“We Black men have a hard enough time in our struggle for justice and already have enough enemies as it is to make a drastic mistake of attacking each other adding more weight to an already unbearable load.”
Taelor begins this episode incredulous that this quote could be from Malcolm X. Taelor points out that it seems hypocritical for Malcolm to say this given how quickly Malcolm had been known to call out anyone, including Black men, he disagreed with. Phillip agrees with Taelor that hearing Malcolm say this would be a bit like hearing Paul preach the gospel after he tried to persecute you. However, Phil points out that this quote is from when Malcolm was older (39) and makes sense with who Malcolm X grew to be. Taelor jumps on this and points out that many of us are no longer who we were when we were younger. Taelor talks about the certainty he had as a young man and how his father used to tell him to live a little longer.
This quote not only shows Malcolm’s growth but shows that with that growth came the maturity to realize that Black Americans, in particular Black men striving for justice, needed to work together regardless of what issues they may have with one another. Phillip and Taelor question whether or not that same desire for unity still exists today. Taelor mentions that it seems people are too quick to cancel those they disagree with today. Or to use harsh language, such as Black men calling other Black people a coon, when we feel someone is working to undermine us or our people. Phillip says that these judgments are being made too flippantly, especially about people we do not fully know. And that we should be careful not to slander someone just because they seem to be disagreeing with us in the moment.
To be clear, Malcolm is not saying that people should pretend to like someone just because we do not wish to make them look bad in public. Malcolm is not arguing for dishonesty, but is instead pointing out that it is possible to distance yourself from someone without dishonoring them. There is a way to respect that we are all made in the image of God even when we do not care for the views of one another. But too often we choose to personally attack our opponents. Phillip points out that these personal attacks do no good. In fact, they do the opposite because they marginalize a person to the point that they have no choice but to play the role we have given them. If you call a man a traitor too many times without stopping to consider who the man is, he will inevitably become a traitor.
Malcolm’s focus is on the collective struggle that Black men face in America. He believes it is not worth Black men fighting among each other when the only party who can truly benefit from that is often the white audience. Phillip here discusses his history with Jemar Tisby, who Phillip co-founded the Reformed African American Network (now The Witness) with. Phillip discusses how he and Jemar were extremely close while they were working together but as Phil and his family moved away, both physically and philosophically, that closeness also went away. Yet still people would ask Phillip what he thought of Jemar as Jemar became more vocal about not feeling comfortable worshipping with white Christians. At times these questions were meant to pit Jemar and Phillip against each other allowing Phillip to declare himself as safe by cutting down Jemar, who Phillip had not talked to in years and no idea of the context surrounding why Jemar was making his own choices.
Phil shared this story to help show the point that if you don’t have a relationship with someone there is no need to speak about why they say or do certain things. And even if you do have a relationship with someone there can be times when it is inappropriate for you to speak on their frame of mind because it is not your place. Or you may not have all the facts. Taelor mentions here that even Jesus, when he was trying to be trapped by the teachers of the law, would often reset the terms to answer the right question. Because some questions are bad questions due to the intent behind their being asked. Taelor and Phillip end this season by pointing out that our job should always be to add the conversation not to create a new one by slandering a brother or sister.
- Even with the framing that Taelor and Phillip offer, do you think this Malcolm X quote is hypocritical?
- Can you think of an issue or stance that, after some reflection and growth, you have changed your mind on?
- Do you agree that when we choose to marginalize or cancel someone over a view we do not like, we leave them without a chance for redemption?
- How can we, like Christ, work to reset the terms when faced with questions that try to pit us against brothers or sisters who do not see eye to eye with us?
Phillip Holmes: Welcome to Make it Plain, a show where two Christians offer reflections on the words and life of Malcolm X. I’m Phillip Holmes.
Taelor Gray: And I’m Taelor Gray. We are your hosts.
Holmes: Hey, you can open up your cup of coffee. It’s okay, man. A little ambiance. Background noise. While Taelor’s pouring his coffee, y’all know—a little housekeeping to do. Visit makeitplain.co and download the Make it Plain Season One Discussion Guide. This is a great way for you to facilitate conversations locally about Make it Plain and about Malcolm X and some of the truths that we are learning, or diving into, as a result of our study of the life and legacy of Malcolm X.
If you have listened to season one, or you’ve—now at this point—listened to all of season two (except for this last episode) make sure you hop on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts that have a rating system and rate us. Remember, we’re trying to get three hundred total ratings on Apple Podcasts. So, I’m actually hoping that by the time you hear this, we have surpassed three hundred.
Holmes: But if we have not, and if you love this show…
Holmes: …if you truly love this show—you know, Jesus says, “If you love me, you’ll keep my commandments.”
Gray: Oh, there’s that guilt (laughs).
Holmes: No, man. If you love this show, you’ll take two seconds to go to your podcast provider and press a button. That’s all you need to do. Then walk away. You don’t need to leave a comment. You don’t need to do anything else. You don’t need to send us no money.
Holmes: We’re ain’t asking you for no tithe.
Holmes: We ain’t asking you for no faith gift. We’re asking you to do a few clicks on your iPhone and go about your day. That’s all you need to do.
Holmes: And if we are passed three hundred right now, still do it and show us some love.
Holmes: Maybe we need a new goal of five hundred. Perhaps I aimed too low.
Holmes: I’m still talking. If you fast-forwarded this because you thought I was done talking about this, I’m still talking about this. Because it is the last episode—
Holmes: —of season two.
Gray: Yes. Yes.
Holmes: You made it.
Gray: Shout-out to you.
Holmes: We made it.
Holmes: Thank you for sticking with us.
Holmes: We appreciate that.
Gray: Shout-out to you. Yes. For real. Thank you all for supporting. Thank you for listening. If you’re new to the journey, I hope that this season has been an opportunity to expand your understanding and your view on the life and work of Malcolm X. Man, I had a lot of fun, man. So…Let’s get to—
Gray: —yeah. Yeah. Let’s get into it. Let’s end this season—
Holmes: You don’t have no summaries about the season—reflections on the season—before we dive into the last quote?
Gray: I’ll get to that at the end. I want to get intense first, and then I’ll get reflective and we’ll end with love.
Holmes: This is going to be a long episode.
Gray: Let me—
Holmes: Put on your seatbelts (laughs).
Gray: Yeah. Put your seatbelts on. We’re going there. So, listen—
Holmes: Break this up. Break this up. Just plan to come back and listen. You can finish the episode later if you’re on a short commute or something like that.
Holmes: We might be here a long time. Maybe we might be concise. We’ll see what happens. I don’t know.
Gray: I think we’ll have some fun. So—
Holmes: That’s the beauty of this.
Go ahead, Taelor.
Gray: Let’s get to—and I feel really—
Holmes: One more thing, Taelor.
No, I’m just kidding.
Gray: All right.
Holmes: And another thing. All right. I’m done.
Gray: Brother Malcolm kicks us off this way—and I think we’re going to have a good discussion about this:
“We Black men have a hard enough time in our own struggle for justice—and already have enough enemies as it is—to make a drastic mistake of attacking each other and adding more weight to an already unbearable load.”
Now, I told you this off-mic. This quote threw me back to say, okay, wait a minute—did Malcolm say this?
Gray: I had to take a moment and consider, like, wait a minute. I think we both have now read and reacquainted ourselves with the life and work of Malcolm X enough to at least feel like we know something about the brother.
Gray: And whatever I thought I knew, I guess I was not ready for him saying this. Now, I’ll let you make this point, but I’ll say—on some level—it feels hypocritical for him to be saying this. Because we know he wasn’t scared to publicly call out—I won’t even use the polite word “critique.” He would flat-out, ad hominem, attack brothers openly on the—Black brothers. Leaders in their various, respective areas of the community. And do exactly what he’s cautioning us not to do in this quote.
Gray: So, this was a little hard to internalize and digest from Malcolm. I’m just being honest out of the gate.
Holmes: Yeah. I think what really hit it home is when you said that it’s hard to hear this from Malcolm the same way it would be hard hearing the gospel from Paul when you knew how he used to roll back in the day.
Holmes: Now—who maybe even hurt you at some point—is now preaching the gospel. That’s hard, right?
Holmes: This is one of the beautiful parts of intentionally learning about who Malcolm really was as a whole. Because I went through some of this process early on as I was discovering Malcolm—the true Malcolm—for the first time. You’ve read his biography multiple times. Really all about the evolution of Malcolm.
But because it was so new to me, and because I’d believed lies about him for so long, this makes sense with the Malcolm that I discovered for the first time probably about two or three years ago.
I think that this is a beautiful quote. You even said this, right? If you put these two quotes by somebody—you were like, I could see King saying this, but—
Holmes: Right? If you put it in the classroom with people, and you say, who said it? Malcolm or Martin?
Holmes: —would vote—unless you had those people who really knew what was up—
Holmes: I think this is a really good quote. Let’s dive into it, man. Because it has implications. People feel like Malcolm got softer. Malcolm grew. Right?
Holmes: He was thirty-nine years old when he was assassinated in 1964.
Holmes: And he said this in 1964. So, he was still fairly young, but he had gone through some things. And now he is ready to mobilize.
Holmes: And he is away from the Nation of Islam. And he sees that he’s not going to be able to accomplish this alone. And this is what makes Malcolm so dangerous. So, even now, you would think that after he leaves the Nation of Islam, people would leave him alone, or he wouldn’t be on their radar. No. They weren’t worried about the Nation of Islam. They were worried about Malcolm.
Holmes: The Nation of Islam wasn’t a threat.
Holmes: Right? Malcolm was the threat. Because he was actually trying to hold the Nation of Islam accountable for what they had believed. And when he saw the hypocrisy within the Nation—and he was forced—it wasn’t that Malcolm just had this change of heart.
Holmes: He would have liked to rebuild and reform the Nation of Islam.
Holmes: And he probably would have even forgiven and submitted to Elijah Muhammed. But when people see—and again, this is what white supremacy looks like—it’s not what white people look like—this is what white supremacy looks like: even though Malcolm was able, and probably would have been willing to forgive Elijah Muhammed, the shame that Elijah Muhammed felt now that he was exposed? He would always see Malcolm as a threat.
Gray: Hmm. Yeah.
Holmes: Think about Saul and David.
Holmes: This always happens.
Holmes: Now—oh, you see me. And the reason why is because there was no repentance.
Holmes: He wasn’t about to change.
Holmes: He wasn’t about to acknowledge what he did. So, again—white supremacy can affect us all, right?
Holmes: White supremacy is just a new form—or a phrase—for a sin that’s existed since the beginning of time.
Holmes: Oftentimes, oppressors hate their victims—unrepentant oppressors—hate their victims.
Holmes: Even when the victim hasn’t retaliated. It’s the fear. They know what they deserve.
Holmes: And they feel like, oh, if I give you the gun, you’re gonna blow my head off. If I allow you to have power, you’re a threat.
Malcolm is looking out. He’s ready to do something different. He’s ready to really bring about change in the African-American community. And he says, listen, brothers: we have a hard enough time in our own struggle.
Gray: We gotta come together.
Holmes: We gotta come together.
Gray: And, again. You’ve made the right point in saying that a person can evolve in their perspective—and even gain perspective—as they age. As they get older. Because I’m thirty-seven now, and I think that’s what’s personally impactful for me to do a podcast like this—is to look at a brother who is around the same age as I am. And to see—wow—this is what he has accomplished, and this is how he has progressed in his own perspective.
And we’ve talked about it before—the whole cancel culture generation—the way that manifests is people start looking for old social media posts and tweets—like, something you said when you were nineteen years old—and they’ll use that as the definition of your character today. Now, I don’t—I think if we generally acknowledge that the version of ourselves at nineteen is vastly different from the decade following, or the two decades following… And, again, looking at this—wow. Look at the progression. He went from calling people “Uncle Tom”—calling Dr. King an Uncle Tom—and all these different people, to say—to your point—in order to mobilize, we need to work together.
Now, I look at something like this and I look for the same sentiment in who could be the voices and the leaders of our day today. Is there a sense of zeal behind this version of unity, or this collective desire to work toward a solution? Or are we still kind of standing in our different pulpits and our different platforms arguing with each other across the fence to say, I make myself look better by telling everybody how wrong you are.
And do we have the capacity for something like this? Particularly in the Black community? And he makes the distinction—he says “Black men.” That hit me, too—is to say “Black men.” There is a certain way that we argue with one another, or we disagree with one another—the way we position ourselves against one another—that in the way he addresses it…it almost seems to take precedence over the struggle that we collectively have. Or we’re striving for our own significance, versus actually sitting down and saying, man. What if we put down this argument for the sake of collective resolve to get to a better place?
And I love the sentiment, man, but I feel like we still see some of that posturing. I’ll say it like this: there is language that—maybe it’s just meme culture or whatever, but—there is language that seems to provoke this quick-trigger response to a Black person or Black man, that you disagree with to just immediately call him a coon. Like, just coon. That’s it.
Gray: Like, you’re out here cooning. And it’s over. Because that’s language for saying, it’s over for you.
Gray: It’s over for your credibility. It’s over for your contributions. You’re done.
Holmes: And I’ll be honest with you. I don’t go around making it a habit to call anybody a coon—or whatever—flippantly. Or even publicly. I have my own private thoughts about a lot of things. But to voice them publicly has a whole other set of implications.
Holmes: But when it comes to the word itself, and what it means, and the implications of it, I do believe that these particular people do exist. But before we cast—my problem is that we flippantly—
Holmes: —make that judgment.
Gray: Yeah. Yeah.
Holmes: Right? We flippantly attach that to people who have different viewpoints.
Holmes: And it may be one minor thing, or one action that they took—which could have been a misstep—
Holmes: —but not necessarily reflective of their worldview. So, I think the biggest problem is that we probably don’t want to go around using that word flippantly about people that we don’t know. We should be extremely slow to come to that conclusion. Because that’s the worldly version of basically calling somebody an apostate.
Gray: Mmhmm. Mmhmm.
Holmes: Right? Calling somebody a coon doesn’t have spiritual implications, but it does have significant worldly implications—
Holmes: —on that person’s reputation. And you gotta make sure you’re not slandering that person.
Gray: Yeah. And you know the dynamic in the Black community, man. We can cut somebody off—it’s like, in one vein we’re one of the—as a community, we’re a forgiving community. Forgiving culture. We’re always looking for a redemption story.
Holmes: But there are—
Gray: I’m thinking of somebody like Kanye West.
Holmes: Oh yeah. One hundred percent. Yeah.
Gray: You know. He not too long ago had on a “Make America Great Again” hat and was the pariah of the Black community. And, you know, I miss the old Kanye and all of this different stuff. But fast-forward to now. He’s being endeared again.
Holmes: And part of it—they’re not necessarily confident that his views have changed. They’re just glad that he ain’t talking about that and he’s making music. Because the dude is a beast.
Gray: That’s it.
Holmes: I mean, he’s extremely gifted, so they’re more excited about the fact that he is making music again and not talking about politics. Because that’s the Kanye that they want. Not talking about whom he wants to run for president.
Gray: But the way that we handle that is what we’re talking—like, if we see a person who’s ideologically on the other side of the fence, there is a version of responding to that that sounds like it’s flat-out condemnation.
Gray: You know. And even if you do—at the core of who you are—disagree and say, I hate that perspective—
Gray: I hate what this person is putting out there—the spirit of what Malcolm, I think, is saying is not to be dishonest about that.
Gray: And say, oh no, just because you’re Black, it don’t matter—you’re still in the fold. But there may be a way to identify a distinction—or distance yourself from that perspective—that still brings dignity to the person and works towards the common goal.
Holmes: Yeah. Because the reality is that the public attacks have done no good. They haven’t done anything. They’re not productive.
Holmes: They’re not helping anybody. And to even hold that view of somebody as a stranger—you don’t know how they’ve evolved…
Holmes: …over time. Right? Again, King is somebody that Malcolm once called an Uncle Tom. And even posed—and I’m thinking about the interview—I can’t help it (inaudible). The interviewer asked Malcolm, Now is it true that in the past you’ve called Dr. Martin Luther King an Uncle Tom?
Gray: Straight up asked him.
Holmes: And he was like, well, I would not call anyone an Uncle Tom.
Holmes: There’s a law that has just been passed that basically says someone can sue you for libel if you call them an Uncle Tom. But, you know, I love Uncle Martin.
Gray: Yeah. Savvy.
Holmes: He’s my brother. You know?
Even with him calling him “Uncle Martin,” I’m like—is he being petty? Is he being petty?
Gray: Bro. Bro.
Holmes: But this is post-him leaving the Nation of Islam. Because he talks about that process in the same interview.
Gray: Yeah. That was Detroit Red coming out.
Holmes: And he said that with a smirk, too, and I was just like—I’m just looking at him like…
Gray: Come on, bro.
Gray: Come on, dawg.
And we know how this goes.
Holmes: But it hasn’t done anything good, man. Because what happens is even—let’s say that the first accusation of cooning was accurate, right?
Holmes: Now all of the sudden, people just see that as a weapon to be used against anybody who disagrees with them.
Holmes: And now all of the sudden, you go mislabeling people—and to be honest, mislabeling somebody and calling them a coon—you will essentially leave them nowhere to go but to the other side.
Gray: Right. Right.
Holmes: Right? Because you basically have marginalized them to the point where all they can do is leave.
Gray: Yeah. Yeah.
Holmes: Because they have no voice anymore. They’re not heard by your people, so I may as well—you know—gotta eat (laughs).
Holmes: You know—and people end up doing that.
Holmes: Especially if they lacked integrity. Because sometimes people allow themselves to believe lies because it’s convenient. And it’s comfortable.
Gray: Well, and to the spirit of the quote, too, is also to say, hey. It’s hard enough being a Black man in this country—to navigate the circumstances of white supremacy—and then on top of that, you gotta take friendly fire? It’s a multiplication of the trauma of trying to establish yourself as a human being in this country, let alone do the work.
Holmes: Or another way to put it: we’re already lonely.
Holmes: Right? Don’t marginalize other brothers unnecessarily. We should be trying to win each other.
Holmes: Right? And persuade each other. So, publicly calling somebody a coon is essentially just another version of the cancel culture.
Gray: It’s not new. It just manifests differently now. But, again, as Black people, there’s a collective experience. And I think he’s saying, there’s a greater good to pursue—or there’s at least a common experience to consider in light of how this affects us.
Gray: Now, to your earlier point, I do think that there are voices in the Black community—particularly of Black men—that are concerning. It’s just like, yo—Nah. We don’t need you speaking for us, or speaking to us as a representation of what we’re trying to accomplish. Or even how we should mobilize.
Gray: You know, so, you can say that without saying the worst things. Maybe that’s the way—that’s the takeaway. I can say that to a person who’s clearly—probably—their motive is to establish division. Is to say, no. I want to create this dynamic that Black men particularly are always put into. Where it’s—you know—who wins in the Mandingo competition? You know—Black men pitted against one another. I remember years ago it felt like there was an attempt at this—I don’t know if you remember the Elephant Room? You remember that?
Holmes: Yeah, man.
Holmes: Absolutely, I do. How can you forget?
Gray: There was an attempt. There was an attempt at this—where Bishop Jakes was clearly invited to that, but then there were some other leaders who were invited who did not go because they were going to be pitted against Bishop Jakes as, like, all right. This is our answer to him. And ultimately it would not have served a greater purpose for that display to exist for the entertainment of the audience.
Gray: Because essentially that’s what it was. It was a colosseum. It was like, all right. Let’s fight to the death. But the story that doesn’t get told is that both of these people are going to be maimed. They’re going to limp out of there. There’s going to be blood. And who’s really a winner in that kind of a competition?
Gray: And ultimately—
Holmes: I mean, it was all bad.
Gray: It’s all bad.
Holmes: It was all bad.
Gray: It doesn’t produce a win for us—to your point further marginalize—
Holmes: That’s because the conversation wasn’t happening on our terms.
Gray: Yes. That’s it.
Holmes: Right? Now, Jude 3 is a completely different answer.
Holmes: Because who’s the audience?` The audience is Black people.
Gray: It’s an internal discussion. It’s a family discussion.
Holmes: The Elephant Room was not like people who listen to T.D. Jakes.
Gray: Nah, dawg.
Holmes: They didn’t know about the prosperity gospel. And we already know what that audience thinks about the prosperity gospel. So, why have him on as if he’s a recognized or legitimate voice? It was a publicity stunt—one hundred percent.
Gray: Absolutely. And it happens constantly.
Gray: You know, like I was—I’ve been a part of those kinds of environments where you’re sitting on a panel with another Black voice who thinks differently than you do. Or you’re invited to speak at a conference where you’re presenting the opposing view to another Black person. Not just to another person who thinks ideologically, but this Black person thinks this way, and you think this opposite way, so which Black person’s right?
Gray: You know? And that—I think—again—Malcolm’s like, listen. We have a collective struggle. And at this stage in my life, I’ve seen how this plays out. I’ve seen the agenda—the broader agenda of white supremacist America, and the media, and politics—and I’m telling you right now, it’s not worth it. It’s not worth trying to use that energy and expend this energy to disparage another person in order for us to be seen in a certain light. But we need to actually think more critically about the overall effect of this.
Gray: And to your point—who is the one driving the conversation? Who dictates the terms of what is actually concluded?
Holmes: Yeah. Yeah.
Gray: You know. So, I love—
Holmes: I mean, this is gonna get a little personal for a second. Didn’t plan on going here, but something that you just said I think makes this relevant. You know, Jemar and I…
Holmes: Right? We have a long history—maybe a short-lived history—depends on the way that you want to put it—with the Reformed African-American Network. And I helped co-found the network with Jemar. And for those of you who don’t know—because you might not even recognize the name at this point—that’s what “The Witness” was called originally.
Gray: Mmhmm. Pass the Mic.
Holmes: And Pass the Mic. Right? Pass the Mic was the first podcast I ever hosted. I was the co-host alongside Jemar. And I think I was—what—twenty…
Gray: Man, like 2012? 2013?
Holmes: Yeah. It was 2012, 2013, but I was talking about my age.
Gray: Oh yeah.
Holmes: I think I was…I mean, I’m thirty-four now, and that was ten years ago. Yeah. So, I was twenty-four, man.
Holmes: Yeah. A lot of people don’t—Because I’m taller, I think…I got into this early. So, you can imagine that—
Holmes: Getting into that… and I think Jemar was thirty-two? Thirty… So, Jemar is about eight years older than me.
Holmes: So I want to say he was about thirty-two or something like that. I think he’s forty now. So, maybe six years older.
Gray: Man, you’re just telling people how old that brother is.
Holmes: My bad.
Holmes: I mean—he’s a guy. So, men don’t usually care about people knowing their age.
Holmes: But anyway, my point is…so, we did that. I ended up leaving in 2014. Maybe it was 2015, actually. And it was after I got married. There had been some internal conflict or differences as a result of just kind of philosophically where we thought RAAN should go.
Holmes: And because…when Jemar and I were in Jackson together, we were thick as thieves.
Holmes: We did so much together. But, now that I’m in Houston having tough conversations isn’t as easy as it once was.
Holmes: And I’m also dealing with some new revelations and some sort of…here’s the other side of the coin, right? When you’re in that echo chamber—and I would say, to some extent, I kind of was—because I went to a multi-ethnic church, so all these things and a lot of these issues were on our radar. And maybe…and it was a safe place for various different opinions about racism, right?
Gray: Hmm. Yeah.
Holmes: Where I wasn’t… But the ones that were talked about the most—or the people who spoke up the most—were probably more like, racism is a problem. Racism is something that we need to address with—diversity, multi-ethinicty, all of this. In the Black community, right? Everybody’s gonna be super sensitive about how you talk about the Black community.
Holmes: So, now all of the sudden I’m transitioning and being exposed to people like John McWhorter. Right? He’s making some intriguing points. And this is one of the dangers of doing what I was doing at such a young age.
Holmes: You get new information, and then you just start talking about it, right?
Holmes: And this is the beginning of the social media age.
Holmes: So, now I’m wrestling and I’m starting to process some of these things out loud, and I’m bringing these things to, like…yo. We gotta talk about this. We gotta talk about that. And why are we talking about race so much?
Holmes: Part of this is because—and I don’t even know if this is an accurate representation of what even Jemar was pushing for—but it felt like to me (and this is just me and my observation because I didn’t have this conversation with Jemar, which is also part of the problem) I felt like there was an emphasis on race. And our tagline at the time, at least, was addressing the core concerns of African Americans.
Now, fast-forward this—and kind of get to my point as it relates to this. I ended up leaving in 2015. It was cordial, and I even came back for a few episodes of Pass the Mic after that. But, like, we didn’t really talk about why I was leaving.
Holmes: And I don’t think that I really had the words at the time to describe—or even put for the energy—to have that conversation. Again, because it was easier to just not. I don’t have a problem with confrontation, but when you’re in a different state, some conversations are just better to have in person.
Holmes: And we weren’t seeing each other that much. So, fast-forward—I’m in Houston. I’m working for my father-in-law. And then I transition to Minneapolis and I’m working up there. And then I also am introduced to libertarianism. So, I’m working through that ideology, right? And it was while I was in Minneapolis where I was like, I’m tired.
Holmes: Like, I gotta…I’m tired. Because I’m writing an article per week, right? So, I think over the year that I was there, I wrote forty-eight articles. To the point where I was like—
Holmes: I mean, probably by the thirtieth article I was like, I don’t feel like I have anything else to say. And it was Jasmine and my first year—first year and a half—of marriage. So, we were struggling as well. Minneapolis was probably one of the darkest seasons of my life.
Holmes: And I was away from many of the people in Jackson who had known me for a long time that I could confide in, that I could go to. And, you know, you try to build those relationships up there, but they’re a lot harder. They take time. And you don’t really have—ain’t a lot of Black people. I think the joke goes…
Holmes: …the only Black person in Minneapolis was Prince.
Holmes: Now—I think that was a Chris Rock joke, right? Now it’s not as funny because of all the Black people that keep getting killed by the cops. But that was a sentiment even at the time. I was actually in Minneapolis still when Prince passed away. So now, I get back—and this brings me the long way to this point. Trump is getting ready to be elected, right? Yeah. So, 2016 is when we’re on our way back. Trump is being elected. Jemar makes the statement about Trump, and not feeling safe anymore around—I don’t know. I don’t want to quote him, because I don’t have the exact quote. But he didn’t feel as safe worshiping with white people.
Holmes: Correct me if I’m wrong.
Gray: I remember that. I remember that article.
Holmes: Or something to that effect.
Holmes: And so, we’re there, and people who knew that I used to be—and this had happened over the years, but now it was happening more often than not. Now, when I transitioned back, I was in financial planning for a year and all that. But when I got to RTS, people were always asking me—people inside of RTS and outside of RTS—regardless—just in this PCA world—what do you think about Jemar? What happened with Jemar? And this brings me to my point about this. So, Malcolm has this quote where he says, “I’ll say nothing against him.” And he’s talking about Martin Luther King.
Holmes: And I began—and you talked about how, with the Elephant Room, we mentioned that they were setting the terms, right?
Holmes: It was on their terms.
Holmes: So, individuals would begin to ask me questions about Jemar, and being naive, I would say, yeah, we have our differences. And I was even confused by the statement that he made—not knowing at all what he had gone through personally—
Gray: Right. Right.
Holmes: —leading up to that.
Gray: Yeah. Yeah. Hmm.
Holmes: And not really even having a whole lot of context for the implications of Trump, right?
Holmes: Because in 2020, if Jemar saw what we think we’re seeing now…I mean, January 6th, bro.
Holmes: You kinda gotta look back and say, like, yeah. That was a triggering comment, but…maybe Jemar was right.
Gray: It was prophetic, bro.
Holmes: It was prophetic. About Trump.
Gray: Yes. Yeah.
Holmes: It was one of those things. And it got to a point where I was like, why are you asking me about that?
Gray: Mmhmm. Mmhmm.
Holmes: Like, why do you want to know?
Holmes: Or people would say, Jemar’s associated with RTS. Like, why should the institution—because I’m over communications for RTS—why should the institution have to give an account for one of our graduates?
Gray: Hmm. Hmm.
Holmes: Right? Who no longer works here. Who’s no longer connected to the seminary. Like, why are you…or…that’s not your job to answer that.
Gray: Mmhmm. Mmhmm.
Holmes: Because you don’t know the details. You don’t know everything that happened. So they’re asking you—they’re essentially asking you to cast judgment. How does RTS feel about… Even me. You ask the communications guy, how does RTS feel about this person or that person?
Gray: They’re asking a Black man, too, bro.
Gray: What they’re asking is: you are a Black man whom we see favorably, or respect enough, to approach directly. And we want to know what your opinion is in contrast to this other person who we now don’t see favorably. And we want you to reinforce our concerns.
Holmes: One hundred percent.
Gray: That’s what that is.
Holmes: It was a litmus test for: are you safe?
Gray: That’s it. That’s it.
Holmes: And I—and after I—
Gray: And that’s unfair to put you in that position based on the actual history you have with Jemar Tisby.
Gray: That’s just unfair. And again—
Gray: This is historical.
Holmes: And Jemar and I have had our disagreements. Probably not necessarily by what is believed, but strategically and philosophically.
Holmes: How do you approach this particular situation? How do you approach that particular situation? But what I began to realize is that I haven’t talked to this dude in ten years. Because it feels like yesterday. But I ain’t talked to this dude in six years. I have no idea the context for why he made the decisions—
Holmes: That he made.
Holmes: As an outsider—right—now I have more—you know, it’s understandable when somebody, like, asks a member of “The Cosby Show,” like, what are your thoughts on the Bill Cosby situation?
It’s like, I haven’t seen those people in twenty years.
Gray: Right (laughs).
Holmes: Right? And I’m like, I get it now.
Holmes: Because you don’t know.
Holmes: You can work closely with someone for a certain number of years, but at the end of the day, if you’re five years, ten years removed, that person is probably a completely different person right now.
Holmes: So, unless you have a relationship with that person—and even if you do know—sometimes you should—that ain’t my place, bro? Why do you want my opinion?
Gray: But that’s—you hit already—you already hit on it before. It’s like, why do you want…
Holmes: And I have to start checking people. And not giving—because it’s a Pharisaic track, right?
Holmes: Like, what do you believe…should a man work on the Sabbath, or if a man finds a—you know. They asked Jesus all these questions, and instead of letting him define the terms—or set the terms—Jesus was like, you don’t get to set the terms. I’m going to answer the question that you should be asking.
Gray: Or, I’m going to redirect the whole conversation—
Holmes: And ask you a question.
Gray: Yes. Yes. Or I’ll just start bending down and drawing on the ground.
Holmes: Because some questions are just bad questions. There are no bad questions? Yes, there are. Unfortunately.
Gray: Yeah. There’s intent behind.
Gray: That’s what they—that’s what Christ is depicted as having the ability to do, is discern the intent.
Holmes: Yeah. So maybe a good way to say it is “there are no bad questions. But there are questions with bad intentions.”
Gray: One hundred percent.
Gray: And there are bad questions, by the way (laughs).
Holmes: Yeah. But in general, Kids, ask questions. Just know the context in which you’re asking them, and make sure you’re asking the right person those questions.
Gray: That’s it. Know whom you’re asking the question.
Gray: I appreciate you going the personal route, there, man. Because any time you speak publicly at this point and offer commentary, there may be that undertone that you’re positioning yourself on the opposite end of the spectrum as Jemar based on your personal history.
Holmes: I was twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six years old, bro.
Gray: You can evolve. Life changes you. Life expands your perspective and all of that, but—
Holmes: And I think my wife has really helped me with that. Because, you know, she wrote her first book when she was eighteen, nineteen, or something like that. But—and people are always asking her to give account for that—and it’s like, do you believe the stuff that you believed when you were eighteen, nineteen?
Gray: It’s crazy, bro. I ain’t even got no energy for none of that stuff.
Gray: As a matter of fact, I like to lead with, yo—you remember how crazy I was back in those days?
Holmes: Exactly. Exactly.
Gray: You know, I didn’t know what I was talking about. One of the things my dad used to say to me all the time that drove me nuts was, in response to all my zeal about what should be emphasized, and what the gospel is, and what doctrine is—all that different stuff—he used to look back at me and say: live a little longer, son. And just left me standing there.
Gray: And I would be like, no, man. Like, you don’t know, okay? Now I have lived a little longer and I love that response.
Gray: But to your point about y’alls’ relationship: any kind of public platform you sit on—and this podcast that we’re doing, for some people the perception is it’s in response to, or in contrast to what Pass the Mic is and what “The Witness” is—if you don’t like that, then you come to go where Phillip Holmes goes.
Holmes: You might not like this either.
Gray: But that’s the thing.
Gray: You don’t get to decide that.
Holmes: Right. Right. Right.
Gray: It’s not on your terms. And so, at least as far as we’re concerned, this is not about contrast. This is about what complements. This is a part of the whole discussion.
Gray: We complement what they offer. I mean, we both love Tyler Burns and Jemar Tisby.
Gray: Unequivocally. You know? I still feel like I’m cool with both of them. And I feel like they would say the same thing. So, it’s something that gets added to the conversation rather than creates a new one.
Gray: You know?
Holmes: I mean, even after the Leave LOUD episode—by the way, I reached out to Jemar, and we got a chance to talk for the first time. We had a Zoom conversation probably within a week of me reaching out. And it was good, bro. It was good to catch up. We probably could have delved deeper, but after a while, when time has passed and memories got conflated—it did bring some memories back. Kind of the beginning of me making sure that even…you know, because I read the biography of Malcolm X, right? And I’m like, this is as accurate as Malcolm’s memory.
Holmes: And his interpretation of the events, right?
Holmes: This is still from his perspective. An autobiography is going to be biased and is going to paint…if I wrote an autobiography on myself, it’s probably going to paint me in a positive light. I’m not gonna intentionally…you don’t even have to intentionally…
Holmes: You’re just always willing to give yourself the benefit of the doubt.
Gray: Yeah, man.
Holmes: And you’re always wanting to be more gracious, right? If we could treat other people the way that we—
Gray: Treat ourselves.
Holmes: —treat ourselves—
Gray: That sounds like the Bible.
Holmes: Huh. Wow. Huh. Look at that.
Gray: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. I really appreciate you just kind of taking that vein—that personal vein—to address…I don’t know if it’s an elephant in the room, but it just needs to be on record.
Holmes: Most people don’t even know. I got so many…because when that Leave LOUD episode came out, I got so many text messages that people were like, oh, man. I didn’t even— and like, even from people within the RTS system. I had no idea you guys were that connected. So, a lot of people might not necessarily know that connection. A lot of people do—who have been on ever since 2014.
Gray: Well, they mentioned you in the—he mentioned you in the—
Holmes: But that’s why.
Gray: —Leave LOUD.
Holmes: Exactly. That’s why all of the sudden everybody was like, yo, I didn’t even know.
Gray: Yep. Yeah.
Holmes: And you know. Blah, blah, blah. Yeah.
Gray: But that just shows his character and his integrity and ultimately the spirit of what we’re talking about. What Malcolm says is that we’re aligned, we are working together, there’s a greater purpose. There’s contributions that come from all sides, so…
This is our last episode of this season. I think it’s the perfect way to end it. You know, like on a personal level—and actually look at an example that I think other people can view as a vital part of the development of the Black Christian voice in our society, as we continue to try to revisit our identity and our contributions to the gospel witness. And no pun intended—shout-out to “The Witness.” I wrote some articles for them, too.
So, we love you all. We love the different other resources that we’ve mentioned.
Gray: You know, and this is our attempt to offer some contributions to the broader conversation. And, you know, this episode is the culmination of that. I know this season, for some, might have sounded a lot more political. But this is the nature of addressing content from Malcolm X.
Gray: He wasn’t going to skirt along the outside edges of—
Holmes: He was an activist, so—
Gray: Yeah, man. And he died for it.
Holmes: So, if you feel like this was really political, and you didn’t necessarily like it, you know—this may not necessarily be the podcast for you. Because it’s Malcolm. He’s not moving. He’s not shying away.
Gray: He died for this.
Holmes: We’re going to have to talk about these things.
Holmes: But we’re going to try to bring what the Scriptures have to say about these things. Right?
Holmes: And Malcolm is the starting talking point for us to dive deeper into these things. So, I think it’s lovely. I think it’s good. This is one of the reasons why I felt that you could do a whole podcast—
Gray: One hundred percent.
Holmes: —on Malcolm X quotes.
Holmes: Because there’s so much gold here that we haven’t even begun to mind.
Gray: Oh yeah. This is just the beginning. We’re just getting started. So…man, it’s been a pleasure, dawg. I love that we were able to come together and do this again.
Holmes: As long as you guys keep listening, and as long as you guys keep telling us that this is helpful and this is beneficial, we’re going to keep coming back, and we’ll give you a year to chew on it and then we’ll come back next year and do another ep.
Gray: Listen, y’all—
Holmes: And we might get inspired and do some bonus episodes throughout the year.
Gray: Fam, listen. There are different ways to explore this content, so just keep a lookout. Just stay in tune with the journey, and we’ll continue to do our best to be thoughtful and honest, and at the same time, devoted to Christ and his gospel.
Gray: All right. You gonna do the altar call and give us the…
Holmes: Oh, man, no. It’s the commercial. The benediction…
Gray: Altar call.
Holmes: I’m going to make you do it next season. Every single episode of next season, you’re doing it.
Holmes: Thanks for tuning in to Make it Plain. For more resources related to Malcolm X, please visit our website, makeitplain.co, where you can subscribe to the show at Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon, RadioPublic, Google, or via the RSS feed—if you like to get your podcasts that way—and never miss a show.
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While you’re on our website, remember we’ve got a bunch of resources on there. The Make it Plain Season One Discussion Guide. Season Two Discussion Guide, if it’s not already out, is coming soon. And so many other resources. Just check out that—that’s the place where we’re going to be constantly keeping you up to date, adding new resources, transcribing stuff…that’s going to become a resource for you if you want to keep having this conversation throughout the year.
Join us next year.
Holmes: Or join us for the next bonus episode.
Gray: Next time. Yes.
Holmes: Whenever we do another bonus episode, make sure you tune in for that one. And we will see you then.