Sunday, December 07, 2008

President Elect of US a culmination of the Legacy of Malcolm X ?

There is palpable change in the air as you come into the United States. I swear the immigration officers at Mcmarran Airport in Las Vegas were almost welcoming. The one thing that the Bush Administration and it Fear Factor presidency has achieved is to turn this great nation into an insecure and fearful place. In any case the new President is on nearly all newsstands, the media using every opportunity to exploit his photogenic qualities and his hopeful disposition to fill the gaps in their post election circulation fatigue.

Everyone claims Obama including a Bedioun clan who recognise his smile (yes smile) in their lineage. The one name that is rarely ever mentioned in the Obama connection is that of El Hajj Malik Shabazz or Malcolm X aside from the psychic halitosis by Al Qaeda second in command Al Zhawairi . It is shocking even in that case that none in the media bothered to claim Barack as a culmination of Malcolm even then. As for me I have hesitated because there has always been a gross over-simplification of who Malcolm was or became especially at the time of his death. There is a tendency to caricature him as a darker spirit of the African American fight for Equal Opportunities and Civil rights. To many he was nothing other than a radical militant , to others an angry black man exemplified. The truth is that Malcolm was that and more, President elect Barack Obama has more in common with Malcolm than any other Black leader in the United States past or present. People better deal with it.

It is true that the then Senator Obama's post partisan, post racial message on the face of it is the realisation of the Marin Luther King message. It is also true that the media can embrace his meritocratic electoral success as finally judging by the content of character rather than colour of skin. On the other side of the equation President elect Obama represents things phenomenally in line with Malcolm X including the almost uncanny similarity in characteristics, ideology especially a truly African American world view. Lets examine these things.

The similarity in characteristic starts with a fierce intellect which engages and asserts the primacy of human dignity that emerged from an adventurous youth full of experimentation and self discovery. An almost uncanny physical similarity both being tall and lanky on the edge of being skinny. Their approach to speaking are extremely similar with an appeal to reason whilst Malcolm was a lot more eloquent and far more quick witted , the cadence and accent are quite similar if not identical.

Then there is the worldview which was manifested in different ways even though both are made from the same ingredients, the pragmatic radicalism captured by Malcolm's by 'any means necessary'. This is often reduced by the misunderstanding of others as a call to violent revolution only, in fact it meant any means that effectively delivered transformation. They were both community organizers, Malcolm in the Nation of Islam especially his work in the Mosque and neighbourhood of Harlem, NY and Barack in the South Side of Chicago. Unlike the rest of the civil rights leaders Malcolm was the first literal African american leader whose travels and interaction was not only inclusive but engaged the continent of Africa directly in his evolution quite like Senator Obama and his engagement of his father's continent. Both defined themselves with an authenticity on the issue of Race that is captured by Malcolm's 'I am the man you think you are' and updated in Obama's response to the Pastor Wright controversy. They both exude an authentic warmth and assertiveness that rarely needs to escalate to prove manhood. Both share an exposure too and understanding of Islam to prove a common humanity and engagement. Unlike most American leaders black or white they where both open enough to redefine themselves and their environment in eclectic ways including living and uprooting into new places and communities in which they developed deep and meaningful roots. In short they share an adaptive leadership.

This is a cursory exposition of an aspect of the Obama persona that most are blinded too and the mistake of the Al Qaeda second in command is similar to the blindness of his enemies on the American side the tendency not to see from many perspective or accommodate nuances. Maybe if both sides actually followed the true Jihad which is the internal battle for evolution and growth that both Malcolm and Barack seem to have embraced they would entertain possibilities that exemplify life and abundance rather that death as well as scarcity.

1 comment:

Simon McIntyre said...

excellent post, insightful as always and something that adds to and evolves the debate on who Obama is rather than detracting from it.