Jim Hurlbut: You were born in Omaha, is that right?

Malcolm X: Yes sir.

Hurlbut: And your family left Omaha when you were what? One year old?

Malcolm X: I imagine about a year old.

Hurlbut: Now, why did they eave Omaha?

Malcolm X: Well, to my understanding… the Ku Klux Klan burned down one of their homes in Omaha.

Hurlbut: This made your family feel very unhappy actually?

Malcolm X: Well insecure if not unhappy.

Hurlbut: So they must have a somewhat prejudiced point of view — a personally prejudiced point of view. In other words, you cannot look at this in a broad, academic sort of way, really, can you?

Malcolm X: I think that’s incorrect, because despite the fact that that happened in Omaha and then when moved to Lansing, Michigan our home was burned down again — in fact, my father was killed by the Ku Klux Klan, and despite all of that, no one was more thoroughly integrated with whites than I. No one has lived more so in the society of whites than I. 

This portion of this famous interview has always fascinated me. Hurlbut is asserting that people of color cannot be objective about racism because they have experienced the violence of racism, which apparently “prejudices” you. Only white people can look at racism in a “broad, academic sort of way” because they are the architects of racism and only experience the benefits of white supremacism. And he’s sitting there saying this on national television as though he’s making sense. Hurlbut is pushing this intellectual depravity at Malcolm X as though he has found a clever way to discredit Malcolm’s perspective. This is what white racism does to white people: it makes them stupid. This is why I’ve often described whiteness as a cognitive trauma, a lifetime of conditioning which inhibits certain neural faculties and results in a certain kind of dissociative disorder. Only people who have dissociated themselves from their own humanity can happily picnic under swinging corpses.

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