by Ken Sehested
Malcolm X’s Autobiography was the first book that scared me. Here I was, in the transition from adolescence to young adulthood, secretly abandoning my pietist-revivalist rearing in favor of the more verdant fields of liberalism (which helped for a time), and here’s this guy, who I now am ready to befriend, sharply critical of liberal integrationists!
Turns out he was right, unnervingly prescient, not exactly predicting the cases of Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddy Gray—ad nauseum and likely to be continued—but sensing that “civil rights” could be doled out in limited doses without affecting the underlying patterns of structural disparity. Something deeper is at work sustaining the patterns of discrimination, something more than simple bigotry and prejudice.
However sincere the righteous intent, integration has mostly been a one-way street. Despite curtailed bounds, including constant indignity and threats of violence, the African American community had—before the advent of the “war on poverty” urban renewal initiatives—vibrant commercial districts, schools, neighborhoods and other cultural institutions. While the grip on access to bus seats and lunch counters and drinking fountains and even voter registration rights were loosening, the noose of widespread economic disparity was tightening. Read more ›