Friday, April 22, 2011

Whatever happened to "don't speak ill of the dead?"

I so agree with Dr. Karenga's assessment of Manning Marable's posthumos critique of Malcolm X's life. In the LA Sentinel April 21, 2011, article entitled: "Reinventing Malcolm with Marable: Pursuing Pathology by Another Name," Karenga has taken the words literally out of my mouth. I am so pleased that he does not second the opinions and critiques of the New York Times and other journalists such as --believe it or not, Mumia Abu Jamal, who salute Marable's efforts. I didn't have the language--okay now I know it is called "deconstructionist." I called it defamation of character, a character Ossie Davis called "our prince," a character my students from East Africa, Somalia, said they knew and emulated as kids, looked up to as a hero.

This evening I attended a conversation with two scholars and authors, Belvie Rooks and Joy DeGruy, Ph.D., about the effects of enslavement on its descendant population--we are speaking of Post Traumatic Slavery Syndrome. In her lecture preceding the talk back with the audience and Rooks, DeGruy gave many examples of behaviors --behaviors learned or adopted on the plantations which we still exhibit, such as self-flagellation where we do not praise our own, especially to others, translate: white people.

Alex Haley's Malcolm X, for all the chapters left out, is still a man to be admired --Haley's Malcolm isn't perfect and perhaps this is one of the reasons why we love him as much as we do. Ever evolving, the character who goes by many names, among them: Malcolm Little, Malcolm X and El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, shows us how we always have a choice and we can always choose to do better once we realize what that better choice is.

I said earlier this month that Marable's passing on the eve of his book's publication was similar to August Wilson's death after he completed his final play in the 100 year cycle of ten plays--his work was complete.However, this is where the similarity ceases. Wilson is resting in peace, I'm sure, but Marable?

To have as one's final work, one long anticipated at that, a tome which maligns as it expands what we know about El Hajj Malik . . .what an epitat.

Why such an epithet?

The word humanize is used so much when one hears talk of the Marable book. What does this mean?

Dr. DeGruy says that the tendency of black people to praise and then defame the very person they once seemed so proud of has its roots in plantation culture. When the master tells a parent his son is growing up to be a responsible young boy, the mother or father might say, "Oh no sir! Toby is shiftless and always goofing off. I am always after him with a switch." This child is a model of industry, but the parents would never praise their child in front of the master. The child would increase in value and could be sold away.

It is the same with Malcolm X. Although I don't understand the market or the exchange value, obviously Marable was using a certain currency in the academic market place--Malcolm in his pocket, or so he thought. Scholars publish original work, that is something required in these ivory sans ebony towers. Malcolm X: A Life of Re-Invention certainly is new information, whether or not it furthers of enlarges the discourse in a significant way, remains to be seen.

I don't see child soldiers in Somalia reading Marable, but I do see them picking up Haley. So who is Marable's audience? Did he want to facilitate a national debate or one between scholars. Already the more inflammatory aspect of this deconstruction are what everyone is talking about--the entire book reduced to these few points,the rest ignored at least so far.

Don't worry, if there is anything salvageable in the biography, which I was looking forward to reading this week I was off, I will certainly let readers know, when I write my review (smile).

We have few black heroes in the public domain---yes, with stamps: Martin King and Malcolm X. Two men who are posed as antithesis even antagonists, when in fact they had more in common that differences. It is the same argument and deconstruction, an ongoing argument regarding the philosophical differences between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. De Bois. It is this deconstruction that killed Marcus Garvey. This western strategy of carving out the heart and then expecting the body to continue to function without soul, is what is killing America now.

Death isn't even final; the FBI kill the man and then dig him up and shoot him full of holes again. The devil's work, it is said, is never done, but God's work lasts.

Brother Malcolm's life will rise above the present attempts to "humanize" him.


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