Martin/Incognito: An Open Letter to Jason Whitlock

Jonathan Martin walked into a twisted world led by Incognito

Mr. Whitlock, I read the above piece on the Martin/Incognito situation and you had me until this moment:

…what makes me want to check into a mental hospital is Miami’s black players’ unconditional love of Incognito and indifference to Martin.

It points to our fundamental lack of knowledge of our own history in this country. We think the fake tough guy, the ex-con turned rhetoric spewer was more courageous than the educated pacifist who won our liberation standing in the streets, absorbing repeated ass-whippings, jail and a white assassin’s bullet. We fell for the okeydoke.

We think Malcolm X was blacker than Martin Luther King Jr.

I’m as guilty as anybody. I’ve read X’s autobiography a half-dozen times. I own Spike Lee’s movie about X and watch it a couple of times a year. I love Malcolm X. But I’m not an idiot. MLK liberated me. MLK blazed the proper path to respect, progress and achievement. Barack Obama stands on MLK’s shoulders. And so does Jonathan Martin.

— Jason Whitlock

I could be mistaken, but it appears you’re equating Richie Incognito to Malcolm X. Whereas I think you are 100% on point that the Black community tends to glorify brute force over brains, Malcolm X is not in the former category. The above statement is problematic for several reasons. Malcolm X was a highly intelligent individual. He just thought we shouldn’t take shit from White people and call it Shinola. He told Blacks that they had a right to defend themselves against the violence perpetrated upon them by White America for hundreds of years; the same right the Constitution grants all American citizens. And to say that Martin Luther King alone liberated you is a slap in the face to Malcolm X’s work in the struggle.

Don’t be fooled, be it not for the fear Malcolm ignited inside the White Supremacist establishment, they wouldn’t have been nearly as willing to sit down at the table with King. Yes, Malcolm didn’t believe in getting involved in politics pre his sojourn to Mecca because of what he was taught by Elijah Muhammad, but that doesn’t mean he lacked political impact. To the contrary, Malcolm was the fire of the Black community.

Many will say turn away—away from this man, for he is not a man but a demon, a monster, a subverter and an enemy of the black man—and we will smile.

They will say that he is of hate—a fanatic, a racist—who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle!

And we will answer and say unto them: Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch, or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did you would know him. And if you knew him you would know why we must honor him: Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood! This was his meaning to his people. And in honoring him we honor the best in ourselves.

— Ossie Davis

Since you watch Spike Lee’s X a couple times a year, you should be familiar with Mr. Davis’ speech. I implore you to listen a bit more closely next time.

I don’t know you, but from your words, it seems as if your perception of these men and their narratives have been whitewashed by the anti-Black lens. Malcolm did not believe in violence. If he did, he might have lived longer than he did. He had many soldiers by his side, even the thug community of Harlem, including mob boss, Bumpy Johnson, offered him protection.

He refused to be kept alive if that meant more Blacks killing other Blacks, not the sign of a violent man or a “fake tough guy,” as you said. Malcolm was courageous enough to speak on the issues that plagued Black America, knowing he could die for it; something that Barack Obama doesn’t have the balls to do.

I also refute the notion that we post-MLK Blacks are liberated. The above video from the early ’80s speaks to that. The recent deaths of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride and many others speak to that. And I’m not so sure about this idea that Obama stands on MLK’s shoulders. Obama is a part of the system; MLK was fighting against the system. If anything, Obama’s candidacy serves as a great example of how so not liberated we are. Remember, they just struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

I’m pretty sure MLK would have had much harsher words for America than Obama did during his address in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict. And knowing how much of a pacifist MLK was, he would have strong criticisms about Obama’s droning of innocent people abroad. I suggest you read King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail, if you haven’t. King was very explicit about his feelings towards the Moderate politics of which Obama subscribes.

And as far as the “white assassins’ bullet” that killed MLK, don’t think for a second that Black people weren’t complicit in the crime. They usually are. This video below of Dick Gregory and Steve Cokely breaks it down.

Yes, Malcolm X spent some time being incarcerated, but his legacy is not that of an incarcerated mindset. And your statements undermine the point of your piece. By saying things like Jonathan Martin is the offspring of Harvard grads or that he was smart enough to be accepted by that institution himself, you are glorifying the White Supremacist constructs you’re railing against—not that there’s anything wrong with being a Harvard graduate.

And I’d like to say this to anyone reading: No one is an honorary Black. Just because you have Black friends and been accepted by them, you drink Kool-Aid and can quote episodes of Sanford and Son, or you can pop or twerk doesn’t make you Black. Bruce Springsteen doesn’t get a pass, neither does Robbing Thicke, Gwyneth Palthrow or Miley Cyrus. And no Black person has the authority to give you a card. You don’t get to be conveniently Black when it’s time to party and go back to non-Black status when it’s time to have Stop and Frisk or Stand Your Ground evoked on you.

Richie Incognito is no Negro; he’s a bigot. And let’s be clear, racism is not the domain of any individual. It is a social construct that requires a group of people to buy-in to be effective. It’s not so much about if he’s a racist because he called Martin a “Nigger” as it is the culture around him that made him feel comfortable hurling the epithet in the first place.

So, this twisted world you speak of, Mr. Whitlock, was not created by Incognito, but centuries ago by the White Power Structure. This is not about rookie hazing or prison behavior, this is about everyday life in America. Blacks are not yet liberated or respected, far from it. And, if anything, things are worse today than when Malcolm and Martin were here.


— Nicholas Payton aka The Savior of Archaic Pop

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