I recently finished reading Malcolm X: A Life Of Reinvention, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a biography that went much more in depth than Malcolm’s critically acclaimed autobiography. It’s really interesting how the story of Malcolm X is common knowledge among so many people. A man who was a hustler, went to jail, joined the Nation of Islam, got out of prison and became a civil rights leader, who promoted violence, left the Nation and was killed for it . This story is false in many places, but I think people appreciated it so much because of his transformation throughout life. While it is true that Malcolm was a hustler in New York it is said in this book that many of his criminal activities were exaggerated. It also is true that Malcolm became a member of the Nation Of Islam while in prison, but it must be stated that the Nation’s practices and theology at the time were not orthodox Islam. I don’t think enough emphasis is put on the constant evolution he went through after getting out of prison. While a minister with the Nation he spoke of the white man as a “devil”, the the source of all the black man problems and a group that could never look at black people as equals. He wanted a separate territory for the 20 million black people in America at the time. You must understand that many of the things Malcolm said during his time with the Nation were his interpretations of the teachings of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad. When he finally left the Nation Of Islam is when he really broadened his look on things. After his pilgrimage to Mecca, and travels across Africa sometime after, he developed a less “radical” political view and adopted orthodox Islam . Malcolm began to state that black people in America need to look to the United Nation to help fix the institutionalized racism in America. He wanted African people to develop pride and love for their history, their culture and most importantly themselves. He came back from his travels stressing that we could only gain equality if we exercise our untapped political and economic potential. His political ideology was still evolving up until his assassination.
One thing that really upsets me is the constant assumption that Malcolm preached violence or hate. Malcolm never said that black people should randomly go out and attack white people. What he did say was that a man had the God given right to defend himself if his government did not provide that protection. During the time of Jim Crow it was in fact the government harming black people. He didn’t preach violence, or hate, he was preaching logic. I feel like the only reason we learn the little we do about Malcolm in school is because he is a direct contrast to Martin Luther King Jr, and Martin’s more passive approach to change is the route white society would rather us take if we ever came together & organize.
I’ll leave you with a quote of Malcolm’s. I feel like this is so relevant to our time and circumstances.
“You’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution
a time where there’s got to be a change. People in power have misused it
and now there has to be a change and a better world has to be built
and the only way its going to be built is with extreme methods
and I for one will join with anyone, don’t care what color you are
as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.”
- Kabir Lambo