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Malcolm & Politics

Episode Summary

“We won’t organize any black man to be a Democrat or a Republican because both of them have sold us out. Both parties are racist, and the Democrat Party is more racist than the Republican.”

Welcome back to season 2 of Make It Plain! 

In this new season, Taelor and Phillip waste no time getting straight to the hard-hitting points of Malcolm X’s life and thoughts, starting with the quote above and Malcolm X’s feelings on politics in America. 

Taelor begins by saying he agrees with Malcolm X’s point about politics. But spends some time unpacking what could be read as Malcolm X arguing it is better to check out of politics. Taelor points out that Malcolm X is not one to accept what is considered normal. He was always bold enough to challenge the status quo while demanding better. Malcolm X should not be understood to be arguing for checking out of the political process here. Still, instead, he is arguing that people engage with the process honestly. Taelor agrees an honest assessment of how both Democrats and Republicans treat Black people in America will show that neither party truly cares about them.

Phillip and Taelor point out that Malcolm X is offering keen insight into white culture that comes from his time studying that culture. Being from the North, Malcolm X did not have the same obstacles interacting with white people that Martin Luther King did. Because of his lack of barriers, he could better understand white culture. 

From this unique perspective, Malcolm X argues against both sides of mainstream American politics. Malcolm X argues that Black Americans should not be content to just receive whatever Republicans or Democrats are willing to give them. Arguing from his lived experience, Malcolm X believes Black Americans should be able to set their own agenda. This is far from an argument for political apathy but is instead Malcolm X arguing for greater insight into how politics works in America. 

Phillip and Taelor begin to discuss how they prefer Trump and his Republican party to Biden and the Democratic party because they know where Republicans stand. Jumping off this, Phillip and Taelor discuss how they do not think it is wise to be tied to either party, but especially not a party where your votes are assumed. Phillip points out that there is something wrong when people would rather accept the fake niceness offered by the Democrat party over the raw honesty of the Republican party. 

Christians have the most to gain from Malcolm X’s perspective on politics. Malcolm X is arguing for greater nuance in how we understand what is happening in American politics. Or, as Phillip reminds us, we should engage politics by being as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. We cannot assume that politicians’ friendliness comes from pure motives.

Taelor and Phillip end by encouraging us to engage in politics with nuance. We should not hold allegiance to any one party but instead should consider a candidate based on the job they are tasked with doing. Phillip mentions how Christians in America have allowed themselves to be compromised morally because they have allied wholely with the Republican party based on one issue. This has blinded many to the grievous missteps the Republican party has taken on other issues.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does Malcolm X’s argument for how to engage politics mirror today’s political landscape?
  2. Is Phillip right that there is something wrong when we would rather have fake niceness instead of raw honesty? Why or why not?
  3. What does it look like for Christians to engage in politics while being wise as serpents and innocent as doves?
  4. How does blind allegiance to any one political party compromise our witness?

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’re your hosts.


Holmes: All right, Taelor. So, a few things that I want people to do before we get started: I would love for you guys to visit our new website——and download the Make it Plain Season One Discussion Guide.


Gray: Yes.


Holmes: All right? So, this is going to come with an episode summary—about a thousand words—and four or five discussion questions so you can talk to some friends about the show. If you’re interested in having deeper discussions about Malcolm X, this would be a good supplement in order to go along with that. So, we want to make sure that you guys go over and download that. That’s free. Just go to, and you will be able to find a way to download that guide.


Also, if you have listened to season one, and you came back for season two, you gotta go and rate us on Apple Podcasts. And now, you can also do it on Spotify.


Gray: Yes. Yes.


Holmes: All right?


Gray: Spotify’s in the game now. That’s what’s up.


Holmes: Yeah. So, our goal is three hundred total ratings on Apple Podcasts, and one hundred ratings on Spotify, by the end of the season.


Gray: Which is a fraction of the support—


Holmes: Right.


Gray: —that we have gotten. So, it’s a really easy step, and it actually matters behind the scenes.


Holmes: Makes a huge difference. Makes a huge difference.


Gray: Mmhmm. So, yeah. Actually, this is, I think, a great time to go and re-listen to season one anyway. Just to kind of start to track with the content that we’re eventually going to address. But I love the fact that we’re in this space right now. Because the commentary surrounding Malcolm X seems to be hitting the mainstream media.


Holmes: One hundred percent. Yeah.


Gray: And so…I don’t know, man. It just feels like a good time.


Holmes: And we didn’t plan this, either, man. It just worked out.


Gray: We didn’t plan it, man. So, we’re in a good space.


Holmes: Yo, Taelor, whatcha wearing, bro?


Gray: Oh yeah!


(Holmes laughs)


Gray: Also, we have…we upgraded our merch. So, I am currently sporting…You know, I told everyone in season one just about…the fact that you would see Malcolm as a dignified character…as a person who wore glasses. I love this graphic. This image—this branding—is so dope to me. So, I want you guys to actually check out all of the new merch that we have. We’ve got coffee mugs as well, that we’re going to be sporting through the duration of this episode here.


Holmes: Just don’t ask what’s in my mug.




Holmes: It’s coffee. It’s coffee.


Gray: We never ask what’s in the mug, but the mug has quite a few uses.


But, actually, check out the store. Look at the different new items of merch that we have. Again, this is really quality, comfortable kinds of things. And for me—I’m the guy who’s, like, every season’s hoodie season. So, I’m going to be wearing this everywhere. Want to make sure you go check that out.


Holmes: Yeah, man. So, y’all—let’s dive into the first episode of season two.


Gray: That’s what’s up.


Holmes: Taelor, you ready for this?


Gray: I am absolutely ready for this. Yes.


Holmes: All right, let me read this quote, and then I want you to respond:


“We won’t organize any black man to be a Democrat or a Republican, because both of them have sold us out. Both of them have sold us out. Both parties have sold us out. Both parties are racists, and the Democrat Party is more racist than the Republican Party.”


Gray: Hmm.


Holmes: Whoo-wee! Go ahead, Taelor.


Gray: Listen, man.


Holmes: Preach to us.


Gray: (laughs) He was already preaching it. And that quote is an excerpt from one of his more popular speeches—”The Ballot or the Bullet” speech.


Holmes: Yep.


Gray: And this was a sentiment he was conveying in a church. This is up in Michigan. And it was an ecumenical gathering. So, there were some other speakers there—some other community leaders there—who he addresses at the beginning of the speech as those who don’t necessarily agree with him, and maybe just don’t agree with one another. So, you see in this quote the polarization—


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: —in and of itself. You can probably feel that just from what’s being said. So, we want to start out by saying everybody was angry (laughs).


Holmes: Right.


Gray: You know, this is not an attempt to curry favor from people just out of the gate. And he has numerous touchpoints throughout the speech that would awaken a sentiment like this. So, I’ll just say flat-out, out of the gate, I agree with him. I agree with what he’s saying. I agree with what he is ultimately trying to challenge in the way that we interpret our political system.


And there are many reasons to agree with that, outside of the sensationalization of the content in the words that he’s saying. If you sit down and you look at American history—if you’ve engaged in the political system even recently—you may find yourself struggling to align with either side. And particularly, if you’re a black person, you’re trying to find out where your political identity is. He cut across the field, and addressed it—I think—from a historical perspective. And also, at that moment—as much as it was risky for him to say that—he believed that he was giving black people the information they needed in order to participate honestly in the political process.


So, all-in-all, I agree with what he’s saying.


Holmes: Well…I guess…unpack a little bit of the context of this time. Because this is something that you won’t hear very many mainstream black activists saying.


Gray: Sure.


Holmes: And Malcolm was as mainstream as it got in the 60s apart from King. Right?


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: It was Malcolm or Martin, right?


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: Whose side are you on? Whose philosophy do you follow? And for him to be saying something as polarizing as this—but part of it is because Malcolm didn’t accept the norm, right?


Gray: Mmhmm.


Holmes: He didn’t accept the comfortable—the easy—narrative.


Gray: Right.


Holmes: Every time I talk to people today—especially as a Libertarian, right—they basically…well, you’re just not participating in American politics (laughs).


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: Essentially because if you’re a Libertarian, then that means that, you know, blasé, blasé. You’re not really…and a third party would never work and, you know…all this other stuff.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: But Malcolm was bold enough to actually challenge the structure.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: The institution. The status quo.


Gray: Yes.


Holmes: Right?


Gray: Yes.


Holmes: And I think this is part of the issue that I see in much of public thought: we feel like we gotta choose a side.


Gray: Yeah. And I think in what he’s saying—it’s not about checking out from the political process. It’s about engaging honestly with what we’re actually encountering. You know? The positions that are out there—the way that campaigning works and some of the strategy associated with that—different community blocks that you’re trying to garner support from—all of that is viewable.


But a lot of times what we’re trying to see more clearly is the character of the candidates. The character of the positions that people take—the integrity behind them. And Malcolm was just cutting across the field and saying (laughs) listen. I want you to see these people for who they really are. I want you to see these political platforms for who they are. They don’t care about you. At the end of the day, I don’t want you to feel like this is a decision that aligns with your core interests, or even your identity necessarily. This is who they are. And that’s why I agree with him.


It’s not to say that you can’t engage from a place of trying to accomplish your agenda or some things that may benefit your community but don’t act like they love you and care about you and they want you to come over to their house for dinner, or you are going to go over to their house for dinner.


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: Actually engage with the system and society for what it is.


Holmes: Yeah, I think…and I want to go a little bit deeper because a part of the problem that I see as well… You know, Malcolm had an ability to think clearly.


Gray: Mmhmm. Mmhmm.


Holmes: And to cut through the facades. To cut through the pomp and circumstance of political society and all that. Malcolm didn’t just look at what people were saying. He looked at the motivations behind what they were saying, and he also looked at the outcomes, right?


Gray: Mmhmm.


Holmes: So, Malcolm is not going to keep believing you if you keep lying to him over and over and over and over again.


Gray: Yeah. Yeah.


Holmes: And remember, Malcolm was an extremely educated man. He was informally educated. So, we may even at some point talk about one of his quotes where he talks about my university was basically books.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: Right?


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: This is where I—


Gray: Prison.


Holmes: Yeah. This is where I learned to think. This is where I gained knowledge and understanding about the world. Malcolm also had a certain level of prescience as well.


Gray: Yep.


Holmes: Because Malcolm—you know—he was a criminal before. He went to jail. Malcolm also—and I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I think this can not go unnoticed, or overlooked—Malcolm had a very good grasp of white America.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: Because he had had the opportunity—unlike somebody like King—Malcolm actually had the opportunity to interact with white people way more often. He dated a white girl—and was basically in jail partially as a result of that relationship and some other criminal activity as well. So, Malcolm had spent a lot of time studying the culture of white people—


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: —white America.


Gray: From a different lens.


Holmes: From a different lens.


Gray: Yeah. Yeah.


Holmes: And he also knew what they did in secret. If you read his autobiography, he would talk about how the businessmen would leave home early to go to work—would basically drop by their work, drop their stuff off, and basically go downtown…


Gray: Man.


Holmes: Basically lay with prostitutes, right? And then be back at work by eight AM, nine AM. And wives are just assuming that they’re working from sunup to sundown.


So, there’s this insight that Malcolm had on America. So, I think when you look at these particular quotes, they’re not just coming out of a guy who sees a problem and is just saying I don’t want to participate—to your point, right?


Gray: Right. Yeah. Yeah.


Holmes: So, yeah. You can’t trust them. You can’t trust… This was not apathy at work.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: This was a keen insight that he had into the political process. He had watched the outcomes. He had been hustled enough. And he was, like, you know what? Enough is enough.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: We’re gonna build our own thing. Right?


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: We’re gonna make them start responding and acting on our terms.


Gray: Yes. Yes.


Holmes: Right? Instead of taking whatever it is that they give us. Because Malcolm knew that Democrats and Republicans were giving black people the scraps. But he said, listen. Ultimately whoever we go out for—that’s who wins.


Gray: But that’s…and we’ll talk about that in a later episode, because—


Holmes: Which part? What’s that? What do you mean when you say that?


Gray: We’ll talk about the empowerment of the black vote.


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: And the strategic use of the black vote. But—


Holmes: Mmhmm. Isn’t that what he talks about in this particular speech?


Gray: It’s the same speech.


Holmes: Same speech. Okay. Okay.


Gray: Same speech. Yeah. I mean, there’s just so much in the speech to unpack. But to your point about Malcolm’s lens and his experience—in that world of prostitution, and all of that, where he specifically had gained a name and a reputation and access to certain relationships—he was interacting with clients who were powerful members of society.


Holmes: Right.


Gray: They were politicians, business leaders…all those different people who were living this life in the shadows. So, it’s almost like—to sum up when he talks about it in the book—you see who a person really is under those circumstances. And the vile nature of what gets exposed in those kinds of environments.


So, seeing those people—and bringing that experience to bear in a speech like this—gives him even more credibility.


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: Because he’s not just trying to gossip and tell lewd information from a personal opinion standpoint. He’s trying to say, hey, listen. If you’re going to engage with this person who presents themselves as favorable to you, know who they are.


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: Know exactly who you’re actually dealing with and what they think of you.


Holmes: Yeah.


Gray: And that’s an empowering strategy to political participation. Because then you can’t be bought by sentiment and symbolism, which is what he was just like, no, we don’t need more symbolism. We need real, formative action that can be measured in a way that benefits our community.


And something else about the way this is being presented is, again, like—Malcolm at one point—this is later in his life…


Holmes: Right.


Gray: …at one point, he could have been lumped in with the separatist crowd. The ones who did say, we need to check out from American society.


Holmes: Right.


Gray: This speech was actually a representation of his evolution in perspective, to say, you should participate in the political process.


Holmes: Right. Right.


Gray: He was actually making a case for it. For voting. For getting involved. Which is different.


Holmes: And that’s what made him so dangerous.


Gray: Exactly. Exactly.


Holmes: Right? Right? Because he was actually encouraging people, don’t be apathetic.


Gray: Yes.


Holmes: Don’t check out. Because that’s—


Gray: Yes.


Holmes: —that’s what the powers that be wanted them to do.


Gray: Yes. Yes.


Holmes: Right? Every time the political season comes up, and everybody starts claiming who’s the Christian party—


Gray: Yeah, man.


Holmes: —and all that stuff, I always think about one of the sermons that my former pastor, Pastor Mike Campbell, preached. Working through the book of Joshua during the season, and of course, Joshua—I think it’s chapter five verse thirteen—when Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked. And behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?”


And he said, “No.”




Holmes: He said, “No.”


Gray: “No.”




Gray: I love that.


Holmes: “But I am the commander of the army of the Lord.” Nah.


(Gray laughs)


Holmes: He’s like, whose side are you on?




Gray: That question is too low.


Holmes: Yeah.


Gray: I’m coming from—I have nothing to do with these affairs.


Holmes: Yeah.


Gray: There’s a higher answer.


Holmes: Think about that, though. This is God’s people.


Gray: Yeah. Yeah. The agenda is in a different place. And again, that’s something that I think—he was trying to use to galvanize black people.


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: Is to say, we’re not just limited to a reactionary response to our conditions. We can actually set the agenda. We can set the standard and say, no, we’re not just going to take the scraps—to your earlier point.


Holmes: Yep.


Gray: And Martin, I think, had a little bit…and I don’t want to say…because it’s funny you bring up that Malcolm had dated a white woman. Martin did too. But under different circumstances.


Holmes: Right. Right.


Gray: This was in his college years. Malcolm had not attended any kind of academic institution on the path to becoming a leader and a voice. But these experiences drive your capacity to engage with broader society. And I think Martin was a little bit more skilled in some of the political language, and some of the ways you have to navigate power circles that allow you to be palatable. And Malcolm actually developed his reputation by taking the completely opposite route.


Holmes: Yeah. Malcolm in his autobiography—I think it’s chapter two—he said, at an early age, I learned that basically if you want something, the way that you get it is to make noise. Right? So, this was something that was always a part of his psyche.


Gray: Yes.


Holmes: Right? If you want something, and you want to get it, you need to make some noise. Otherwise, people are going to ignore you.


Gray: Yeah. Yep.


Holmes: And I think that as King evolves—because we always talk about how these two men move closer to each other rather than farther away—King actually got to a point where he realized navigating and believing and hoping that these guys were going to help and do the right thing—it doesn’t really work.


Gray: Right.


Holmes: Right?


Gray: Right.


Holmes: I think he realized that…this is probably where he had a turning point.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: And where he became even more of an enemy of the United States.


Gray: Yes. Yes.


Holmes: Because by the time Kind died, public opinion of him was very low. And in The New York Times and The Washington Post—I mean, King was going out basically—the poor peoples’ campaign—he was going against the Vietnam War.


Gray: Mmhmm.


Holmes: That made King very unpopular.


So, I think that King eventually got here, but I think in his earlier days, he actually tried to navigate—


Gray: Tried to.


Holmes: —the political process. Right? He tried the peaceful…and he never left—he never moved away from—his nonviolent approach. But he also realized that it wasn’t—people didn’t like him because of his nonviolent approach. That’s actually not what made King palatable. King’s optimism is what made him palatable.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: And they took advantage of that. And they created a guy—and I’m sure he reflected oftentimes on Malcolm, right?


Gray: Of course.


Holmes: And they created a guy who was ready to start turning some stuff over, but unfortunately he was assassinated before he could make certain moves.


Gray: Yeah. And it represents the evolution of both of their perspectives to at some point find a common ground and work together if their lives weren’t ended so tragically. But I just appreciate Malcolm’s courage. He was saying this in a church. Can you imagine a local church during our times inviting a voice like Malcolm’s? Whose pulpit would be open for that? For him to openly state, we believe different things. We come from a different religious perspective.


And at this time, Malcolm had tapped into the essence of Islam as a global faith versus the Black Muslim rhetoric and presentation. And yet, at the same time, the emphasis that we have a common goal. We care about the justice and the equity that we can experience as people in our communities.


And I love the fact that in this transition of thought and perspective, Malcolm is able to still speak directly into a moment that is going to be a very important opportunity for the black community to engage the outcomes that will affect future generations for this community.


I think the election at the time—if I’m remembering correctly—was…I think Lyndon B. Johnson was campaigning to become president. I forget exactly who the candidates are.


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: But he’s saying, look at these candidates.


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: They’re going to tell you this is the party line and all this different stuff. But you’ve got to look past that stuff.


Holmes: It was probably John F. Kennedy.


Gray: Okay, maybe it was. We will make sure we know the next time we get on this—


Holmes: No, I think you’re right. I think it was Lyndon B. Johnson because I think John F. Kennedy had already gotten assassinated at this point.


Gray: Yeah. Yeah. He was past that. He was past that.


Holmes: I think Lyndon B. Johnson was John F. Kennedy’s vice president, I want to say.


Gray: Okay.


Holmes: And he was probably campaigning for re-election.


Gray: Well, he’s making everyone look at these candidates and say, listen. This is what they’re telling you, and this is what they have done. So, for him to make a statement to say that the Democratic Party is more racist (laughs).


Holmes: Oh yeah.


Gray: I mean, again—we can talk about political polarization all we want. Malcolm wouldn’t be received by black people now…


Holmes: Right.


Gray: …talking like this.


Holmes: Right.


Gray: You know. And I’m not just talking about a segment of black people. I’m talking about—if we want to statistically represent this—most black people. You know? The Democratic Party is where President Obama emerged from. So, you can’t be talking like this and get universal support from black people in such a way that’s represented in the energy at the polls.


Holmes: Yeah.


Gray: And yet, his goal isn’t just to placate the blind optimism of the black community. He just tells it like it is.


Holmes: Yep.


Gray: Like, nah, man. These folks are racists. They have actually done harm to you in a way that you need to pay attention to. So, when I read something like this, and when I listen to that speech in its entirety, it feels prophetic in the sense of how we need to receive these messages. How we need to interpret our political involvement. And then, at the end of the day, how honest can we be in terms of what we’re seeing in the political sphere? And what do these campaign promises actually amount to that’s tangible for us? So, I love it. I love—that’s why I said I agree out of the gate.




Gray: Because, I mean—look, man. We’re in the hinges here. This is 2022 and—you know—we were all talking earlier and we’re in the hinges of another pretty hostile election season. Midterms are coming up. And Donald Trump’s coming back. You know what I’m saying? He’s not just going to go quietly.


Holmes: That’s crazy.


Gray: He’s coming back, bro.


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: And at the end of the day, we have to use these tools to see what we’re going to get. It’s not a matter of towing the party line and going with the respectable position for a black person. I think it’s even more incumbent upon us to have a sense of urgency. And that’s what Malcolm presents.



Holmes: Yeah. I think it’s so difficult at this point for people to even think about engaging or voting for a party that is not Democrat. And this is not me vouching for Republican votes. I think the importance is that you don’t tie yourself to a party where they think that—where your vote is assumed.


Gray: That’s exactly what just happened.


Holmes: Yep.


Gray: And I get there are circumstantial reasons—


Holmes: Because what did Joe Biden say?


Gray: Man, he said a lot, bro.


Holmes: But you know what I’m talking about.


Gray: I know what he said, and to whom he said it. When he said what he said to Charlamagne—that’s when I checked out. I checked out. You know, and I can’t—just from a place of dignity and personal integrity—I can’t align with something like that. A sentiment that was so boldly communicated on that stage. I get if you’re in a—you know, years ago Mitt Romney tried to run and his campaign was derailed by what he said to—I think—a bunch of rich donors. It was kind of, like, secret camera footage where he made a comment about those who are in poverty, and ultimately derailed his whole campaign to black people, or to people who were economically challenged. And it helped give Obama the boost to win narrowly at that time.


So, that was in the cut. But he said that to some constituents who could probably let him engage in a little bit more free conversation. Man—this man, Joe Biden got on The Breakfast Club (laughs).


Holmes: That’s—


Gray: Told Charlamagne to his grill, you ain’t black if you vote for anybody but me (laughs).


Holmes: We call that audacity. Some people call that white-dacity.


Gray: (sighs) We can’t take that, man. We can’t just accept that. The thing with Donald Trump that I think many of us…and this is kind of like, maybe, some of the third-level conversations many of us are having in the community is the appreciation that you can have for knowing where Donald Trump stands. You know, he speaks honestly, and he speaks in a way where it’s not…he doesn’t have the skill to hide who he is.


Holmes: Right.


Gray: And I would rather engage with somebody who’s going to—even if I disagree—I would rather see you for who you are, and have the opportunity to engage honestly with what you present to me than you wearing five costumes, and dancing a jig in front of me, and putting hot sauce in your purse. And then trying to garner my affections for the purposes of hopefully doing something beneficial for me. But then, when we look back and it’s not being done, we as a community have to do better at actually—


Holmes: When you said, the hot sauce in the purse, that just—that messed me up.


Gray: Bro!


Holmes: I remember that. And I’m, like, bro, how?


Gray: On The Breakfast Club again!


Holmes: How?


Gray: (laughs) and these are our platforms of media that we look to.


Holmes: How?


Gray: And if y’all not gonna hold Hilary accountable for that, then who’s going to do it? Who’s gonna do it?


Holmes: Yeah. Like, I’m…yeah.


Gray: So, yeah. Malcolm is, like…you know. He’s talking to black people, like, I know a lot of y’all don’t like what I’m saying up in here. And this is all black people up in here. I’m gonna tell you all right now—even those people that y’all love so much—they’re racist (laughs). They’re more racist.




Holmes: Bro, I guess what I’m trying to wrap my mind around—because I’m trying to understand why we have the mentality that we have, and how can we reverse-engineer that? And what’s at the root of that? Right? What’s making us more attracted to one party that’s simply, like, trying to appease us with these external facades of blackness, right? As if they can actually relate to our lives and our experiences when they can’t.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: But writing off—almost—it doesn’t even matter—even some of the best Republicans, right? Because there are a few good ones.


Gray: Mmhmm.


Holmes: They will get written off simply for being associated with the party.


Gray: Yep. Yep.


Holmes: And I’m saying something’s wrong, too, when we’d rather take the fake niceness—


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: —over the raw honesty. Because they don’t believe we’re going to vote for them anyway, right? So they’re just going to tell us… And so, I guess I’m trying to wrap my mind around that.


Gray: Yeah. It’s hard.


Holmes: How do we understand that?


Gray: I mean, with nuance. Like we always talk about. Nuance isn’t easily curated for branding purposes. Because the minute you build an audience you could lose it, because nuance requires you to take an honest look at everything.


Holmes: Right.


Gray: You know? You can’t…you can build momentum behind an idea. For instance, Malcolm X—a lot of people in the black community could be so excited that we’re talking about Malcolm X until we actually look at his words. You know? Because we don’t talk often about that chapter that wasn’t included in the autobiography—”To the Negro.”


Holmes: Oh yeah. We gotta talk about that chapter.


(Gray laughs)


Holmes: We gotta have a conversation about that chapter.


Gray: Hey. You know, and that’s gonna hit home in a particular way to where you have to do some self-examination; some self-critique. And ultimately—again—like we always talk about, these are Christian reflections on the life of Malcolm X. If we look at a person—the person of Christ as a person in society; a person of reputation—he, in many ways did the same thing. He would say something to gather a large crowd, or he’d do something to curry favor from a range of people, and yet when you stood with him long enough, or you listened to him long enough, he would say something that would scatter everyone.


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: Or he would move to a different location—quite literally—and leave a bunch of people behind.


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: So, I think even as Christians—as followers of Christ—we have to be careful with the celebritizing of Christianity to say it’s just this overall agreeable message (laughs)—


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: —that everybody can get some sort of benefit and attraction to without the actual counting of the cost.


Holmes: Yeah. I think we have to look at the words of Jesus when we engage the political process in America.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: So, what did he say? You know, of course, Jesus at this particular point is talking to the disciples, and he’s sending them out to actually preach God’s Word—to preach the Gospel. But here’s what he tells them before he sends them out. He says, behold I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. So be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. And I think that when we begin to engage political parties, we have to have that mindset.


Gray: Mmhmm.


Holmes: Because we can’t assume that those who are nice to us are being nice to us out of pure motives.


Gray: Right. Right.


Holmes: Right? So as we’re looking at…because, of course, everybody’s gonna ask, all right, Taelor? Phillip? What do y’all want us to do with this episode?


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: And I think that we gotta help people to see that what we’re simply telling you to do—and what I think even Malcolm is encouraging you to do—is to look at the two parties and don’t have an allegiance to one.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: Okay, one—you know—maybe harbors more explicit racists than the other, right?


Gray: Sure. Sure.


Holmes: But regardless, look at them as—listen. You can say whatever you want, but I want to know how you’re going to vote when this legislative law comes up.


Gray: Yeah. Yeah.


Holmes: Or how you’re going to…are you going to pass this bill? Or are you gonna overlook this—you know. Those are the things I want to know. You can say whatever you want to say. You can come to my barbecue. You can carry hot sauce in your purse. You can do whatever you want, but at the end of the day, all I care about are your actions.


Gray: Or never come to the barbecue.


Holmes: Never come to the barbecue.


Gray: You just do what you said you were going to do.


Holmes: Yeah.


Gray: Yes.


Holmes: Yeah. Be a person…because I think that’s the way that…and listen. As minorities, right? We’re operating out of a place of weakness.


Gray: Mmhmm.


Holmes: We don’t have the financial capital and power. We don’t have the political—we do have the political power, but we haven’t figured out how to leverage it as a people. And that’s essentially what we’re talking about here, and we’re going to talk about more later on as we dive—if we get a chance to dive back into that speech.


Gray: Mmhmm.


Holmes: But because we don’t have those things, eventually the experience that we have as a people group in this particular country—Christians are going to begin to experience that as well. And I think we see that coming.


Gray: Mmhmm.


Holmes: And so, a lot of the backlash and a lot of these grasps for power, right—we’re aligning ourselves closer to the Republican Party than we ever have—at least in my knowledge. There’s always been sort of a movement there—sort of an unspoken allegiance, right? But now, there’s no bipartisan work—there’s very little bipartisan work going on amongst Christians. Most Christians are die-hard Republicans, and they think that it is evil to be a Democrat, and they use this one issue related to abortion in order to essentially say, this is why all Christians need to be Republicans.


Gray: Right.


Holmes: But what they don’t realize is that you can be a conservative Christian with those convictions without being a Republican.


Gray: Right.


Holmes: Right? Because you don’t have to align yourself with a party. You vote based on the issues.


Gray: Right.


Holmes: Right? So, if you know that this particular judge is going to have power in this particular area, but he doesn’t have anything to do with abortion, but he would make a doggone good judge—and he’s a Democrat—you vote for him.


Gray: Right.


Holmes: Right? But you know why we don’t like that? Because that requires us to think.


Gray: Nuance.


Holmes: It is easy to just say, I’m gonna vote one party up and down. Right?


Gray: Yep.


Holmes: But as soon as we have to think, as soon as we have to examine, as soon as… We don’t want to do that.


Gray: Yep.


Holmes: I think that’s the biggest issue that we’re seeing here. And I think Christians are eventually going to get to a place where they’re going to have to start learning from people groups and minorities who have operated and navigated cultures out of a place of weakness. Because if we don’t, we’re going to be in a place where…we’re going to be in a very sad place. I don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like—


Gray: As Christians you mean?


Holmes: As Christians. Yeah.


Gray: Okay.


Holmes: We’re going to be in a very, very sad place if we don’t learn to start navigating—and essentially start being as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. Because I think a lot of the stuff that we’re also getting involved with as a result of party allegiance—we’re being compromised morally.


Gray: Yeah. We are in a sad place.


Holmes: Yeah. Yeah.


Gray: Now.


Holmes: Yeah. You’re right. We’re not getting there. We are.


Gray: (laughs) Yeah. We’re here.


Holmes: Yeah.


Gray: But, to your earlier question…and I think we’ll have more opportunity to unpack this in layers. Like, what is this…what is the thing that causes us—particularly as black followers of Christ, or black people—causes us to find ourselves in this position constantly? Over and over again? For me, the answer to that is a question of identity. We don’t know who we are. We’re constantly contending with our identity and our place in this world–in this society. And since we don’t have a clear sense of that, we’re kind of tossed to and fro by every wind of perspective and doctrine instead of being forged in who we are, and not being moved—


Holmes: Right.


Gray: —in that regard. So, we’re going to have to continue to contend with that in this country. And it’s complicated.


Holmes: Yeah. I think we’ve said enough. I think we got into enough trouble for this particular episode.


Gray: Hey.


Holmes: Hey, bro. You know it’s always a pleasure.


Gray: Always.


Holmes: I’m looking forward to the next episode. It’s going to be good. I think this is a really good start to season two.


Gray: Yes. Agreed.


Holmes: So, guys, stay tuned. It’s gonna be good. Thanks for tuning into Make it Plain. For more resources related to Malcolm X, please visit our website:, where you can subscribe to the show. Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon, RadioPublic, Google, or via your RSS feed, and never miss a show.


While you’re at it, if you found value in this show, we’d appreciate a rating on Apple and Spotify. Do not forget to do that. Help us with our goal of three hundred ratings on Apple Podcasts and one hundred ratings on Spotify. You can also just simply share the podcast with a friend that you know might be encouraged or might enjoy these reflections on Malcolm X.


If you like our show, be sure to visit the website and download our free resource: Make it Plain Season One Discussion Guide. The season two discussion guide is coming soon, so be on the lookout for that. Join us next week as we continue our reflections on the words and life of Malcolm X. I’m Phillip Holmes.


Gray: I’m Taelor Gray. Go get you a hoodie.




Holmes: We’ll see you all next week.


Gray: All right.

Phillip Holmes

Phillip Holmes is a marketing executive and owner of Highest Good Media. He and his family are members of Redeemer Church.

Taelor Gray

Taelor Gray currently serves as pastor at Linden Fellowship while doubling as a hip-hop artist. He and his wife have two children.