If only Malcolm X were alive and on CNN

By Derrick Z. Jackson, Globe Staff, 12/8/2000

ALCOLM X WOULD have been great on CNN. In a 1964 speech at Harvard, he said, ''During recent years at election time, when the governor was running for office, there was a call for a recount of votes here in Massachusetts. In Rhode Island it was the same way - in Minnesota, the same thing. Within American politics there is now such a similarity between the two parties that in elections the race is usually close enough to permit almost any single bloc to swing it one way or the other.''

Substitute president for governor, Florida for Massachusetts, New Mexico for Rhode Island, and Oregon for Minnesota, and you would have a pretty good analyst, if the networks ever broke up the Russert-Schneider-Greenfield-Matalin cabal of know-it-all white ''experts.'' Surely, Malcolm would have a lot more to say than they about the vanishing black ballots in Florida.

It would not be an accident to Malcolm that black precincts in Florida had more error-prone voting machines that allowed little chance for correction while whiter precincts were more likely to have equipment to help voters correct errors instantly. It would not be an accident that less-black precincts had more laptop computers to quickly correct registration errors while blacker precincts without laptops turned away scores of would-be voters whose registrations could not be verified.

It would not be an accident that Bush condemns the search for errors in South Florida while his operatives corrected errors on thousands of GOP absentee ballot applications in Seminole County.

Malcolm once said that the South, the states ''most heavily concentrated with Negroes, are the ones that have senators and congressmen standing up filibustering and doing all other kinds of trickery to keep the Negro from being able to vote.'' He also said, ''A 10-million black voting bloc could be the deciding balance of power in American politics, because the white man's vote is almost always evenly divided. The polls are one place where every black man could fight the black man's cause with dignity, and with the power and the tools that the white man understands, and respects and fears ... Why else is it that racist politicians fight to keep black men from the polls?''

Readers of Malcolm know he would have taken few prisoners. He would have blasted the Justice Department for its slothful look into voting problems in Florida. He would have told African-Americans to get much more back for an overwheming vote in 1992 and 1996 that in effect put this Justice Department in power.

''Any time you throw your weight behind a political party that ... can't keep the promises that it made to you during election time, and you're dumb enough to walk around continuing to identify yourself with that political party, you're not only a chump but you're a traitor to your race,'' Malcolm said. He might have said that uncritical black Democrats ''control you, they contain you, they have kept you on the plantation.''

He would have diced up the US Supreme Court's vacating of the Florida Supreme Court's extension of the recount. ''Look at the pitiful decision that the Supreme Court handed down,'' Malcolm said during desegregation. ''Brother, look at it! Don't you know these men on the Supreme Court are masters of legal - not only of law, but legal phraseology. ... They pretend to give you something while knowing all the time you can't utilize it.''

Still, Bush would be a special bull's-eye for CNN political analyst Malcolm X. He once said, ''If he wasn't good in Texas, he sure can't be good in Washington, D.C. Because Texas is a lynch state.'' Substitute Bush for Lyndon Johnson and the death penalty for a lynch state and Malcolm would be right on time. ''Any time you have a man who can't straighten out Texas, how can he straighten out the country?'' Malcolm said.

Malcolm would say that it is wrong for Bush and sympathetic commentators ''to keep talking democracy while keeping the black man out of sight somewhere, around the corner.'' He would say, ''There's no such thing as the South - it's America. If one room in your house is dirty, you've got a dirty house. Don't say that room is dirty but the rest of my house is clean.''

In saying that our ''so-called democracy has failed the Negro'' in Florida, Malcolm would add, ''You mean to tell me that that highly publicized civil rights bill doesn't even give the federal government enough power to protect black people ... who don't want to do anything but register? Why it's another foul trick.'' If Malcolm X was on CNN, he would declare that Bush cannot claim a fair victory with such foul tricks.

Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is jackson@globe.com.