This analysis will look at only one speech that Malcolm X gave at the Founding of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). I will call this analysis a spot check.
The OAAU was founded eight months before his death, one month before the signage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and seven months after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Malcolm X used the OAAU to unite black people in the Western Hemisphere and later join black people from all over the world. The OAAU is a secular organization.
The analysis will evaluate the values presented in the Founding of the Organization of Afro-American Unity speech. The values will be compared to Don Beck’s Spiral Dynamics hierarchy. The speech will receive a meme. It is important to remember the meme will not be given to Malcolm X, to do that many speeches over his entire career will need to be analyzed.
A short overview of Spiral Dynamics Hierarchy
According to Spiral Dynamics, a person’s ego expressed in his or her values will progress in a set hierarchy. Every individual has his permutation of the meme, but the underlying values advance in a steady hierarchy.
To move up the hierarchy, a person must undergo conflict that causes such great disorder that the person reconstitutes themselves at the next level. This analysis will illustrate the evolution of Malcolm X’s values in response to the conflicts he faced.
Red Meme is the earliest stage that is common in today’s society. Acquiring power and dominance is at the center of the meme. People in this meme look out for their needs and disregard the needs of everyone else. “Might Makes Right” would be a common saying. Red Meme individuals want gratification now and do not think about consequences. These people “live fast and die young.” They go out in a blaze of glory, and their lives are used to create dozens of dime store novels.
In the life of Malcolm X, the red meme stage of his life was in New York when he was known as Detroit Red. He was a gangster in Harlem, he ran numbers, gambled, and consumed drugs. He had a wild life that many people would find envious. Detroit Red did not think about consequences, that is the reason why he dated white women in the 1940’s. In his autobiography, he recounts many tails in which he almost died.
The conflict that would move him out of the Red Meme was his conviction for burglary in 1946. In the 1992 movie of Malcolm X’s life, his accomplice Shorty realizes he received ten 15 year terms served concurrently. Shorty doesn’t know what concurrently means and faints. Shorty is an example of someone that could not handle the conflict and reorganize. In contrast, Malcolm X begins his reconstitution.
While in the penitentiary, Malcolm X meets John Bembry who introduces him to the Nation of Islam. In the 1992 movie, there is a scene in which Bembry asks Malcolm X to pray to A-h. Malcolm X does not feel worthy of prayer. Bembry asks, “You can bow your knees to pick a lock, but will not bow to the most high.” Guilt and shame are a large part of the Blue Meme. Another example in the movie of how Malcolm X did not feel worthy was his first meeting with Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm X began to cry because he was in the company of a man as great as E. Muhammad.
In the Blue Meme, a person’s values and identity are largely a function of their membership in a group. Often the group they affiliate with will have one patriarch that is infallible and in total control. Questioning the patriarch or the validity of the group will get a person expelled. E. Muhammad served that purpose for Malcolm X.
The conflict that will cause enough disorder that causes reconstitution at the next level was finding corruption in the Nation of Islam. The largest transgression was a scandal that involved Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm X conducted his investigation into the allegations and determined that the claims were valid. The controversy causes him to lose faith in the NOI, and the conflict causes a reconstitution at the next level.
At the next level, known as Orange Meme, a person moves from dependence on a group membership as the authority and rediscovers one’s individuality. Spiral Dynamics shows people vacillate between self-expression and group expression. In the Orange Meme, Malcolm X begins to assert himself as an independent thinker. Malcolm X at this point has national acclaim and his following of Muslims and Non-Muslims. E. Muhammad directs his ministers after the death of Kennedy to not talk about the assassination or say the loss saddens them. Malcolm X responds when asked by a news reporter that his death is the result of poor US foreign policy all over the world. The assassination is a result of “Chickens coming home to roost, ” and as a farm boy “Chickens coming home never made me sad, it only made me glad.”
Malcolm X asserted his independence from the Nation of Islam in this statement. He was later silenced for a short period. He will officially leave the Nation in March of 1964. To solidify his views as an independent Muslim, he leaves on a pilgrimage to Mecca.
The pilgrimage to Mecca is another cause of conflict that necessitates reconstitution. While touring Mecca and Africa, two things happen. The first is he learns that Islam encompasses people of all races that cooperate and worship together. The second he learns that Africa is full of people going through a similar struggle as the Afro – American. The African understands the Afro-American struggle and has sympathy.
As the Orange Meme redefines individualism, the Green Meme redefines the group. Malcolm X began to see the Afro-American struggle as just part of the fight of all dark-skinned people. This realization expanded his perception of “group” since he began to see the fate of all dark-skinned people as linked and that direct action should be taken to create unity. The OAAU was his effort toward unity. I will determine the value meme from the summary below.
Analysis: Founding Speech of the Organization of Afro-American Unity
From the speech, this is what Malcolm X considers freedom
An African concept of freedom is a situation or a condition in which he, as an African, feels completely free to give vent to his own likes and dislikes and thereby develop his own African personality… and atmosphere of complete freedom where he has the right, the leeway, to bring out of himself all of that dormant, hidden talent that has been there all along.
The Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) was modeled after the Organization of African Unity. The Organization of African Unity brought together thinkers from all over Africa of different philosophies to determine how to throw off the yoke of colonialism. Over a ten year period, the organization freed most of the African nations from European control. The African is now respected on a world stage in addition to having his freedom according to Malcolm X.
Malcolm X wanted the OAAU to bring together people of African descent from all over the Western Hemisphere to work together for solutions. The collaboration in the OAAU will compare thoughts, hopes, aspirations, likes, and dislikes. Once the African of the Western Hemisphere has worked through his various problems, he can unite with the Africans in the motherland. The unity of all African people will resurrect a “golden age” for our people.
It is important now to determine what Malcolm X meant by people of African descent. He does not go into detail in this speech on what he considers African descent. In the Autobiography of Malcolm X he refers to Hispanics as Spanish Negros . He often talked of outreach to the Spanish Negro community. Therefore, perhaps all people of color, such as Hispanics and even Native Americans might well choose to be part of OAAU if given the opportunity. The next group I imagine he would include are Native Americans. The speech contains the following phrases.
[E]veryone in South America of African descent is an Afro-American. Everyone in the Caribbean, whether it’s the West Indies or Cuba or Mexico, if they have African blood,
they are Afro-Americans. If they’re in Canada and they have African blood, they’re Afro-Americans. If they’re in Alaska, though they might call themselves Eskimos, if they have African blood, they’re Afro-Americans.
So we can conclude “African descent,” to Malcolm X, means all dark-skinned people.
As Malcolm X addresses the goal of the OAAU, he presents the first order of business is getting the problem of the Afro-American in front of United Nations.
Our individual countries are not capable of hearing or morally equipped to solve our problem, so a larger body is needed.
Malcolm X realizes there are barriers to creating a society or segment of society in which the black man is free to create and thrive. The list of obstacles is listed below.
1. Violence perpetrated by the State and mobs
2. Violence perpetrated by other black people
3. Lack of proper Social Services
4. Lack of knowledge on history, politics, and economics
5. Lack of independent cultural development and press
To address the violence perpetrated by the state and mobs, Malcolm X wants an independent defense force that will police the streets and, if needed, protect the community from a white mob. In the early 1900’s there were many instances of white mobs forming to destroy entire towns of black people. A few cases were Elaine, AR in 1919, Tulsa, OK 1921, and Rosewood, Fl 1923.
Malcolm X did not trust the traditional police. He said this of the New York City Police Commissioner:
Anytime there’s a police commissioner who finds it necessary to increase the strength numerically of the policemen in Harlem and, at the same time, we don’t see any sign of a decrease in crime, why, I think we’re justified in suspecting his motives… The more cops we have, the more crime we have. We begin to think that they bring some of the crime with them.
He spoke of the “Stop and Frisk” and “No Knock” laws first proposed by Nelson Rockefeller:
[Stop and Frisk] is worse than any law that they had in Nazi Germany … the only thing this law is designed to do is make legal what they been doing all the time.
[The No Knock]law that gives them the right to knock down your door without even knocking on it. Knock [the door] down and come on in and bust your head and frame you up under the disguise that they suspect you of something.
Some may read this and say Malcolm X has an issue with all cops. To rebut, I provide the following quote.
I say there’s some good [cops] and some bad ones. But they usually send the bad ones to Harlem.
Because the police are either unwilling or incapable of reducing crime, Malcolm X says:
… Brothers and sisters, it is time for you and me to organize and eliminate these evils ourselves…
We must declare an all-out war on organized crime in our community; a vice that is controlled by policemen who accept bribes and graft.
Later in the speech, Malcolm X discusses the struggle between himself and the Nation of Islam. The ongoing fight between the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X is simply a distraction from the greater needs of the community. In the speech, he specifically mentions Elijah Muhammad and asks that they put aside their squabbles and unite to improve the conditions of their race.
Malcolm X also explains how a lack of social services hurts the community. The OAAU will endeavor to provide drug rehabilitation clinics, foster care system, and alternative living for black unwed mothers. He views these activities like charity work, and we should not depend on the government to provide them.
The OAAU will provide various education services that will include training in history, politics, and economics. Descendants of Africans that have excelled in the field will teach the classes. He cites an NYC school board report saying that ten percent of NYC schools are un-salvageable. Malcolm X wants to take control of those schools. He spends the majority of the speech on history education because he knows its importance. He speaks on the reason the Afro-American is called Negro, and the African is referred to as an African.
You are Negro because you don’t know who you are, you don’t know what you are, you don’t know where you are, and you don’t know how you got here. But as soon as you wake up and find out the positive answer to all these things, you cease being a Negro. You become somebody.
Malcolm X also stated there would also be independent cultural growth board and independent press. The goal of this branch of the organization will cultivate the black mind. Once everyone has similar goals political action can be fostered. The OAAU will support candidates and increase the number of black government officials to be numerically representative of the population.
What the speech has right
He is correct in saying that black people should run a black organization. In mainstream society, acquiring leadership positions is difficult for blacks. A black organization could serve as an incubator for leaders that serve their race and the community as a whole. It is insulting when a white person thinks they understand problems unique to black people better than people going through the problem. Everything cannot be learned intellectually. Some things need to be learned experientially.
Malcolm X is also correct in saying whites would be of the greatest service to blacks by educating themselves and other whites on racism. Realistically a person, including a black person, cannot live in America without having negative thoughts about black people driven deep into their conscious and subconscious mind. There needs to be inner healing on both sides before they can come together.
Malcolm X’s views on New York’s police policy are sound. If a community does not want a particular crime policy, the rest of the city or state should not force the policy on them. It is surprising that Libertarians, who ask for the local government to make solutions, do not make this argument more often. Many inner city communities consider the police an occupying army. Neighborhoods should have the final say on police policy. America looks at its inner city communities as children, not fit for self-governance. America has to allow individuals the right to self-determine what policing is best for their community.
Getting the issues of Blacks in front of an international committee such as the United Nations is also important. Black issues are often told internationally by people that do not fully understand the issues. The presentation to the United Nations will not only improve the world perception of blacks; it will initiate international aid to Black America. It is possible international pressure could force the United States government to act on behalf of blacks.
He never refers to whites as “devils” in this speech. He does think most whites are racist, but he does say some are good. He feels blacks should concentrate on self-improvement and inner healing first. Malcolm X does not vilify all white people in this speech; he focuses on attacking specific government structures that cause oppression.
What the speech has wrong?
He is trying to do too much, too fast, with no money. The OAAU can not function as a supplemental government with each member only paying $54 a year. It would be impossible to stop all the things he wants to stop in one organization. He is over promising and if he had continued would have either gone bankrupt or renege on promises.
Malcolm X believes that if the government does not provide a public good, then black people should pool their money and provide the public good themselves. Another alternative would be to petition the government to provide better services. Malcolm X wants to exclude government from our affairs as much as possible. He calls his approach self-sufficiency.
The public goods he talks most about in the speech are policing and education. He provides efforts to show the police are ineffective and abusive. He also cites a New York City official report that says many schools in New York City are beyond repair. Malcolm X thinks the solution is community policing and taking over failed schools.
It is hard to believe that Malcolm X could accomplish this without a considerable amount of money. The money would also need to be supplied in perpetuity. Essentially, he would need a voluntary tax system. The voluntary tax system will consist of people that are systematically disenfranchised and often encounter shortages of money.
It is important the poor people defend their right to public goods. If a person does not have much money, they obviously can not provide for their education and police. To require the poor to provide services that most middle-class and upper middle-class individuals could not provide for themselves is irresponsible. Black America needs to feel entitled and protective of their rights to public goods.
The idea that self-sufficiency is providing for public goods without the government is prevalent in today’s thought on black empowerment. Few leaders that profess self-sufficiency and cite Malcolm X as the source explain that he died before he could implement the program. These self-sufficiency leaders often talk of pooling money together to provide for services that can be more efficiently obtained by the government. The most practical method of securing public goods is petitioning the government.
Living in a country that excludes blacks makes black people feel like an eternal outsider. It has gotten to the point that we have lost the sense entitlement to services from our government. Many black leaders perpetuate this shame. Black America should petition its government for its needs as any other community. If the government can give corn farmers money not to grow corn, the government can provide money to improve black communities.
Where is the speech on the Spiral
The speech is a Green Meme Speech.
The largest Green Meme aspect is the broad scope with very few resources. Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam only a few months earlier. He did not have any infrastructure to accomplish, basically rebuilding a new local government. Having too many unprioritized goals is a common problem in the Green Meme.
The focus of the OAAU was to unite all Africans in the Western Hemisphere. Again, the Green Meme reconstitutes what is the “group”. As stated earlier, Hispanics and Native American are considered descendants of Africa in Malcolm X’s paradigm. Again his definition of the group has expanded well past people in the Nation of Islam (Blue Meme Concept).
His ultimate goal is changing or creating a haven in society in which black people can fully express themselves. Malcolm X does not make the new society contingent on black people making more money, like A. Philip Randolph (Orange Meme), or everyone joining the same religion (Blue Meme), or the settling of a score as General Seti (Red Meme). The goal is abstract, no one thing changing will usher in the new society.
If a person looks deeply at his concept of freedom, it is ultimately setting a stage for self-actualization.
Many people would look at this speech and call it Red Meme. The main reason for labeling the speech Red Meme is his liberal use of “cracker.” In spite of the harsh language, which could be a play to the crowd more than an expression of his actual feelings, the speech focuses on unity. Malcolm X says that there are some good white people, only at the moment, the concentration should be on black uplift, not racial reconciliation.
An analyst must take into account a person’s life experience and adjust what is considered within and outside a given Meme. The KKK killed Malcolm X’s father, he grew up poor, and he spent many years in prison. Malcolm X will never have the same views as Dr. King. Ultimately, Malcolm X finds some white people to be good. He knew that black inner healing and self-protection was more important than direct racial unity.
The writer of this article is not a Muslim. If there is anything in the article that mis-characterizes Islam, please reply in the comments. I will evaluate the feedback and make the appropriate adjustments.
This is a personal blog that is not an official Spiral Dynamics Blog. It is based on the work of Clare Graves and Don Beck. For more information on Spiral Dynamics, please go to the website below.
Feel free to give feedback. However, I would prefer if you read the original speech first. The link follows.