On the Death and Life of Betty Shabazz

By Carl Dix

Revolutionary Worker #914, July 6, 1997

The Revolutionary Communist Party joins with people across the U.S. and around the world in mourning the passing and celebrating the life of Dr. Betty Shabazz. The life of Dr. Betty Shabazz was one of great sacrifice for the struggle of the people. As the wife of the fiery and uncompromising revolutionary leader, El Hajj Malik Shabazz--Malcolm X, she and her young daughters were subjected to death threats and the firebombing of their home while they slept. All this culminated in the murder of Malcolm X at the Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965, in a hit that bore all the markings of a government-engineered assassination. And one that went down while Sister Shabazz and her young daughters sat in the audience and watched in horror.

Left on her own, Betty Shabazz juggled raising six daughters, working and pursuing a degree and graduate studies in education. All the while striving to remain true to what her late husband stood for. As she put it, "My children think my persona is me, when actually it is their father's." She didn't view her studies as a way to get some corporate position and "get paid." Instead she saw it as a way for her to help her people, especially the youth. She was active in the renaming of schools in honor of her late husband and played a role in the founding of Malcolm X College in Chicago. She also specialized in early childhood education and up til her death worked to raise funds for scholarships and books for students in need.

There is a great contrast between how the people and our oppressors have responded to Sister Betty's death. The people responded to her life, and her death, with a great show of love. Both those who knew her and many who only knew of her spoke of their hearts being touched by how she had raised children and helped raise grandchildren on her own while also reaching out to help others. People from many different backgrounds and different nationalities expressed their concern as she fought for life and their grief when she died.

But for the authorities this was an opportunity to go for blood. First they set out to prosecute her grandson, 12-year-old Malcolm Shabazz, who they accuse of causing her death. They inflicted further injury on the family by pressing to do an autopsy on her body as a way to beef up their persecution of her grandson and in violation of Muslim religious beliefs. (They were forced to back off this threat.) Mayor Rudolph (a.k.a.: Adolph) Giuliani inserted himself into the situation by racing to announce her death in advance of the family and angling for an honored role in ceremonies marking her passing. This is all very ugly. The very government which many of us are clear had a hand in Malcolm's murder is posing as his widow's friend while also trying to use her death to further persecute her family--after having already inflicted unspeakable horrors on them. We must not let them get away with this!

Betty Shabazz will undoubtedly be missed by many. But her spirit--the spirit with which she fought on after the murder of her husband and with which she fought for several weeks to hold off death after she was severely burned--will surely live on. Her legacy will help inspire many people to give their lives to the struggle of the people. In this way it will help us to wage the kind of struggle and build the kind of movement we need to end the oppression of Black people and all the misery, brutality and degradation this system inflicts on so many here and around the world.

National Spokesperson,
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

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