The Sophisticated Paperboy

Well, guess what? That is what I was once called - "The Sophisticated Paperboy". It was actually during a painful growing up period of my life and it was also one of the most revealing and useful periods of my life, too. That is the reason "The Sophisticated Paperboy" will be the title of my first book, which I am working on at this very moment.

This blog will in some ways be a preview of who I am and what I am interested in which will be revealed later, hopefully in a grand style, in the book.

So, friends, hang in there with me.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Remembering Martin and Malcolm

Americans interested in justice should never celebrate Martin without giving equal place to Malcolm. We should not listen to Martin's "I Have a Dream" speech without also listening to Malcolm's answer in his "Message to the Grass Roots," "While King was having a dream," Malcolm said, "the rest of us Negroes are having a nightmare."

Without confronting the American nightmare that Malcolm bore witness to, we will never be able to create the beloved community articulated so well by Martin Luther King. How can we overcome racism if we do not admit how deeply this cancer is embedded in American history and culture? Malcolm, not Martin, is the best source for understanding racism and its consequences in America.

But the Afrocentric lovers of Malcolm must be reminded that destroying racism is not the only goal of the struggle for freedom. We blacks must be free not only for ourselves but also for others. On this point, Martin was right, and we must listen to his counsel. "All life is interrelated," he said. "All … are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly." Neither blacks nor whites or others can be what they ought to be until all realize their full potential.

Blacks must begin with Malcolm, that is, with a healthy regard for themselves-their history and culture as it stretches back to the continent of Africa. But we must not stop with Malcolm. To do so would stunt our growth and thus hinder the realization of our human potential. We must embrace Martin too, as passionately and lovingly as we embrace Malcolm. I know that such a demand will be difficult for many lovers of blackness. But Martin's vision of black people living together with all human beings as brothers and sisters is as important as Malcolm's vision of blacks living together as one. The human family is as important as the black family, because we either learn to live together with others, or we will perish together. We must choose life and not death.

To choose life means to see that racism is not the only contradiction affecting the quality of human life. There are other social evils just as harmful as racism. They include sexism, classism, heterosexism, and the wanton disregard of the earth.

Accenting Malcolm's and Martin's critique of racism is not enough. We also must criticize Malcolm and Martin for their failures, especially their blatant sexism, and their silence on homophobia in the black community and the larger society. If we are going to make a new future for ourselves with others, we will need to develop creative and self-critical leadership.

We must not deify Martin and Malcolm. They were only human beings with assets and liabilities like all of us. If we do not identify their weaknesses and seek to overcome them, then we will perpetuate them.

Let us, therefore, create an America-not just for Martin and Malcolm, or for whites and blacks but for Latinos, Indians, Middle Easterners and Asians and for women in all groups, for gay men and lesbians-for every people, every culture and every faith in this land.

When we can do that, we will have achieved the goal for which Martin, Malcolm, Barack and all freedom fighters have struggled; and we will be able to say what Martin said at the March on Washington, quoting a slave spiritual, "Free at last, free at last; thank God almighty, we are free at last."

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