What a coincidence that this weeks reading coincides with the anniversary of Malcom X’s death. Fifty-five years ago on February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated. The Autobiography of Malcom X is by far one of the most influential books that I’ve read in my life; I want to take some time to reflect on this great mans life.
Malcom X is an example on so many levels; He is the example of triumph over adversity. He is an example of a man completely transforming his life. One of the most poignant or powerful moments in his the book is when Malcolm X talks about his encounter with one of his English teachers when he was in the eight grade. Academically he was at the top of his class and one of the only black students. When asked what he wanted to do with his life Malcom answered that he wanted to be a lawyer. His teacher replies that is not realistic. A young boys dreams were crushed. What if Malcom’s teacher was black? This goes to show the power of the black experience in the classroom. As Walker depicts in her article African American Teaching in the South: 1940-1960, black educators worked to instill high aspirations in children.
The autobiography of Malcom X opened my eyes. Growing up I did not hear about Malcom X or his perspective. My school did not teach us about Malcom they taught us about Martin. Martin Luther King and Malcom X are two sides of the same coin. Malcom X was a modern thinker — It was Malcom X who almost single handily transformed the racial consciousness of black people so that they no longer were ashamed of being black. Malcolm X symbolized the kind of attitude and political perspective of many of the youth coming out of urban areas in the North.
Although, Obama and Malcom X may be seen as opposites end of the political spectrum, as Coates illustrates in We Were Eight Years in Power, one can observe similarities. Like Malcolm, Obama is misunderstood in the sense that the country expected the first African-American president to eliminate America’s racial problem. Like Obama, Malcolm stood for the promotion of human rights. On the contrary, Malcom X spoke to the “white” media but he was not trying to convince them what he was saying was true because he knew they were going to distort what he said. He used the experience of black people in the ghetto, the people that he was talking to. Obama on the other hand, a master of eloquence, used the attention of the media to garner support.
Malcom was many things — controversial, angry, loud, hungry, ambitious, confident — but above all, he was real, he was humble. Malcolm to me means oneness; He stood for what he believed in and he wasn’t afraid to change his beliefs when they were no longer true. They may have killed Malcom but they didn’t kill his ideas.