The need for unity, by A. Peter Bailey
2/11/2021, 6 p.m.
As we continue in Black History Month, those who consider themselves Malcolm-ites and those who consider themselves Martin-ites have too often talked the talk but not walked the walk when honoring the legacies of the two great warriors in the war against white supremacy.
Fifty-six years after the assassination of Brother Malcolm X and 53 years after the assassination of Brother Martin Luther King Jr., we have done little, if anything, to follow their guidance about the crucial need for Black unity.
In a 1963 letter to eight civil rights leaders, including Brother Martin, Brother Malcolm wrote the following: “A united front involving all Negro factions, elements and their leaders is absolutely necessary. ... If capitalistic Kennedy and communistic Khrushchev can find something in common on which to form a United Front despite their tremendous ideological differences, it is a disgrace for Negro leaders not to be able to submerge our “minor” differences in order to seek a common solution to a common problem posed by a Common Enemy.”
Brother Malcolm invited them to speak at a rally in Harlem sponsored by the Muslims.
“There will be no debating, arguing, criticizing or condemning. ... This rally is designed not only to reflect the spirit of unity but it also gives you a chance to present your views to the largest and most explosive elements in metropolitan New York,” he wrote them.
Brother Martin was equally forceful about the need for Black unity. This is clear in the following excerpt from his 1967 book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”
“Too many Negro organizations are warring against each other with a claim to absolute truth. ...This plea for unity is not a call for uniformity. There must always be healthy debate. There will be inevitable differences of opinion. ... This form of group unity can do definitely more to liberate the Negro than any action of individuals (italics his). We have been oppressed as a group and we must overcome that oppression as a group.”
The strong appeals for Black unity by Brother Malcolm and Brother Martin were ignored at the time, except by the FBI. The appeals basically are still being ignored by most of us in February 2021.
If we continue to do so, especially those who consider ourselves Malcolm-ites or Martin-ites, we will continue to be unworthy of the supreme sacrifice made by the two great warriors and other 20th century ancestors who fought in the war against white supremacy.
The writer is an author and journalist based in Washington.