Commentary: Malcolm Shabazz’s Murder and Mystery

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Two arrested in connection with death of Malcolm X's grandsonThough two suspects have been arrested in the murder of Malcolm Shabazz, there remains many questions about his death and the circumstances surrounding it.  It may take months before all the information is available, and even then, as it was with his grandfather’s assassination and his great-grandfather’s murder, it may remain shrouded in mystery and intrigue for years.

Shabazz was killed in Mexico City last week the victim of an apparent robbery or the outcome of a dispute over an excessive tab he and a friend had accumulated at a bar in a rough neighborhood known for the prevalence of prostitutes.

Inevitably Shabazz’s murder has spurred a number of reactions and reports from the media—mainstream and otherwise.  Given the “breaking story” aspect of the tragedy, it was expected that mistakes would be made, particularly in the competitive rush to judgment of the major dailies and television stations.

Oddly, the major television outlets were unusually slow in picking up the story, and even the dailies seemed to be asleep at the wheel.  Then, including the prominent magazines and websites, the flood began but too often with unchecked facts and bold assertions that went beyond the young man’s death.

Some of the false steps are inexcusable since it merely takes a few moments to get them right, even if you are a writer or reporter only vaguely familiar with Shabazz and his eminently well-known family.

When Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965, his wife, a pregnant Betty, was there with their four children (not six as Allison Samuels related in her otherwise heartfelt reflection on The Daily Beast website).  It is this moment—when Malcolm X decided to have his family with him at the Audubon Ballroom on that fateful day—that angers Dr. Boyce Watkins in his blog.  “We have to question whether a man who could be killed at any moment should put a wife and children in danger along with him.  We must wonder if Malcolm was as good of a father as he appears to be in the beautiful picture of him holding his two daughters.  We can’t be afraid to admit that Malcolm might have made huge mistakes that have had a ripple effect to this day,” he wrote recently.

What was Malcolm supposed to do?  Stop living his life knowing it was imminently endangered? End his quest and demand for human rights?  His family was in no less danger than when they were sleeping with him in their home when it was firebombed the previous week.  Perhaps he wanted them closer to him, in his sight to provide them with whatever protection he could muster.  And for Dr. Watkins to question Malcolm’s rectitude as a father is reprehensible and uncalled for without offering evidence otherwise.

It is equally disturbing when highly respected scholars, such as Jelani Cobb can be less than thorough with information in his account in the New Yorker.  Most egregiously, he cites Malcolm as being the “sole directly related male” of Malcolm X, obviously overlooking Malik. 

So much more has been overlooked or quickly considered in a matter that we fear will get worse before it gets better.   And to that degree it will replicate the inefficient investigation following the death of Malcolm X’s father, Earl Little and his brothers, all of whom were allegedly killed by white night riders, and the confusion surrounding the murder of Malcolm himself.

Consider the fact that many writers and reporters are fixated with Malcolm Shabazz’s “troubled life” and /or “criminal life” without taking into account the glaring fact that Malcolm Shabazz’s most recent conviction was in 2002 and in 2006, his guiltlessness was affirmed when he allegedly punched a hole in a store’s glass window.  In regards to the unfortunate death of his loving and courageous grandmother, Dr. Betty Shabazz, Malcolm Shabazz expressed his deep remorse on numerous occasions and publically was self-reproached about the entire ill-fated incident that took place when he was only 12 years of age.   At that age, living in a highly misanthropist society that encourages Black self-destruction, how translucently clear and conscious were any of us regarding our thought processes and what impact our actions might have on our people?

However, missing from that particular narrative is not only his deep-rooted self-reproach, but the fact that the legal system in the United States has a pernicious socio-political history which ensures that African-American males are either coerced or skillfully cozened to plead guilty even if they are innocent as evident in the Central Park Five case in New York City.   Moreover, missing from the traditional and social media narratives regarding Malcolm Shabazz is the fact that the United States surveys African-American males as “actionable threats” since the time of John Casor, who became the first African in North America to be legally certified as a slave for life in 1655 – consequently, forever setting the dominant tone and master narrative of African-American males as being guilty, troubled, and threats.  As Dr. Kevin Barrett, points out on Press TV, practically all young black men have trouble with the law. Actually, it isn’t that they have trouble with the law. It’s that the law has trouble with them. Being young, black, and male means being guilty until proven innocent.”

Prior to his untimely death, Malcolm Shabazz like his revered grandfather, Malcolm X was transforming his life politically as he took his puissant message of fighting global oppression abroad.  For example, in 2010, he made the Hajj to Mecca; taught English in Syria; attended John Jay College to study Political Science / Government; started working on his memoirs; met with international political figures and immersed himself with international causes; and mastered several languages – English, French, Spanish, and Arabic.  On a Facebook post, Malcolm Shabazz shared the following:

“I have lived & studied in Damascus, Syria for over a year, and now the U.S. is instigating conflict within the very same region. I went on ex-congresswoman/former presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney’s delegation along with Dr. Randy Short to Libya, and met with Leader Muammar Gadhafi one week prior to N.A.T.O. intervention and I was most recently getting ready to travel to Tehran, Iran to be a participant of the International Fajr Film Festival and give a lecture addressing the issues of Hollywood and violence:  Modern Violence & Terrorism, provoking clashes between religions & populations. I was picked up by authorities after I filed for a visa to Iran, and 2 days prior to my departure.”

Yet, those aspects of his life are missing in a great majority of reports concerning his life and death.  As such, the unlawful premeditated killing of Malcolm Shabazz is being amplified by the butchering and assassination of his character by the dominant press.  Simply put, in March 2013, Malcolm Shabazz stated the following regarding the paradigm for assassination:

“The formula for a public assassination is: the character assassination before the physical assassination; so one has to be made killable before the eyes of the public in order for their eventual murder to then deemed justifiable. And when the time arrives for these hits to be carried out you’re not going to see a C.I.A. agent with a suit & tie, and a badge that says “C.I.A.” walk up to someone, and pull the trigger. What they will do is to out-source to local police departments in the region of their target, and to employ those that look like the target of interest to infiltrate the workings in order to set up the environment for the eventual assassination (character, physical/incarceration, exile) to take place.”

At the moment, it appears the most credible source about Malcolm Shabazz’s death comes from associates of his in Mexico City connected to Rumec, a California-based organization fighting for fairness in the construction industry.   Apparently Malcolm was there to lend his name and prestige to the organization after temporarily visiting Los Angeles to help a friend jump start his recording career. 

Clearly, there are more questions than answers at this point but this can’t be a story in which the Black press sets aside with the notion that we’ve done this and let’s move on.   Malcolm’s death can’t be deemed “good riddance” as so many has written in the various mainstream blogs.  One glance at these nasty, racist comments is enough to give you pause and is just another example of where we are in the so-called post-racial society.