Black History

* Malcolm X



  Elke Moritz

VIII. Conclusion

Looking back on history,
I may not be totally clear
on who I may be, but
looking into the future I do know
who I can become. And -
I may never really understand
who I am. WHO AM I ?

Blaze "I wonder" on "25 years later", Motown 1990

Today, nearly 30 years after the end of the Civil Rights Movement, some things have changed. A strong black middle-class has emerged, and some African-Americans have been able to get into leading positions in management or government. In several big cities with a majority of black citizens, black mayors are in office. Martin and Malcolm have become American heroes - Martin is a national hero who has an own holiday, and Malcolm is a hero of the non-white people, but especially of the African-Americans, whose search for an own identity is still their key problem. So both have become role models for the American youth. America's young people grow up in an environment which offers them a chance to accomplish what they want - but only if they have enough money.

Today not only African-Americans but also many immigrants from Latin or South America live in poverty in the inner cities. And the underclass continues to grow. The situation in the ghettos is worse than 30 years ago: Overcrowded apartments, a lack of recreational facilities and the decay of the school system lead to an increasing rate of high school drop-outs, unemployment, drug-abuse, welfare dependency, single-parent households and finally to frustration, alienation and a sense of hopelessness and pessimism. Children who live in these circumstances are underprivileged by birth. Growing up in these neighbourhoods leads thousands of black males to juvenile delinquency and joining street-gangs which promise them a kind of brotherhood and a lot of money through dealing with drugs like crack cocaine. But this road ends too often in prison or in death.

Today there are more blacks in prison than in college, and homicide is "the leading cause of death for African-American males between the ages of 15 and 34."69 The people in the ghettos think they have nothing to lose and therefore live only for the moment, but not for the future. They try to escape their daily nightmare either through becoming very religious and joining a church, through drug-abuse or leading a "fast life", which is responsible for the increasing number of illegitimate births especially among teenagers and for the high percentage of AIDS cases. America's poor have lost their faith in the government and especially in the police, whose growing brutality has set off a wave of riots in the inner cities in the past few years. This summer's riots in Los Angeles, Atlanta and other cities were the worsed of this century. And they won't have been the last. The looters were members of all races but mostly belonged to the underclass.

Like Malcolm already said in the 1960s,"America has a very serious problem".70 Although organizations like the NAACP, the SCLC, and even the NOI still exist and are very influential, most people who are poor and live in the ghetto don't become active and join them. They don't see the necessity for community control and still believe in the "American illusion" which they daily get presented on TV. But there are people who dare criticizing their own people and the government. They compare the ghettos to modern-day colonies and charge the US government for committing cultural genocide against the African-American people and charge African-Americans for committing genocide against themselves by remaining inactive.

To stop America's social crisis, the underclass has to start to do something for themselves. But only the American society can abolish de facto segregation which still exists today by changing its moral values and behaviour towards minorities. And finally, the US government has to change its politics, because massive political, social and economic support is needed more than ever. We can start today by changing ourselves - our behaviour and our attitude towards others - to prevent further crisis and violence. And surely the people of the past and their ideas can help us to improve our situation in the present and to create a better future.

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69.) Newsweek, Apr.6, 1992,p.32
70.) taken from a speech entitled "Message to the Grass Roots", held on Nov. 10,1963. "Malcolm X Speaks",p.4