On Reading Martin & Malcolm & America

 

On Sunday I left church after hearing a sermon on the Sabbath.  Nothing I hadn’t heard before, and yet I wasn’t really aware of how much rest I needed, even after being off work for a week.  Subconsciously I didn’t realize that I was about to re-enact a rhythm from my childhood: go into my room and either read or take a nap after church.

After going to Hoffa’s to get barbecue (it’s a mistake that I’ve lived in Westfield 8 months, and not gotten bbq yet!), I got in bed to take a nap.  But then that turned into, “I’m going to read until I’m tired enough to nap” to “I’m really liking this book” to “Wow, it’s already 6pm” until I finished the book around 9pm.  I basically read 7 hours straight and finished James Cone’s Martin & Malcolm & America.  

First off, I should say that reading non-fiction comes naturally to me.  Secondly, even though this book is close to 30 years old, Cone and his historical analysis could not be more relevant and pivotal.  Thirdly, I learned a lot, especially about Malcolm’s life & how his childhood shaped his empathy and message to blacks living in the north.

I dog-eared several pages with Malcolm’s quotes that I’m going to include here.  I’m not  going to give commentary.  His words are more than powerful enough.

“Christianity is the white man’s religion.  The Holy Bible in the white man’s hands and his interpretations of it have been the greatest single ideological weapon for enslaving millions of non-white human beings.  Every country the white man has conquered with his guns, he has always paved the way, and salved his conscience by carrying the Bible and interpreting it to call people ‘heathens’ and ‘pagans’; then he sends his guns, then his missionaries behind the guns to mop up.”

“Our slave master gave us a blond, blue-eyed, pale-skinned ‘god’ for us to worship and admire,…the religions of other people make them proud of what they are, but Christianity was designed to make us look down on black and up at white…we are supposed to feel honored while serving the white race of Christians. Christianity was nothing but white supremacy, completely designed to fill (blacks’) hearts with the desire to be white.  A white Jesus.  A white virgin.  White angels.  White everything.  But a black Devil of course.”

“Long before the eruption of the riots in the urban centers of America, Malcolm warned of their coming, pointing his accusing finger at the white liberal as the one to blame.  ‘Actually America’s most dangerous and threatening black man is the one who has been kept sealed up by the Northerner in the black ghettos-the Northern white power structure’s system to keep talking democracy while keeping the black man out of sight somewhere, around the corner.”‘

I’m going to sit with these words for awhile-however long that takes.  For hard emotions to come up.  To sit with them, to move through them, and yet knowing that they will come up again.  Such is the process of learning to sit with uncomfortability.  And I must.  Because I’m worth it, and so is everyone else.

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4 Replies to “On Reading Martin & Malcolm & America”

  1. I’m interested in the public narratives about both these men. How one is sanitized and then valorized and how the other is read by picking and choosing. Does Cone ever talk about Malcolm after he embraces Sunni Islam? Because his thoughts on race are transformed in a way, as a Muslim, has only made me appreciate my faith all the more. You might wanna read Malcolm’s autobiography, whether Cone talks about his later life or not.

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    1. We should talk about this more! Yes, Cone does address his leaving the influence and spiritual guidance of Elijah Muhammad and then embracing Sunni Islam. I just started his autobiography, and I’m enjoying it so far. Tell me more about what you mean about Malcolm’s thought’s on race and how they shifted & changed…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t want to ruin it for you, especially since you’re reading his autobiography right now. In fact, I want to read it again. Let’s discuss it sometime! 🙂

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