Monday, December 9, 2013

Discovering Malcolm X - excerpt from "Alien in the Delta"

At the age of eighteen I began discovering new things and developing my own ideas and valuesI discovered black authors and read books written by James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Chester Himes, and Langston Hughes. 

         I found out that some of the young men in my barracks would have group discussions about the various approaches to solving discrimination in the United States. I sat in on several discussions and began to follow the civil rights movement in the United States. The discrimination I had experienced in Texas was still fresh in my mind, and I became very interested in civil rights and the rights of black people in the United States.

When I joined the US Air Force in December of 1961, the eleven states that had been the Confederacy were still maintaining and practicing apartheid in the United States, the same as South Africa. My experience in Texas made me acutely aware that the US Air Force uniform and the pledge to die for the country had little or no meaning for a large portion of my fellow citizens.

  I remember having a discussion about civil rights with a young white British citizen on the base. He asked me why were black serviceman in the military of a government that did not provide them equal rights. I said nothing. I didn't even attempt to answer the question. He then wanted to know what I thought about Malcolm X. Again I had no answer. That was the first time I had heard the name Malcolm X. Who was he?

   I began asking other airmen if they had heard of Malcolm X. I was warned not to get involved with a group that had secret meetings, where they listened to his recordings and discussed his teachings and beliefs. Well, I found the leader of this group and asked if I could attend a meeting. He was very suspicious of me and told me he didn't think that it was for me. But I convinced him that I was really interested. He suggested that I read the autobiography of Malcolm X before I attended any meetings. He loaned me a copy of the book, and I begin reading. Most of the things I read shocked me because they were so radical and different from my way of thinking. I now understood why the meetings were kept secret. The leader of the group finally allowed me to attend a meeting.

  In the one meeting I attended, we listened to a recorded speech where Malcolm X advocated killing all the white devils if necessary. Having that type of material in your possession was just not allowed. It was a crime and considered subversive and anti-American. Before I had a chance to attend another meeting, the leader of the group was arrested.

         During an annual inspection of the room where the group leader lived, all of the Malcolm X material was found in his locker and confiscated. The group leader was taken to jail, and a month later, he was court-martialed. He was found guilty of having questionable material in his possession; he was busted, reduced in rank, and lost his stripes and pay grade, but he was not discharged. He remained in Germany for another year. Before he left Germany, he met, fell in love with, and got married to a beautiful, blue-eyed white devil.