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Malcolm & The North vs South

Episode Summary

“If you are Black, you are born in jail in the North and the South. Stop talking about South. As long as you are South of the Canadian border, you are South.”

Phillip begins the discussion around this quote from Malcolm X, pointing out that there is an aura of “we’re further along” in the North. This often gives Black people in the North a false sense of security not based on how things actually are in the North or the South. Taelor points out that people laughed at Malcolm X in response to this quote, which shows how long this misconception of North and South has been in place. But Malcolm X was trying to show that “all Black people are in a condition of oppression,” according to Taelor.

The debate is not, Taelor points out, whether or not Black people in the North or South face oppression. Black people in America face oppression; it manifests differently in different areas of the country. Taelor adds that there is no point in arguing who deserves more sympathy; we just need to unify and address the general concern of oppression of African Americans. This was Malcolm X’s point, too. He was trying to avoid complacency in the North. This made him a polarizing figure.

Phillip uses a quote from The Warmth of Other Suns that helps to illustrate the problem Malcolm X was fighting against here. “It occurred to me that no matter where I lived, geography wasn’t going to change who I was.” The issue is not whether an African American lives in the North or the South; the problem is that African Americans face oppression because of the color of their skin. 

Phillip points out this issue is seen in the differences in the church in the North and the South. There is a regional difference in the church. Often this difference looks like churches in the South claiming a monopoly on the Christian faith. Taelor agrees and speaks about how the issues he faces as a pastor in Ohio are not similar to what churches in the South face.

This turns to a discussion between Taelor and Phillip about how Phillip views what could be done for restitution based on his views as a Libertarian. Phillip points out that America is not a capitalist nation as, in his view, America has often advocated socialism for the rich and a rugged kind of capitalism for the poor. He points to the pandemic, and how many billions were given to corporations and the wealthy compared to everyone else’s stimulus checks. 

Even more, America does not protect everyone who does well for themselves. We need to look no further than the history of the Tulsa Race Massacre and Black Wall Street, where white Americans came and burned, pillaged, stole from, and murdered Black Americans who had done well for themselves. Phillip thinks there could be some kind of tax break incentive or low-interest loans for African Americans to address the inequalities brought about by the oppression African Americans have experienced in this country.

The guys wrap up by coming back to Malcolm X’s quote and pointing out that it is a reality check. The jail of the North might be nicer, but it is still a jail. So, there needs to be unification to address all African Americans’ biases and issues. These issues should be able to travel from the North to the South and back again.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think people perceive the North to be further along than the South? Is there any example you could use to argue the opposite?
  2. Discuss the quote Phillip uses from The Warmth of Other Suns: “It occurred to me that no matter where I lived, geography wasn’t going to change who I was.”
  3. How does a focus on things being “better” in one part of the country keep everyone from being able to move forward?
  4. What are the issues that we can be unified on to move forward?

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: I’m Taelor Gray. We’re your hosts.


Holmes: All right, guys. Before we dive into this week’s episode, y’all already know what I’m about to say if you’ve been listening. Visit our new website,, and download our Make it Plain Season One Discussion Guide. Also, if you have listened to a few episodes—especially if you’ve been listening since season one—please, please, please go and rate our podcast on Apple and Spotify. Apple—our goal is three hundred ratings by the end of the season, and on Spotify, our goal is one hundred ratings. That makes a huge difference.


Taelor, you got anything to add to that?


Gray: I think it’s the easiest thing you can do to show your support, and it really means a lot. So, please definitely go comment.


Holmes: All right, Taelor. You ready to go?


Gray: Floor is mine. All right. So, I’ve got a quote here, and I’m just going to dive right in. He says this:


“If you are black, you were born in jail in the North as well as the South. Stop talking about the South. As long as you are south of the Canadian border, you are South.”


All right, my southern brother. How did you take that?


Holmes: This spoke to me, bro.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: Because being somebody from the South—especially from Mississippi—


Gray: Mmhmm. Mmhmm.


Holmes: I’m always–I mean,   they could be from the South.


Gray: Mmhmm.


Holmes: But especially northern brothers and sisters, they always tell me, I don’t want to come to Mississippi. Or, oh man, y’all got it hard down there in Mississippi. Y’all gotta be in— And I’m like, bro, I live in Jackson. It’s eighty percent black. Our mayor is black. All of our cops are black. (inaudible).


And I’ll give you another instance. We lived in Minneapolis for a little bit, right?


Gray: Mmhmm. Yeah.


Holmes: You know, Minneapolis has been in the news a lot.


Gray: A hundred percent. Yes.


Holmes: Bro, that’s where we were after we had given birth. We were going to do these checkups for our oldest, Wynn. And one of the doctors or nurses was like, oh, so, you know, what’s next for you guys?


I don’t know how we got there, but we told them that we were transitioning back to Mississippi. And the looks on their faces was like, oh. Y’all be careful.


(Gray laughs)


Holmes: And I’m just like—I’m always indignant, bro. Mississippi has its issues, but it’s my home. It’s my state. I’m always representing.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: And you try to talk down? Don’t do that around me.


Gray: Hey, man, look. I’m just going to tell you—


Holmes: But no—we gotta connect the dots. Because you know I forget.


Gray: Okay. Yes. Do it. Do it.


Holmes: Since then—Philando Castile—where was he murdered?


Gray: Minneapolis.


Holmes: He was killed probably less than a mile—a mile and a half—from our house. While we were still there. So, we hadn’t even gotten out of Minneapolis. This was days. He got killed days after we


Gray: Wow.


Holmes: —had that conversation and that reaction.


Gray: Hmm.


Holmes: And then, of course, George Floyd.


Gray: Mmhmm.


Holmes: The South gets such a bad rap. And there’s this assumption—I think there’s this false—Malcolm would probably agree with this—there’s this false sense of security perhaps some northern people have had. I think that’s decreasing more and more now.


Gray: Hmm.


Holmes: That northern black people have had as it relates to, oh we’re in the North. You know (laughs). We’re free. Right?


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: As opposed to what life is like for us in the South. And it’s always bothered me because there’s always this emphasis on the South. And Malcolm, during his time, was very clear, though. Bro, people in the South are oftentimes more racist than the people—I mean, people in the North, rather, are more racist in some ways than the people in the South.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: Unpack that. Because you’re from the North, right?


Gray: (whispers) from the North (laughs).


Holmes: What’s your view of the South?


(Gray laughs)


Holmes: You’re from the Midwest, technically.


Gray: That’s right.


Holmes: Is that still the North? That’s still the North.


Gray: Yeah. You know, it’s different—kind of—pockets. And different ways that this manifests. But yeah, I’m from the northern part of the country, and we do consider ourselves somewhat separate from the South. And in the Midwest, in some ways, we may consider ourselves to be cousins of our southern neighbors. And being from Columbus, Ohio, there is a way that we do look at Mississippi.


Holmes: I was about to say because if you’re in Ohio, that was one of the destinations for The Great Migration. So, you’re in the North.


Gray: Facts. Yes.


Holmes: Yeah.


Gray: I am (laughs) in the North. And some folks would call areas like Jackson and even further south—or just Mississippi as a whole—they’d call it godforsaken Mississippi. You know? My grandfather is from Mississippi.


Holmes: Oh, of course.


Gray: He’s from—yeah.


Holmes: Most black people.


Gray: Yep. Yep. And he’s from an area that hasn’t progressed much in terms of the societal representation of black people. The only time I’ve ever been to where he’s from is when I was one year old. So, I have no recollection of it, but I’ve seen the pictures. It’s a different experience up north, I think, in general. There’s maybe this air of sophistication that it feels like we have. Like we’re more sophisticated; more advanced.


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: More progressive in some ways. And then it gets…it reaches new levels when you get up to the East Coast, and maybe the West Coast and the Northwest, and et cetera, et cetera.


But there’s this air of, we’re further along. Or, we’re doing things better. Or, we don’t do the things that are so offensive that cause the polarization and the negative response. We stay out of the news in that way. 


And clearly, since it’s 2022, we can see that there’s a difference in the way that that’s actually depicted. But for Malcolm to say this at that time…I think it was…the response for when he said that was just kind of rousing laughter. Because there was a sense that there is a difference between the North and the South.


Last season, as I was telling you off-mic, I was educated by your perspective about who Malcolm was in the South. You know, versus his reputation in the North. Because he cut his teeth in the North.


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: But at the same time, I think his message still could travel south. It just has different implications. It’s also worth mentioning that we don’t know what—necessarily—in comparison, the Nation of Islam’s presence was in the South versus the North. Could he draw the same kind of crowd?


Holmes: Right.


Gray: You know? Could he have campaigned in the streets; talked so boldly and strongly against the church and Christianity in the South?


Holmes: He wouldn’t have had any black allies, though.


Gray: Exactly.


Holmes: Yeah.


Gray: Exactly. So, for him to say this, and say anything, essentially, south of Canada is the south for black people, because we’re all in a condition of oppression—I think that’s the point that ultimately travels well from that time to this time.


Holmes: Yeah. I think that, if you read The Warmth of Other Suns that a lot of black people knew that once they transitioned to the North, things were better, but they weren’t that much better. However, there was this sort of…and I’ve experienced this because, again, I have cousins in Detroit. I had an uncle—for the longest time, my grandmother—who just passed away—her brother lived in Dayton. I have an uncle who lives in Chicago—my granddad’s brother. So, a lot of family up there. And there’s this—I remember when I was a kid, especially—when they would come to town, they would come to town in nice cars. And it was like, oh, you know. Shirley’s back at home. Like, they go to church. Like, Shirley’s here, hey, how you doing? You know. Tell us—give us an update.


(Gray laughs)


Holmes: Give the church an update. You know, stuff like that, right?


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: We kind of felt like our cousins in the North were cooler. You know? Like they were more educated, right? And they kind of even carried themselves like that in some ways. Even though, when you look at the facts—reflecting on them now—that wasn’t always the case. But it kind of felt like that at times. So, for us—you know, I was looking at a quote from The Warmth of Other Suns, and it basically said, it occurred to me that no matter where I lived, geography wasn’t going to change who I was. Basically.


Gray: Hmm.


Holmes: Geography wasn’t going to save me. And I think a lot of people knew that internally. But, again, there’s the facade that they felt like they had to keep up to say, you know, my life has improved some. 


Gray: Well, it’s so interesting, man. Because now it seems like if there is any kind of migration going on for black people, they’re going south. I was just in Atlanta this past week, and Atlanta is pretty much referred to as the new Wakanda. You know?


Holmes: Yeah.


Gray: There’s black people everywhere.


Holmes: Atlanta’s different, bro.


Gray: Well—and I know that’s a culture in and of itself. But it’s actually the destination for tons of black folks in the North. And then you get places like Charlotte, and, you know…it’s actually a strategy for a lot of black folks to just get down south. Now, some of that is just warmer temperatures in general. And then there’s opportunities—economic opportunity and things like that. But very different than the time we’re talking about. You know, where Malcolm’s making his speech.


Holmes: Yeah, one hundred percent.


Gray: Like you said, the migration—The Great Migration’s going north. And, to some degree—like we talked about last episode, the conditions are a little safer. The knife is pulled out of the back six inches instead of nine. So, you can maybe own a home. You can build a community. You can participate in certain economic advantages in certain ways. Clearly, Malcolm was educated in a system that would have never been accessible to him in the South. So, there are measurable differences, but I think that the condition of oppression in this country for black people wasn’t necessarily a debate.


Holmes: Right.


Gray: It was about different manifestations. And I think that’s the point well-taken in the sense of…even in what Malcolm was trying to accomplish in that speech is to rally people together for a common cause. You may not like my voice because I historically have spoken from the Nation of Islam, and I consider myself to be a Muslim now, but I’m here with other pastors in this church to communicate this point. 


But I still feel like—in some ways—we contend with those different parts of the country’s superiority complexes in the black community. And we talked a little bit about this last season. About (laughs) how Malcolm—even before his life changed, or if you want to call it his conversion moment—he observed the differences between the uppity black folks and the street folks.


Holmes: Yeah, the Roxbury Negroes.


Gray: Yeah, bro.


Holmes: Yeah.


Gray: And that’s still a real thing.


Holmes: Right.


Gray: You know what I’m saying? In our quest for unity—if you want to use that blanket term or a unified sense of identity—we still run into that.


Holmes: Right.


Gray: And so, I wonder if you feel that being a resident of Jackson? And it’s so funny because I’ve tried to convince you to move to…or at least…and now I feel a little…I feel a certain type of way knowing that you’ve got family up in the Midwest and you still ain’t come up to see me.


So, yeah. You still need to make your way up north a little bit. But I wanted to know, based on what you just said, do you still feel like there is this superiority complex? Because, again, Martin/Malcolm’s the contrast that we look at now, but we really could look at the Du Bois and Booker T as well.


Holmes: You know…I don’t know. I haven’t got out much over the last three years, so I would have to do another survey—


(Gray laughs)


Holmes: —of black folks to see how they talk about Mississippi. But I think I was reading a tweet from somebody where they talked about…the South was mentioned.


Gray: Hmm.


Holmes: I think it was…I can’t remember the exact words to the tweet…but the South was mentioned in a negative connotation. Escaping the South, right?


Gray: Mmhmm. Mmhmm.


Holmes: It was something like that. And, again, I think this gets right back to Malcolm’s point.


Gray: Mmhmm.


Holmes: I think a lot of people—but this person was actually from the South, who made that statement.


Gray: Hmm. Yeah.


Holmes; Now, I think a lot of people, though, are coming to grips with the fact that a lot of these murders—especially at the hands of police—with the exception of Ahmaud—are happening primarily in the North.


Gray: Hmm.


Holmes: So, there’ve been way more incidents—at least recorded incidents, right—because if there’s not cell phone footage or something like that, it basically didn’t happen, and the guy was a criminal, and we never really will hear anything about it. And the only reason we know the Ahmaud story was because a group of guys that I’ve actually been working with actually campaigned and did a lot of work locally to get national attention. Give the case national attention.


So, these guys—after they had murdered this guy—they were walking around for three-to-six months.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: And then the pandemic happened, and all of the sudden, everybody’s attention shifted toward this. And these guys had been working locally.


Gray: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting, man. Because the South does have its part in the narrative, particularly of police brutality. You know, you’ve got Alton Sterling and—of course—got Trayvon Martin.


Holmes: Right.


Gray: You know?


Holmes: Yep.


Gray: Like, this—


Holmes: That was in Florida.


Gray: Yeah. Yeah.


Holmes: Does Florida consider itself the South?


Gray: You tell me, bro. How do you feel about them?


Holmes: I mean, I don’t know how they feel about us. They don’t try to—


(Gray laughs)


Holmes: They don’t think they’re the South.


Gray: Look. All of y’all. Like, you know—


Holmes: It’s the bottom part of Alabama—they say that’s the South, and everything else is just Florida. They’re banning books like they’re in the South, too.


Gray: (laughs) But these…okay. So, we can still observe—


Holmes: Right.


Gray: —like some of these disparities or whatever.


I think that there is probably wasted energy in trying to compare and see whose condition is worse.


Holmes: Oh, one hundred percent.


Gray: And that’s the thing. We don’t have to make the choice of who deserves more sympathy. Let’s unify and try to address our general concerns.


Holmes: Yeah. Because now we all have the same problem.


Gray: We’ve always had the same problem.


Holmes: To different degrees, right?


Gray: That’s what I’m saying.


Holmes: Yeah. Yeah.


Gray: Different manifestations, but the same problem.


Holmes: Yes. Yep.


Gray: Same problem. But I don’t know, man. It is a conversation worth continuing. The place and the perspective I come from—at least as far as this kind of conversation getting a lot of energy and attention—comes from the hip-hop perspective.


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: So, at a certain point, hip-hop—real hip-hop—was only considered to be authentic and worth visiting on the East Coast.


Holmes: Mmhmm. Right.


Gray: Like, that’s the most sophisticated form. Comes out of New York City. Et cetera, et cetera. You get all of these people who essentially owned the reputation of hip-hop. Then it traveled west, and the West Coast cats like NWA and all of them kind of came out of the gate and said, nah. You’re not gonna ignore us. But then, as we know—and probably have heard in our times—we heard OutKast come out of the South, and said their famous phrase. André 3000 says, “The South has something to say.”


All right. Fast forward now. Where are we at? The South is literally the central point of hip-hop activity. Everything in terms of sound and culture that is reflected as mainstream hip-hop has come from the South.


Holmes: Yeah. No, that’s true.


Gray: It’s all from the South. And so, instead of these culture wars of like, this is better. This is real. 


It’s just like, man let’s appreciate how our story and our sound travels everywhere we go.


And there is a universality to it.


Holmes: Yeah.


Gray: So, I love that.


Holmes: Yeah. I want to transition to talk a little bit about Malcolm’s insight.


Gray: Mmhmm. Mmhmm.


Holmes: He’s just different. So, again. Everybody else is saying, well, at least we ain’t from the South. At least we lived in the North. 


Gray: Right.


Holmes: And Malcolm is like, look. Listen.


Gray: Fam. We here.


Holmes: If you’re south of the Canadian border, you were born in jail.


Gray: Yes. America.


Holmes: Right? You don’t got any reason to look down on them or think that your plight—because what Malcolm was trying to avoid was is this complacency.


Gray: Yeah, yeah, yeah.


Holmes: You know, we compare our situation to the person over there and we say, well, at least we ain’t them.


Gray: Yes.


Holmes: And we’re not motivated to pursue better.


Gray: Yes.


Holmes: Because we think that this is as good as it gets.


Gray: The knife’s six inches out. You know? That’s the trauma response. The knife isn’t even out of the body, and you’re up here celebrating like we’ve got progress.


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: Like we talked about last episode. And again, for him to say that where he was—he was in Michigan—one of the most northernmost states at this church. And to bring people to focus in terms of the urgency of the moment—like, this is an urgent time. This is on the hinges of a presidential election. You need to make sure you mobilize appropriately. This is the kind of stuff I love about Malcolm X. And it makes him polarizing to a certain degree because southern folks could be like, well, who are you to speak on what’s different? Who are you to speak for us? I don’t even know if we consider you one of us. You know what I mean?


But if Dr. King can travel, then why can’t Malcolm X? You know?


Holmes: Well, King’s travels to the North didn’t go that great.


Gray: They didn’t go well at all.


Holmes: Yeah.


Gray: You know—the hostilities were still very much evident. So, like you said, Malcolm decided to make this an emphasis point for the purposes of better understanding our country as a whole. So, we’re not fighting regional fights, necessarily. Like, what is the unifying quality of this message? From the church’s perspective, I think that we have some reason to visit with this as well. You know? Because the way the gospel gets communicated down here is sometimes—no, oftentimes—communicated very differently in different parts of the country.




Gray: I’ll say there’s a number of our educational institutions—seminaries, et cetera, et cetera—that are down south communicating a certain emphasis point of the gospel as it relates to conservative values.


Holmes: Okay. Gotcha. Yep.


Gray: You know, like saying, we are holding onto the faith as best communicated in these kinds of definitions of family and morality that are core to the Christian faith. And our identity is shaped by—what I would say—a regional emphasis. Versus in the North, it’s just like, nah. We have to address these systemic issues. We have to get into more of these environments that shape policy for a different population of folks who don’t have a voice.


And it’s just like, well, who’s right? Whose gospel is true? What’s the real gospel?


You know what I mean? And we always come to these places where we may not pay attention to the regional differences that we have, but I think at the end of the day, we have an opportunity to learn from each other.


Holmes: Right.


Gray: You know what I mean? It’s this both-and kind of quality to community and fellowship and what it means for the church to retain its identity, that ultimately is the best kind of witness we need to have to the world. But if we keep on segmenting these arguments, and these institutions—these seminaries from down south keep saying, yo, we have the monopoly on what the Christian faith should convey and if you don’t come on our terms you’re not welcome to the faith—then it’s just like, yo fam. Like, I’m now…the effect of that is now struggling…like, this proximity we have to each other…is sitting across from a transgender person—I can’t physically do that. Because that…I’m so conflicted morally that I can’t see this person as a human.


Holmes: Right. Yep.


Gray: And there’s a real effect to that. And that affects your evangelistic capability. That affects the basic love and civility that you can have for another human being. And I am very confident in saying that this is not Christ’s intention or even the love that he left for us.


Holmes: Right.


Gray: Let me ask you this question. Being from Jackson—dovetailing from that point—the conservative values thing. Is there…what would you say…if Malcolm represents this progressive application of an ecumenical pursuit of good…what do your instincts tell you when it comes to the church’s capacity for ecumenical partnership towards the good? Do you still feel like certain separatism is necessary, or do you feel like we have some opportunity to grow there? As a conservative?


Holmes: Oh. Well, see, I’m not really a conservative. I’m technically a class—


Gray: See, look, I just assumed—


Holmes: Yeah.


Gray: You know, we’re in Jackson. I just feel it in the water (laughs).


Holmes: —a classic liberal. AKA a libertarian. Man—


Gray: Okay, are you sixty—would you say you lean conservative at least? Like, would you give us that? Will you give the audience…will you show your cards?


Holmes: Fiscally or socially?


Gray: There we go. And off we go. What’s the nuance there?


Holmes: I’m a libertarian.




Holmes: You do your own research and try to figure that out. I’m not going to spoon-feed you—


(Gray laughs)


Holmes: —on what libertarians believe.


Gray: But for black people, we’re—we’re ignorant.


Holmes: I’d probably be more on the conservative side of libertarianism.


Gray: But that’s what I’m saying. For black people—


Holmes: But I would probably be more moderate on even some social things than most conservatives would be.


Gray: What would be the implications for being libertarian as a black person? Because I don’t hear that…that conversation doesn’t travel into the community as much as maybe it could. Because these ideas that—


Holmes: No, I—keep going.


Gray: These ideas must travel.


Holmes: Yeah.


Gray: And if Malcolm is saying what he’s saying—he’s like, these ideas have to travel everywhere. 


Holmes: Right.


Gray: They can’t just exist in one part of the country.


Holmes: So one of the—so, I’ll tell you this. One of the things that as a black libertarian—that you have to reconcile or wrestle with—is libertarianism kind of assumes that everyone has…is moving toward a society—so here’s the good part—where everyone is truly equal. Is moving towards a pure capitalism in a sense, right? Right now—again, we talked about it in the last episode, or two episodes ago—that America has pretty much wanted socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor—and I think King said, rugged capitalism for the poor.


Gray: Mmhmm.


Holmes: Because there’s so many things, again, that the government subsidizes. I mean, I’m just thinking about the pandemic, and how much money was given to the corporations.


Gray: Hmm. Yeah.


Holmes: And to bail them out, right? So, the government is in the business of picking winners and losers, right? And for so long, African Americans were not allowed to win no matter what. As a matter of fact, when we were winning, the government did nothing to protect us—to protect our rights to win, right? Black Wall Street is one of the most famous of that. Because the government didn’t come in and loot and tear up our stuff, but that was never repaired. Our stuff was never restored. That community was never restored. It just ceased to exist.


Gray: Mmhmm.


Holmes: And then there’s the countless other examples of being denied the opportunities for education, and certain jobs, and so on and so forth. Now, when it comes to libertarianism, what you did have to reconcile, though…if you want libertarian today, we gotta reckon with the fact that this has not always been the case, right?


Gray: Hmm.


Holmes: So, you can’t just say, now we got pure capitalism because repair has not taken place yet. Restitution has not taken place yet. And I do see a lot more libertarians acknowledging that we just can’t have a libertarian society in America—maybe you can go somewhere else and create a new world if you will…


Gray: Yeah, yeah, yeah.


Holmes: You can’t—in America—say, all right, now everybody has a clean slate—and not do something to repair the damage that has been done in the past…


Gray: Right.


Holmes: …to try to pretend that it didn’t exist, because it did. I think that some of the easiest ways that libertarians could begin to address some of those things would be—not instead of giving—because I kind of struggle with putting money in the pockets of individuals, but as libertarians we’re kind of famous for saying, taxation is theft, right? So, how about stealing less of our hard-earned money?


Gray: Hmm.


Holmes: So, if there was just tax—significant tax breaks for the African American community…You know, I don’t know how I feel about borrowing money from the government, but, like, no-interest government loans, right?


Gray: Which people got—


Holmes: Yeah, exactly.


Gray: —in this country. Other ethnic groups—


Holmes: We have done this, right? But as opposed to, like, sending someone a check, or doing all these things…I’m not really for that in general.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: But there could be some exceptions where I’m sympathetic to it, even if on principle…


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: …I would want to see if there was a better way. Or a more efficient way.


Gray: I’m just…but that’s the thing, bro, is like—


Holmes: So those are…to answer your question—


Gray: But that’s—


Holmes: —those are the things that you kind of wrestle with.


Gray: Yeah, but that gets your mind going about what’s possible, because—again—as we talked about in the previous episode—the political polarizations—like, you’ve got Choice A and Choice B. And in general, libertarianism—I’ll speak, maybe, from the everyday black person in the barbershop. If I just threw that out—like, whatcha all think about the libertarian perspective? They’re like, oh yeah, ain’t that just some Republicans who found a different term?


Holmes: One hundred percent.


Gray: You know?


Holmes: And to some extent, they’re right. There are a lot of people who are co-opting the phrase “libertarian,” but they don’t care about the militarization of police and how police are basically entering people’s homes without knocking, and then shooting them dead.


Gray: But that’s it. We have to instruct.


Holmes: That’s something that libertarians should be rioting as a result—because that’s an absolute no-no.


Gray: So, you’ve identified a passion point. You’ve identified a unifier. You’ve identified something that could actually rally people around a different political perspective.


Holmes: But the problem is, with the Libertarian Party—right—is that most libertarians don’t like to associate with libertarian parties because it’s usually the guys who live in the backwoods with a shotgun who are like, these are my guns, and this is my land. And they’re off the grid, and then when they try to get to—come to any conclusion—you always have these guys who are super extreme libertarians who are basically anarchists. And then you have these other guys who are willing to—so they never get anything done. They never come together.


Gray: Hmm.


Holmes: The differences between the libertarian candidates could be so minute, but they will not—they will tear each other down. So, they don’t really work together to try to—


Gray: Hmm.


Holmes: And then you have the people who co-opt the phrase, but don’t really understand it. Have never done any research to actually know…they co-opt it the same way people co-opt “Republican” and “Democrat.”


Gray: Well, I think—and we made this point earlier about the disparity of education. I think that people need to know what these terms mean. Particularly black people in this country—we need to know—we at least need to have a survey of our options. What we buy into and why.


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: What we would support and why.


Holmes: Mmhmm.


Gray: And have a unifying quality to the issues that we care about and where we find those folks who can address those issues. And I think we suffer for lack of knowledge—


Holmes: Yeah.


Gray: —in some ways. And they may never meet the prominent politician that is libertarian and is just on the voting card, or whatever. But they may meet Phil Holmes. And it’s just, like, I ain’t never heard of a brother who can break it down like that. And it gives you something to take away.


You talk about police infringing on personal rights and personal property. Like, man. This is why hip-hop has to intersect with this. Because the person who has talked about that most freely and openly for me is Killer Mike.


Holmes: Yeah. Yeah.


Gray: You know, he’s actually giving black folks a sense of empowerment about their own personal property. And been a high, high supporter of carrying a pistol.


Holmes: So, again, going back to our last episode about the knife in the back, right?


Gray: Mmhmm.


Holmes: Just because he don’t take it out don’t mean you gotta sit there and bleed to death, right? So, if we’re in a situation where we feel like white people aren’t acknowledging the sins of the past, aren’t trying to do anything to repair…that still doesn’t leave us with any excuse to just lay there and die, right?


Gray: Facts. Facts.


Holmes: We still have a responsibility, and a moral agency. And oftentimes it’s both-and, right? So, when we come to these conversations, people don’t know what to do when you’re saying, I’m still going to hold you as a class—or as a people in general—accountable for your refusal to repair, or even acknowledge and think deeply, or to teach your kids about what has happened, right? All those things, right?


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: While at the same time, I’m still going to earn my money. I’m still going to build my wealth. I’m still going to take care of…and I’m going to do all these things—I’m not going to wait on you—but I’m not going to let you slide just because I’m thriving. Right?


Gray: Facts. Yes.


Holmes: And I think that—and it doesn’t necessarily mean that—because we’re not talking about individual people, right?


Gray: Right.


Holmes: We’re talking about the government—number one—because they allowed it to happen. And number two, I think we’re also talking about those who experience the privileges of these things, and at the very least, won’t even acknowledge that these things have done serious harm to our communities.


Gray: Where was the NRA with Philando Castile?


Holmes: I’m glad you brought that up because that’s what gets me. In these situations, the NRA, they are appealing to a particular audience—that audience that is kind of faceless. It’s not white people everywhere. But it’s a particular group that’s—


Gray: We already know what it is, bro.


Holmes: Well, we…Repub—


Gray: This is a sense we have.


Holmes: It’s Republican white people who give—they are not for gun rights. They are for the rights, technically, of their donors who have guns.


Gray: I mean—


Holmes: Their constituents.


Gray: —they’re for white gun rights. Like, it’s just a fact. Like, the population—


Holmes: But why is that, though.


Gray: You tell me. Because—


Holmes: Because of money.


Gray: Okay, well, then we’re back. We’re back to the same things, and we have to—


Holmes: And why don’t we have money to be able to—yeah. I mean, it’s—


Gray: But we still have common causes.


Holmes: Because if I’m budgeting my money, I’m not giving it to the NRA (laughs). If I’m thinking about the stuff I want to give to.


Gray: But I want to get—I may want to go get a gun—


Holmes: Right. Yeah.


Gray: —legally. Dave Chappelle has this great joke in his—I don’t know if it was his last comedy special, or whatever. He’s like, you know how we change the gun laws in this country? I want every black person in here to go get a license to carry a gun.


Holmes: He said register. He said register—


Gray: Register.


Holmes: —because they thought he was going to say “vote” (laughs).


Gray: It was a dramatic pause, but he’s so right, bro.


Holmes: Yep.


Gray: If we all did—oh, they would change everything. And we would be right within our rights to actually access this opportunity in this country. But the laws and the systems of America that say they’re for everyone—they’ve actually been used against us. So, the Second Amendment is not something we can hide behind. It’s actually been weaponized in a certain way to cause us further oppression.


Holmes: So, this goes right back to selective values—not really selective values—yeah, selective values. That may be a good phrase to put it. Right? We choose to have certain values in certain situations when they’re convenient and when they’re expedient.


Gray: Facts.


Holmes: And so, we can apply them over here, like, we believe in gun rights and what happened here was wrong. But then, all of the sudden, there’s crickets over here when it happens to somebody that our response is not going to prove to be expedient or convenient or comfortable.


Gray: Facts. And, I mean, listen. Again. The ideas have to travel.


Holmes: And that’s an integrity issue.


Gray: Absolutely. But it’s also—we’re always back at integrity. But at the end of the day, Malcolm talking about the explicit issues that we face in the North should travel to the South, and vice versa. We shouldn’t just put ourselves in these pockets of regional conviction and not come together to accomplish a common goal.


And I’ll say that for black folks, and that goes for our allies. If you say you’re down for the cause, then look at where the cause actually unifies us and actually mobilize your efforts to help us get to a better position in society. And for me, I think some of that is just political education. Be educated politically.


At the end of the day, he gives us a good opportunity to address our biases. And that would even mean internal biases amongst the community.


Holmes: Yeah.


Gray: And unify us to a common goal that makes our situation hopefully—


Holmes: And more than anything else, it’s a straight-up reality check.


Gray: Facts.


Holmes: Right? You live in this fantasy world thinking that you’re somehow better off and thinking that…but in the grand scheme of things, you’re still in jail.


Gray: Facts.


Holmes: You just made—


Gray: You’re in jail.


Holmes: You might not be in—what is it called?


Gray: Alcatraz (laughs).


Holmes: Yeah. Yeah. But you’re still in Hinds County Penitentiary.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: It’s still jail. And—again—this is what made Malcolm…this is—I mean, this quote right here, it’s a simple quote. It’s not saying anything that’s super radical.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: But it’s profound, and it’s insightful. Especially for somebody—even today—but especially for somebody in the 1960s, when there was such a stark contrast in what life was like in the South versus the North.


Gray: Facts.


Holmes: And Malcolm saw then, right? Today if somebody said that, you wouldn’t necessarily think it was super profound or deep, even though a lot of people still have that mentality.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: Because life looks kind of the same in both places—


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: For the black experience. But for Malcolm to realize this in the sixties when there were either—Jim Crow laws either still existed or it was—the eraser marks were still on the book. They hadn’t even been blown off by the time he said this.


Gray: Right. Right.


Holmes: You know that Malcolm was a—he was a prophet. He was ahead of his time.


Gray: Yeah, man. Yeah.


Holmes: And we gotta listen to him. We gotta learn from him because he’s one of the few people that can get us to the next step. Because a lot of the tactics that he used are still applicable today in a lot of ways.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: It wasn’t about marching.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: It wasn’t—because I think we’re still trying to march. And marching is great, but the things that we’re dealing with—and King acknowledged this—they’re subtle. You know, it’s easy to march when you know that old crazy Bull from Alabama is going to sick the dogs on you, and there’s going to be an outcry because people hadn’t had to look at this face-to-face, right?


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: Especially people in the North, right?


Gray: Yep.


Holmes: Because they could say, we’re not like those southern white people. Because it flips, right? It goes the same way? White people in the North probably thought that they were better (laughs).


Gray: Until Martin came to Chicago and they started throwing bricks at him.


Holmes: Yep. Yep.


Gray: Yep.


Holmes: So.


Gray: Dope, man. Well—again—another opportunity to think more deeply about how we’re impacted all across the country. And hopefully a unifier. I think that was Malcolm’s goal in the end.


Holmes: In how we view our situation, never get complacent. Never settle for a reality that is just better-than, but not as-good-as-it-could-be. And we know as Christians, this world is never going to be perfect. It’s not our home. We’re pilgrims passing through.


Gray: Mmhmm.


Holmes: But while we are here, we should pursue justice.


Gray: Facts.


Holmes: We should pursue righteousness. We should pursue perfection. And as much—but also recognize that we’re never going to obtain it because that leaves us dependent on Jesus, and that leaves us longing, and knowing that one day we’ll get the rest.


Gray: Yeah.


Holmes: We won’t have to work. Because if we get complacent—this is my last point—there are people that are gonna suffer as a result of our complacency.


Gray: Mmhmm.


Holmes: It’s not about our situation. It’s about loving our neighbor. To say, I can’t afford to be complacent. Even though I might be happy with my plight. I might be happy with my situation. But my silence means that other people who have less than I have—who are suffering more than I have—are going to continue to suffer.


Gray: Yeah. Yeah. Good stuff, bro. Well, thank y’all for joining us this episode. We look forward to getting into some more of these quotes.


Holmes: For more resources related to Malcolm X, please visit our website,, where you can subscribe to the show at Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon, RadioPublic, Google, or just grab our RSS feed and never miss a show. While you’re at it, if you found value in the show, we’d appreciate a rating on Apple and Spotify. Remember, our goal is three hundred ratings on Apple Podcasts and one hundred ratings on Spotify. You can help us reach those goals, and it’ll go a long way. You can also just share the podcast with a friend as well. Be sure to visit our website and download our free resource, Make it Plain Season One Discussion Guide.


Join us next week as we continue our reflections on the words and life of Malcolm X.


Gray: Peace.

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.