Stanley Crouch is an odd figure. He is extremely intelligent, a talented wordsmith, and in many ways a free thinker. Oddly, Mr. Crouch's piece, "Where does Barack Obama stand on terrorism? X marks the spot" in the New York Daily News (populist, right wing, quasi-tabloid that it is) seems to distance himself from the relatively high standards of thought and reflection that Mr. Crouch has demonstrated in the past.
In this piece of claptrap, Mr. Crouch soundly separates Malcolm X from the successes and struggles that laid the foundation for Barack Obama's victory. In Mr. Crouch's eyes, Malcolm X is an anomaly of history, an outlier in the Black Freedom Struggle, a charlatan, a race huckster and a racial privateer.
In essence, Malcolm X represents the losing side of history. For Mr. Crouch, Malcolm X represents all that is wrong with those "radicals" and "nationalists" who led a failed struggle for black "separatism." And rather than be the fruit of those struggles, Barack Obama's triumph is the living repudiation of a belief that America is not a shining beacon on the hill--a slightly less than perfect democracy.
Yes, I am all for ideological diversity as there isn't one orthodoxy of approved Black thought to which we must all be beholden. However, the one rubric that we should all follow is a commitment to ethical truth, to moral truth, and to intellectual truth. We respectable negroes take this as our shining beacon: we too sometimes do not achieve these lofty heights, but we must always strive for them. In fact, those readers who have been here from the beginning know that we attack ignorance and stupidity wherever (and from whomever) we may find it. This is why Mr. Crouch is the third recipient of the We Are Respectable Negroes Shit-huffing Award for Stupidity Above and Beyond the Call of Duty or Reason.
Mr. Crouch, in his analysis of Malcolm X and his role in America's--notice I said America and not exclusively Black America's--struggle to live up to its creed and promise of democracy has committed errors in interpretation and context.
On the first point, Malcolm X was a deeply reflective critic of White supremacy, but he was also amazingly astute in his understanding of the damage done to black Americans by racism:
Malcolm was not a hate espousing demagogue as Mr. Crouch and others want to cast him, he was a critic who challenged Black Americans to do for themselves, to achieve full rights as human beings, and to demand that our rights as full citizens be acknowledged by the State.
Mr. Crouch's error of context is a failure to understand that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., and by extension, the different approaches to Black liberation they embodied, were flip sides of the same coin. They complemented each other. They pushed each other forward. They as nationalists and radical humanists both represent the best part of the struggle for fully inclusive and expansive human rights in this country. They, Brother Martin and Brother Malcolm, were more alike than different...and in many ways they were both fierce patriots and iconoclasts in the best American tradition. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were not static figures. Rather, they were changing and dynamic. It is a failure to understand this range of thinking, reflection, and critical inquiry that underlies Mr. Crouch's deep misunderstanding of the historical context in which Malcolm X struggled.
Without Martin Luther King Jr. there would be no Barack Obama.
Without Malcolm X there would be no Barack Obama.
Malcolm X had a deep love for his people. He loved Black people even when many of them did not love themselves. Malcolm continued to love us even when some would rather see him dead:
This type of personal integrity, honor, and self-sacrifice is why so many of us, what Crouch basically calls, "out of touch academics" feel beholden to Malcolm X's legacy. Ultimately, Stanley Crouch has always tried to be the "special"one. Crouch has disdain for hip hop music and culture, he desperately yearns to be a gatekeeper for black arts and culture, and willingly takes unfashionable positions in order to get attention--a thrilling second of the limelight he "deserves" as a Black public intellectual.
I have had strong words for Mr. Crouch in the past. I have suggested that his visage would make for an ideal Halloween mask. I have even playfully joked that he looks like a Sambo crossed with Grimace from McDonald's. Today, Mr. Crouch is simply a shit-huffer--nothing more and nothing less.
Mr. Crouch, We Respectable Negroes congratulate you on this most auspicious achievement.