Obama and Malcolm X: Far From Opposites

According to the dictionary complimentary is defined as “flattering, kind, praising, or gracious.” Yet, Casey Gane-McCalla concluded in his May 19, 2009 opinion editorial “Obama and Malcolm X: Far from Oppositesthat Malcolm X and Barack Obama are complimentary figures; nothing could be further from the truth. Certainly Obama’s success is part of the historical legacy of the broad civil rights movement, of which Malcolm X was a part, but complimentary? No, neither complimentary nor opposite.

It has taken me a full three weeks to respond to Mr. Gane-McCalla’s essay. Being new to the blog world I questioned, “Is it polite to disagree with another featured blogger?” I thought, “I don’t know this brother and I don’t want to take away from the provocative and educational special focus on Malcolm X provided by NewsOne.” But in the end, I thought, in the spirit of Malcolm, better to share my observations and a few facts.

First, Malcolm X emerged from an historical strain of radical, revolutionary, Black Nationalist politics, and President Barack Obama does not. While Obama frequently demonstrates strong liberal and sometimes progressive bordering on Social Democratic views, his political trajectory is dramatically different from that of Malcolm X.

Obama and Malcolm X: Far From Opposites

Additionally, throughout his political life Malcolm maintained a commitment to a number of core values, some faith-based, others political. Among his core political values were:

Political INTEGRITY, Malcolm spoke truth to power, never afraid to say what he believed to be true and his remarks were never moderated by any form of political correctness.

As a theorist Malcolm explored the STRUCTURAL ROOTS of the challenges facing the African world; he spoke of systems and structures, colonialism, imperialism, racism, and the need for alternatives.

And, critically important, as a PANAFRICANIST Malcolm was clear about the need for a strong relationship with Africa. Not just Africa as the land from which one could draw cultural inspiration but a place from which African Americans take their identity.

While Obama has only been in office for less than six months and, to be fair, is facing enormous challenges – including the collapse of the global economy – let’s take a look at a few of the issues where we can look at his performance versus Malcolm’s core values.

  • Temporary Protective Status for Haitians – To the horror of the immigrant rights community the Obama Administration continues to carryout the discriminatory Bush policy of deportation of Haitian immigrants. Some 30,000 Haitians are being returned, despite the fact that they are eligible for Temporary Protective Status because their country remains in crisis as a result of a series of devastating hurricanes that hit the island last year. This status has been granted to Central Americans and others, yet Haitians face a different standard.

  • Durban Review Conference – In April the nation’s of the world gathered in Geneva to plan the next steps in the global fight against racism. Yet, in the political calculus of the Obama Administration, the importance of maintaining a strategic relationship with Israel took priority over showing global leadership on this issue.

  • IMF funding – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is a global financial institution whose policies have devastated Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. After making a 100 billion dollar commitment to the Fund, the Obama Administration has fought attempts to reform the way this organization works. Basically, they are providing a blank check to a group whose policies have de-industrialized the African continent.

Is this the change we voted for?

Obama and Malcolm X: Far From Opposites

Mature politics requires clear analysis. The bottom line: Obama is the President of the United States, responsible for overseeing the world’s single super power. The challenges facing him are enormous and overwhelming. No one can or should take away from the historic significance of his presidency, his individual talents and integrity, or the enormity of his tasks. His successful candidacy is the result of the foundation created by hundreds of years of struggle, struggle by those whose names we know, like Malcolm X, and by many, many more whose names we will never know. Barack is brilliant, but he is not Malcolm, not his compliment, his complement, or his opposite.

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