PRINT February 1993

Culture Wars

Spike Lee's Malcom X

SHORTLY AFTER THE ASSASSINATION at the Audubon Ballroom, Bayard Rustin predicted that “white America, not the Negro people, will determine Malcolm X’s fate in history.” At the time, the statement seemed ludicrous: white America appeared to have no “use” for Malcolm—not even a changed Malcolm, no longer advocating racial separatism. Today, it has found a use for him. In a field of representation that has always remained a plantation culture where black images are concerned, Malcolm X has been turned into a commodity.

Politically progressive black folks and our allies in struggle recognize that the power of Malcolm X’s thought is threatened when market forces objectify, commodify, and sell his image and ideas. Understanding the power of mass-media images to determine how we see ourselves and how we act, Malcolm himself admonished black folks never to accept images created for them by someone

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