Black History We Didn’t Learn In School Part 3

Keeping with last week’s theme we decided to continue to educate ourselves on Black History – because our knowledge is sorely lacking. 

This week on the podcast we shared information about Malcolm X (Emily’s share) and the 2003 South Carolina School Raid (Brenton’s share). 

The link is below if you want to listen to the podcast.

Let’s jump in! 

Malcolm X  – Resource I used

The assisination of Malcolm X is still hotly contested but before we can dig into the who and why (more on that next week) we need to understand who Malcolm was and why he was so important for the Black Power movement.

Malcolm’s Childhood 

Malcom was born as Malcolm Little on May 19, 1825 in Omaha, Nebraska. Malcolm’s father was Earl Little. He was a Baptist Minister and supporter of Black Nationalist Leader Martin Garvey. Earl’s activism created a target on the Little family from the White Supremacist group the Black Legion. 

The Little family had to move often due to this target and in 1929 their house in Michigan was burned down. In 1931 Earl’s body was found lying on the trolly tracks. In both of these instances the police ruled that these were accidents. Now, we assume that it was the work of the Black Legion. 

A couple years after his father’s death, Malcolm and his seven siblings were placed in different foster care and orphanages. Their mother had a mental health breakdown within a couple years of the attack and was institutionalized. 

Young Adulthood 

In his early adulthood Malcolm and a friend moved to Boston. They were arrested for burglary and Malcolm was sentenced to 10 years in jail. 

Malcolm spent his time in jail learning. His brother Reginold visited him at told him about the Nation of Islam. Malcolm began learning about the Nation of Islam and the current leader Elijah Muhhammad. Elijah Muhhammad taught Nation of Islam members that white society was actively working to keep Black Americans from empowering themselves. 

Malcolm agreed with the message and converted to Nation of Islam. By the time he was paroled in 1952 he had educated himself on the NOI’s teachings. He also changed his last name to X. Malcolm believed that “Little: was a slave name. X signified the loss of his tribal last name. 

Nation of Islam 

Malcolm worked his way up the NOI and became a minister and spokesperson for the group. He is credited with increasing membership from 5k to 30k over the course of 11 years. He gave many interviews and was a beautiful aurotor with a powerful message. 

The rapid growth of NOI and Malcolm’s popularity caught the attention of the FBI. They infiltrated NOI and planted bugs, wires and went undercover. 

Muslim Mosque, Inc 

In 1963 Malcolm learned that Elijah Muhammad was abusing his position of power and was having relations with six women in the group. Malcolm refused to cover for Elijah and ended up leading the NOI. 

Malcolm felt guilty for bringing so many people to an organization that was lead by a man who did not follow his own teachings. 

After leaving Malcolm founded the Muslim Mosque, Inc. He also went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. On his pilgrimage his outlook on the world changed. He met “blonde haired and blue eyed men that I could call my brothers”. This caused Malcolm to change his message. He now wanted to speak to all races about the importance of the Black Power movement. 


Next week I’ll dig into what we know and don’t know about his assisination but here’s some basic info. 

After learning NOI Malcolm was marked for assisination. On Valentine’s day in 1965 someone firebombed his home. Luckily, he and his family were all ok after this event. A week later Malcolm was speaking at the Audubon Ballroom and was shot FIFTEEN times by THREE men. 

The men were all registered as members of Nation of Islam.  

Stratford High School Raid

Example and policing facts pulled from “The End of Policing” by Alex S. Vitale.

School-Prison Pipeline

Schools are currently an integral part of the prison industrial complex. There are a few key ways that schools feed students toward incarceration. The move to measuring school success based on test scores has resulted in more suspensions and expulsions for “problem” students. Rather than working with children, they are instead removed altogether. This in essence inflates the school’s test scores but leaves these students without further education. This is not a fault of the school’s per se (budgets and other items are based on these scores) but a wider problem of the education system.

To deal with punishments, schools have also seen an increase in “School Resource Officers” or SROs. These are police stationed at schools. A study during the 2013-2014 school year estimated more than 43,000 police were based in schools in the US. This is number had drastically increased during the 90’s due to a fear of a juvenile crack epidemic and the Columbine shooting. These officers based in schools are there to enforce the law, but often take part in disciplinary planning and enforcement. In 2011-2012, the Department of Education reported that 92,000 arrests were made in schools. Another study showed schools with SROs had nearly 5x the arrests of other schools. The Department of Education also found that Black, Latino, and special needs students were disproportionately subjected to Criminal Justice. A Washington Post report listed that at least 120 SRO forces utilized the 1033 weapons transfer program, which puts military weapons in the hands of police.

November 7, 2003 – Goose Creek, SC

Administrators at Stratford High School worked with SROs to organize a SWAT team raid of their school. According to principal George McCrackin “We received reports from staff & students that there was a lot of drug activity. Recently we busted a student with over 300 plus prescription pills. The volume and amount of marijuana coming into the school is unacceptable.” A local paper reported that the high school was one of the largest in the state and one the top in schools academically in Lowcountry.

Lt. Dave Aarons, Goose Creek police, said suspected drug dealers appeared to be knowledgeable of the school surveillance cameras. Students would congregate under the cameras and periodically walk into the bathroom with different students. “They know where the cameras are.”

14 officers with SWAT gear stormed the school and “moved initially to safely secure the 107 students in the hallway.” According to Aarons “anytime narcotics and money are involved, there is a reasonable assumption weapons are too.” Students were told to get on their knees with their hands on their heads. 12-14 students were placed in handcuffs for failing to comply. 12 backpacks were confirmed by police dogs as well. Jason Weeks, student, told WCSC that the police were aggressive. “[They] pushed us against the wall and searched us.” “There is certain people you know sell drugs, they could have just searched them.” Another students, Aaron Sims said they put a gun up to their friend and pushed them against a wall without even saying anything.

No drugs were found and no arrests were made. David Burrow, Secondary School Supervisor said “The school had no knowledge guns would be drawn,” but he still stood by the raid. Black students represented less than a quarter of the student body but were more than ⅔ of students targeted. The ACLU brought a lawsuit to charge police and school officials with violating students’ right from unlawful search and seizure. The case was settled in 2006. The settlement protected students’ freedoms; the raid was declared unconstitutional and blocked the police department from future use of force at the school. A $1.6 million fund was established to compensate the students and cover medical and counseling costs from the incident. With this settlement, those students became the only ones in America with complete freedom from unconstitutional search and seizure.

It’s Ok to Not Know – But Don’t Give Up

It’s ok to not know what you’re doing – but do SOMETHING anyway. Inaction is not an option right now.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, some days (most) I have no idea what I’m doing. This comes out especially in allyship and activism. I’m aware that I’m a work in progress and always will be. 

What I’ve learned from this is that It’s ok to not have a plan, but it’s not ok to sit on the sidelines. You cannot be complicit right now. 

The I Don’t Know Hang Up 

It’s natural to think we have to have it all figured out. But, perfection – as an ally – is not the end goal. We feel “safe” when we think there’s an order of a plan to things. It’s embedded in our culture. In general, humans like predictability, safety, knowing what comes next – at least in our own lives. Safety, stability and security are basic needs for our success so to ensure that we have those – we plan. 

But, I encourage you, instead of digging deep into the “I don’t know how to help” mentality – look for options. It is better to start and have to course correct along the way than it is to sit still and watch things get worse while you try to figure out the “right thing”.  When it comes to activism, you shouldn’t expect yourself to understand things if you’ve never been exposed or even learned about the causes. Take a chance to educate yourself. 

You Play Small Because You Don’t See the Plan 

Anyone else remember the pit in their stomach everytime someone asked them what they were going to do after college? Maybe it came recently when you had the thought of even sharing or posting something related to BLM. Were you worried about saying the “wrong” thing or not wanting to stir the pot? 

You don’t need a fully fledged game plan – you need a good dose of asking yourself why. Ask yourself why you are doing this? Why are you afraid to stand up for BLM? What’s so scary about doing the right thing?

You will get things wrong, you will make mistakes, apologize and grow and keep going. 

Complacency and the Fear of Judgement 

We let other people’s opinions of what we should be doing keep us from doing what we want or trying new things.  

“If I post about BLM then my racist uncle will comment that all lives matter?” 

“What will my mom think if I delete the entire family on Facebook?” 

“I feel ashamed that I took this long to learn about this issue so I better stay quiet..”

Oh, sweet privilege, read some of your worries out loud and noodle on what it would be like to not have the privilege to make that choice. Understand that you were probably not judged by something (such as the color of your skin or the neighborhood you grew up in) that you had no choice over. 

Stop the Shame Game

Shame is rooted in the self. Refinery29 broke this down here but to summarize shame allows white people to get stuck in their own feelings instead of making meaningful change. Yes, you will feel guilt, you (my white friends) have benefited from white supremacy culture. Deal with your guilt, look inside and confront your guilt and then make the choice to take action. Do NOT unload your guild on any BIPOC in your life! It is not their job to comfort you or reduce your guilt. 

Choices are a privilege – so instead of wallowing in your privilege shame use it to make important choices. Demand that other people listen to you. Give vocally and loudly to important causes. Ask for the change that you want in any and every room you walk into. If you want to live in a diverse society where everyone is treated equally, you, my privileged friend, have to demand it. 

Perfection is Impossible 

You WILL NEVER BE PERFECT. Not as an ally, not as a human and not as a white person. There are appropriate and inappropriate ways to go about things but even if we make a wrong turn it is important to ACKNOWLEDGE IT, APOLOGIZE and LEARN from it. 

You may feel uncomfortable doing this work. Get comfortable in the uncomfortable. Acknowledge that allyship isn’t about you – it’s about the people you are being an ally for. Use your privilege to make space for BIPOC, do not use it to take center stage. 

At the very least, TRY! 

Go out there and try new things, quit what doesn’t serve you and explore. You owe it to Black people and other marginalized communities to fight for them. It’s ok to not know. You don’t have to know how to get there you just have to be willing to try. 

*I am not a therapist or licensed medical professional. This does not replace the advice of a certified medical professional. Always work with a legitimate professional when it comes to your health.