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George Floyd: Malcolm X’s visionary speech in Africa

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Tuesday, 2 June 2020 14:04

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Malcolm X as he speaks at a news conference at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem, New York in The famed Hotel Theresa on May 21, 1964 (AP Photo/FILE)

In 1964, during the Organization of African Unity (OAU) summit in Cairo, Malcolm X tried to make his "African brothers and sisters" aware of the discrimination experienced by African-Americans. A speech that foreshadowed the African emotion felt 56 years later around the George Floyd affair in the United States.

The President of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat has spoken out against the murder of George Floyd a 46-year-old African-American father of two children, who died from suffocation following an incident where a white policeman in the American city of Minneapolis placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for over seven minutes.

Mahamat strongly condemned the “murder that took place (…) at the hands of law enforcement officers” and offered “his deepest condolences to the family of the deceased and to all his relatives.”

In the same text, the Chadian recalled that in 1964, the Organization of African Unity – the forerunner of the AU – had adopted a resolution against racial discrimination in South Africa, Rhodesia and the United States.

South Africa is like a vicious wolf, openly hostile to black humanity. But America is cunning like a fox, friendly and smiling on the surface, but even more vicious and deadly than the wolf.

With regard to the United States, the OAU then recalled that “the existence of discriminatory practices is a matter of deep concern to OAU Member States”, urging “the government authorities of the United States of America to intensify their efforts to ensure the total elimination of all forms of discrimination based on race, colour or ethnic origin.”

Summit attended by Malcolm X

During this summit in July 1964, Malcolm X, the emblematic leader in the struggle for the rights and dignity of African Americans, was invited as an observer to make a poignant pan-African plea on the discrimination that African Americans were then suffering on the other side of the Atlantic.

A radical and visionary speech that Jeune Afrique is sharing today:

Excellencies,

The Organization of African American Unity sent me to attend this historic African Summit Conference as an observer to represent the interests of the 22 million African-Americans whose human rights are violated daily by the racism of the American imperialists.

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The Organization of African American Unity was created by a cross-section of the African-American community in America and is modelled, both in letter and spirit, on the Organization of African Unity.

Malcolm X holds up a paper for the crowd to see during a Black Muslim rally in New York City on Aug. 6, 1963. (AP Photo)

Just as the Organization of African Unity has called on all African leaders to overcome their differences and unite around the same goals, for the common good of all Africans, the Organization of African Unity has called on African-American leaders in America to overcome their differences and find common ground through which they can work together, for the common good of African-Americans.

Because these 22 million African-Americans now reside in America, not by choice, but only by a cruel accident of our history, we firmly believe that African problems are our problems and that our problems are African problems.

We also believe that, as heads of independent African states, you are the shepherds of all the African peoples around the world, whether they are still on Mother Earth or whether they have been dispersed overseas.

Some African leaders at this conference have suggested that they have enough problems to be concerned about the African-American issue.

With all due respect for these positions, which I respect, I must remind you all that a good shepherd will leave 99 sheep at home that are safe to go rescue the one who is lost and who has fallen into the clutches of the imperialist wolf.

Vicious police dogs

In America, we are your long-lost brothers and sisters. And if I’m here, it’s only to remind you that our problems are your problems. As African-Americans wake up today, we find ourselves in a strange land that has rejected us. And, like the prodigal son, we turn to our older brothers for help. We pray that our pleas will not fall on deaf ears.

We have been forcibly removed and shackled from the mother continent, and for more than 300 years now in our new land, America, we have been subjected to the most inhumane forms of physical and psychological torture.

Over the past decade, the world has seen our men, women and children attacked and bitten by vicious police dogs, brutally beaten with police batons, or sprayed with high-pressure water jets that ripped off our clothes and the flesh of our members, throwing us down the drain like garbage.

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All of these atrocities were inflicted on us by the US government authorities, through its own police force, for no other reason than to claim the recognition and respect accorded to other human beings living in America. The US government is unable or unwilling to protect the lives and property of your 22 million African-American brothers and sisters.

We are helpless, at the mercy of American racists who murder us at will, for no other reason than the fact that we are black and of African descent.

Last week, an unarmed African-American educator was murdered in cold blood in Georgia; a few days earlier, three civil rights workers mysteriously disappeared, perhaps also murdered, simply because they were educating our fellow Mississippians in Mississippi about the importance of the vote and their political rights.

Our problems are your problems.

We have lived for over 300 years in this American den of racist wolves, in constant fear of losing our lives or being torn to pieces. Recently, three Kenyan students mistaken for black Americans were brutally beaten by the New York police. Shortly afterwards, two Ugandan diplomats were also beaten by the same police, who had mistaken them for African-Americans.

If Africans are treated like that when they are just visiting America, imagine the multiple sufferings that your brothers and sisters who live on this earth endure.

Our problem is your problem.

No matter how much independence Africans gain on the mother continent, if you do not wear the traditional dress of the country you come from all the time when you visit America, you could be mistaken for one of us and suffer the same mutilations that we go through on a daily basis.

Malcolm X addresses a rally in Harlem in New York City on June 29, 1963. (AP Photo)

Your problems will never be fully solved until ours are solved. You will never be fully respected until we, too, are respected. You will never be recognised as free human beings until we, too, are recognised and treated as free human beings.

Our problem is your problem.

It is neither a black problem nor a specifically American problem. It is a global problem, a problem that involves all of humanity. It is not a civil rights problem, but a human rights problem.

America, worse than apartheid South Africa

We pray that our African brothers have not freed themselves from European colonialism only to be defeated and dominated. Do not let racism be whitewashed by American “dollarism”.

America is worse than [apartheid] South Africa because not only is it racist, it is also deceitful and hypocritical. South Africa preaches segregation while at the same time practising it. At least they practice what they preach. America, on the other hand, preaches integration while practicing segregation. It preaches one thing while deceptively practicing the opposite.

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South Africa is like a vicious wolf, openly hostile to black humanity. But America is cunning like a fox, friendly and smiling on the surface, but even more vicious and deadly than the wolf.

This wolf and this fox are both enemies of mankind; both are hunters; both humiliate and maim their victims; both have the same goals; both differ only in their methods.

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If South Africa is guilty of violating the human rights of Africans here on Mother Earth, then America is guilty of more serious violations against the 22 million African Americans living on its soil. And if South African racism is not a domestic issue, then American racism should not be a domestic issue either.

We implore the independent African states to help us bring our problem to the United Nations on the grounds that the United States government is morally incapable of protecting the lives and property of African Americans. On the grounds also that the deterioration of our situation is clearly becoming a threat to world peace.

Out of frustration and despair, our young people have reached the point of no return. It is no longer time for us to be patient and turn the other cheek. We assert our right to self-defence, by whatever means necessary, and we reserve the right to retaliate against our racist oppressors, no matter how great the odds, in the face of adversity.

We are well aware that our future efforts to confront violence with violence – an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth – could create a racial conflict in America that could easily degenerate into a violent, global, and bloody war.

In the interest of world peace and security, we therefore implore the leaders of independent African states to propose an immediate investigation into the situation of African Americans under the auspices of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

A final word, my beloved brothers, on the occasion of this African summit: “No one knows the master better than his servant. We have been servants in America for more than 300 years. We have a deep knowledge of this man who calls himself ‘Uncle Sam.’ Therefore, you must heed our warning. Do not escape European colonialism to become even more enslaved to a deceptive and friendly American dollar.

May Allah’s blessings of health and wisdom be upon you all.

Malcolm X

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