Malcolm X’s ideas still important today

By ERA BURKE

 The following remarks by Socialist Action member Era Burke were presented at an April 24 Bay Area Socialist Action public forum at the Niebyl Proctor Library in Oakland, Calif., entitled, “Revolutionaries past and present: Their relevance today from Malcolm X, on the 50th anniversary of his murder, to Mumia Abu-Jamal, on his 61st (April 24) birthday, and for his life and freedom now!” Burke was joined by Socialist Action members and supporters Daniel Delaine Ally, Vanessa Andrews, and Jeff Mackler.

Let’s start off with a number: 368. That is the number of people the police have killed this year.

Another figure: 36. That is the number of police-caused deaths this month alone, nationwide. Let’s go even smaller: 8. The number of hours on average that pass between police killings.

Every eight hours—36 deaths in 24 days. By late April, more deaths than there are days in a year. Think about that.

If the eight-hour trend remains—that is, if the number of hours between police killings does not decrease—we are on track to have 2950 deaths by the end of 2015. That is nearly 3000 people!

So what are we doing about it? Let’s look from the top down. Our president has been silent on the issue. Congress has been silent on the issue. What about the politicians who will spend millions, if not billions, to try and convince you to put a little checkmark by their name at the polls next year? Also silent.

Why? Because helping the poor and marginalized is not in their best interests.

The police have become militarized over the last several decades. Weapons and equipment no longer used on the battlefields of U.S. imperialism are being sold to our city police forces at wholesale, thanks to the military industrial complex.

The military industrial complex can’t sell weapons to police officers if they aren’t able to use them on someone.

So what are we doing about it?

Fifty-one years ago Malcolm X was asked for his thoughts on capitalism, the need for radical political behavior, and what he called “a showdown between economic systems.” He replied: “I believe there will ultimately be a cash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing.”

What we see are the echoes of that conflict. Ferguson and Black Lives Matter have become symbols not only of death at police hands, but examples of what may happen if you find yourself on the wrong side of the power of our police state.

So what are we doing about it?

We cannot depend on the representatives of the power structure that got us here to risk their necks for the marginalized. You only need to look at any court case involving these deaths to see that conviction, at any level, is the exception.

Killing Black people, poor people, marginalized people? That is the rule.

“You get your freedom by letting your enemy know that you’ll do anything to get your freedom.” Malcolm said that as well.

What does that mean? According to Malcolm, it meant radical thinking and action. “They’ll call you an extremist, or subversive, or seditious, or a radical. But when you stay radical long enough, and get enough people to be like you, you’ll get your freedom.”

So what are we doing about it?

We have to be there, to be heard. We have to stand, march, chant. We have to compel the system to change by being the ones who change it ourselves. Because business as usual is killing us.