In the gripping new documentary Brother Minister: The Assassination of Malcolm X, there’s an extraordinary video clip of Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, as he addresses a closed gathering of his followers in February 1993. Exhorting the crowd in hellfire tones, Farrakhan describes Malcolm X as a ”traitor” and then, as if speaking to some mythical accuser, he says that if the Nation of Islam ”dealt with him” the way that any nation deals with a traitor, ”what the hell business is it of yours?” His words seem to suggest that when Malcolm was gunned down 30 years ago by members of the Fruit of Islam, the NOI’s trained security wing, they were acting on an implicit directive from their leaders.
Was Farrakhan himself involved — a suspicion revived by the Jan. 12 arrest of Malcolm’s 34-year-old daughter, Qubilah Shabazz, on charges that she tried to hire a hit man to kill Farrakhan? Given the closed society of the NOI, there is probably no way of ever knowing. But Brother Minister, which includes detailed interviews with journalists and several of Malcolm’s bodyguards, presents circumstantial evidence indicating that the assassination was at least tacitly approved by the Nation’s leaders and, perhaps, assisted by an FBI disinformation campaign. Above all, the movie reminds us of the most haunting aspect of Malcolm X’s murder: that on some level it was an act of cultural suicide — the soul of black America destroyed from within. B+