Rebel Malcolm X
Today is Malcolm X’s birthday. He was a teacher, leader, and inspirer. We are celebrating his life and the important social and political lessons that he left with us. He went through many personal stages of growth; of realization and understanding of truth.
Malcolm reminds us that the movement is more important than the man. We should invest our energies and efforts in the movement itself rather than invest in blind loyalty to any single person. Malcolm reminds us that we must always lead, even as we follow. He displayed the capacity to learn, to grow, and to change direction. Once a young white woman approached Malcolm and asked him what role sincere white people could play in the struggle for racial equality. He told her that there was no role for whites at all. Years later, he commented that he regretted his response and spoke of the difficulty in building workable interracial partnerships. We can take that lesson and learn from his humility. He taught us that we must acknowledge human interdependence if we hope to build enduring movements out of the fragile and complicated interests that we share.
There are so many more lessons that we could take from Malcolm’s life. He taught us the importance of naming ourselves; telling our stories honestly so that we create a historical record of our work; questioning our leaders; and the importance of knowing that the people we think are our allies may ultimately destroy us.
Malcolm X even admittedly changed his views on women. In his last years he rejected the sexism of conservative tradition and moved toward a revolutionary position that insisted on the principle of absolute equality between men and women. He felt that special effort should be made to develop women as leaders. Women should master the skills of public speaking and political analysis.
In The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley recounts a reflection Malcolm X shared: “I believe that it would be impossible to find anywhere in America a black man who has lived further down in the mud of human society than I have; or a black man who has been any more ignorant that I have been; or a black man who has suffered more anguish during his life than I have. But it is only after this deepest darkness that the greatest joy can come; it is only after slavery and prison that the sweetest appreciation of freedom can come. I do believe that I have fought the best that I could, with the shortcomings that I have had. I know that my shortcomings are many.”
Malcolm X is controversial to some maybe even called a rebel. He did not cower and hide. He spoke truthfully and was able to admit when he was wrong. Everyone may not agree on all of his principles but it should be agreed that he was a man of strength and bravery that stood tall in the face of adversity. His words will continue now to be lessons to us as individuals and as a community to uplift and fight for what you believe in.
“The social philosophy of Black nationalism only means that we have to get together and remove the evils, the vices, alcoholism, drug addiction, and other evils that are destroying the moral fiber of our community. We ourselves have to lift the level of our community, the standard of our community to a higher level, make our own society beautiful so that we will be satisfied…. We’ve got to change our own minds about each other. We have to see each other with new eyes. We have to see each other as brothers and sisters. We have to come together with warmth so we can develop unity and harmony that’s necessary to get this problem solved ourselves.. (Malcolm X Speaks; April, 1964)