scale the racial barrier doesn’t deny the fact that racism is holding many of the black masses down. Now some might say, “Here we go again, victim mentality” or “Why should we blame the white man for our problems.” You say this because you are too colour-blind to see the injustice around you (JEERING). You analyse racism from a myopic point of view focusing on the obvious form of racism while ignoring the more latent form of structural racism. Some of you derive so much joy in bragging that you are the only black person in your office. Before I came on stage, I was speaking to one Uncle Tom who told me with pride that he is the only black managing director in one of the big banks in the so-called City. He doesn’t realise that he is just a token, a pacifier, a mannequin in the shopping mall of the City (MORE JEERING). Some of you are ashamed to hang around black folks especially if they are poor or illiterate. Marcus Garvey was right when he said that unlike the traitors of other races who are confined to irresponsible individuals, the traitors among the black race are often found among those highest placed in education and society (DOOR SLAMS).
What I am about to say next may make uncomfortable hearing to the African bourgeoisie in our midst but I will say it anyway. This particularly applies to those of you who have emigrated from parts of Africa to Britain. These uppity Africans fail to appreciate that the privileges they now enjoy in Britain are as a result of the struggles of previous generations of activists. Once they get a comfortable job and settle into a comfortable middle class life, they begin to develop a mindset where they believe other blacks have not taken advantage of the “opportunities” that the Britain offers. This has led to these Africans bourgeoisie looking down on their Caribbean brethren. They sometimes make derogatory statements like “Caribbean’s are lazy people who don’t want to work.” You need to remember that around forty years ago, when a sizeable number of the African migrants in Britain went back to their home countries, the Caribbean’s remained in this hostile racial environment. Not content with the conditions, the Caribbean’s pushed back on the racism directed at them, which led to clashes with the establishment. If the Caribbean’s had not stood their ground, these uppity Africans wouldn’t have been beneficiaries of the token crumbs that the City and UK incorporated have dropped on the table. So my message to my uppity African brethrens is to come off your high horse, show some humility and acknowledge the struggles of your fellow brothers and sisters (HISSING).
Finally, in the last hour, I have said a lot of things and I can see from your facial expressions that you ain’t happy. You may call me a fanatic, a hater, a communist or even a terrorist, but I don’t really care. I am a just black man who loves peace, justice and loves his people. We are living in revolutionary times and in the long run, time is always on the side of the oppressed. We all have a choice to be either a House Negro or a Field Negro. As for me and my household, we shall pitch our tent with the oppressed. What about you?
I thank you.
(HISSING, BOOING, SHOUTING, SCREAMING, CRYING, SWEARING, CURSING, HAIR PULLING, CHAIR THROWING)