Malcolm and Marable

by Gloria Dulan-Wilson

The death of Black historian and scholar Manning Marable saddened a great many of us. It appeared to be particularly poignant, since it was on the eve of the launching of his new, so called definitive re-look at Brother Malcolm X.

But it’s beginning to look as though Marable may have dodged a bullet. Because he is conveniently and permanently not here to answer some serious questions, and to face the outrage of six very much alive descendents of Brother Malcolm in the personages of his daughters.

It may also be that he has dodged having to deal with many of us who have revered Malcolm X - and continue to do so - as to why he would pen such a mean spirited tome.

In speaking with one of Malcolm’s youngest daughters, Malaak Shabazz, I asked what she thought of the book. She had had some time to review a preliminary copy, and felt that there were so many distortions and outright lies - the fact that he deliberately tried to attack the image of Sister Betty Shabazz, Malcolm’s widow. One wonders who Marable wrote this book for?

I recall when Ralph Abernathy, who was once right hand to Dr. Martin Luther King, shortly before his demise, appeared on the TODAY Show to “expose King and the SCLC.” His big hue and cry was that he was the real hero, and that King could have done nothing had it not been for him. He ranted and raved on national television for about 5 minutes, while a shocked host, and an equally shocked Black viewing audience - and an even more zealously pleased white racist audience - watched.

To my mind, this 500 page tome is akin to what I call the Abernathy Syndrome. When you’re closer to your death, than you are to your life, and you feel that you’ve not been given you due, some become bitter and use those last days to heap resentment, instead of joy and pleasure for what they’ve experienced. Instead they end up leaving behind a legacy of bitterness and acrimony.

While a great deal that Marable has accomplished through his works and his tenure at Columbia is laudable, on the balance, throughout his career, there have been questions as to his blackness, when it really came to issues African Americans face. I can't be the judge in this instance. It's just sort of sad to know that with all that brain, all that intelligence, all that time spent, that this is the upshot of what he was working on, a denouement of Brother Malcolm X!

However to rant and rail against what Marable has done will only make the book more popular, and give it more readership. So I for one will not be a party to that. I know of one group of people - and I’m sure I don’t have to name them, we all know what time it is - who are extremely pleased that this book has been penned. No doubt they will be including it in their upcoming lesson plans.

But as far as I am concerned, this puts a big white mark on the powerful legacy that otherwise would have been Marable’s (notice I did not say a “black” mark?).

Of course with the passing of any of our brothers and sisters, one must give a moment of silence. I just hope that having lived in the cold climes of New York as long as he did, he does not have an aversion to the very tropical climate in which he will be resting in from now on.

If on the other hand he actually finds himself in the more temperate climates where brothers Malcolm X, Frederick Douglas, WEB DuBois, Martin Luther King and Carter G. Woodson reside, he'd better be prepared to explain to them why he did what he did. And I can assure you that answering to them is going to be even more difficult that it would have been had he lived to face Malcolm and Betty's daughters.

Gloria Dulan-Wilson

1 comment:

  1. Simple question-have you actually READ the book that you are railing about? I am READING it now and I have quite a different opinion...It seems a little crazy to me to criticize something that maybe you don't know anything about, but that's just me...


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