Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, (1925-1965), in Omaha Nebraska is one of my heroes in a weird sort of way. Allow me to explain myself. I have always heard that the way you start a journey is not as important as the way you finish it. That is certainly true in the case of Malcolm X. About twenty years ago I viewed Malcolm as an angry black radical who stymied racial progress between the races much more than he helped. I looked at him in much the same way as I look at the race merchants like Al Sharpton. The day I heard the news that Malcolm had been assassinated is still vivid in my memory. However I never really understood why he was murdered. I knew that he was a member of the Nation of Islam led by Elijah Muhammad. His picture was very familiar to me as a child growing up at my dads drugstore in North Nashville. Daddy's store was in a black community and I would occasionally see a copy of the Nation of Islam's newspaper (Muhammad Speaks) lying around. Or I would see well dressed sinister looking black men passing them out. Louis Farrakhan changed the name of the paper to the (Final Call) in 1979. I was also very familiar with mainstream black publications like Ebony and Jet magazine since daddy sold them in his store. I attribute daddy's magazine rack to much of my early education because I spent a lot of time reading. There were interesting articles on every subject and this is where some of my early exposure to history and the Civil War came from.;Daddy didn't sell porn but he had magazines that were pretty risque for a young boy my age. I can't remember their names but the one that stands out in my mind was (For Men Only).;These magazines displayed scantily dressed women and the articles were erotic. I admit that when mother and daddy weren't looking I spent a little too much time in this section.
About twenty or so years ago it became a fad for young black males to wear baseball caps and shirts with an X on it. Or they would wear a shirt showing Malcolm's face with his famous quote, "He who stands for nothing will fall for anything". The fad of wearing Malcolm X clothing ranged from good decent black men to the lowest type of thug. This was several years before the movie Malcolm X, directed by Spike Lee and starring Denzel Washington, came out. I was challenged by those shirts and hats. My view of them was pretty negative but it dawned on me that I was incapable of having an educated discussion on Malcolm because I really knew very little about him. I decided to read up on him and started out with the Autobiography of Malcolm X, edited by Alex Haley of (Roots) fame. For a white man this was a tough read for about two thirds of the book. As far as I knew I was a blue eyed (brown eyed) devil born into evil and there was no hope for changing my character. My skin color was the final determination. I was a subhuman breed separated from the rest of the human race.
I would learn how Malcolm grew up in a racist society every bit as bad as anything I had ever heard about in the South. The only difference was that he grew up in the North and during his youth never went anywhere near the South. Malcolm once said that people should quit picking on the South. Once you cross the Canadian border you are in the South. He talked about how his father was lynched by the Klan. The Klan during the 1920's enjoyed it's greatest membership and they were in pretty much every state in the Union, especially Indiana and the midwest. I found out later that two of his uncles were also lynched. Malcolm talked about how that every time he looked at his light skin and red hair he was reminded of the white slave master that raped his grandmother. He talked about his mother's slow descent into mental illness and that he believed it was caused by racism. Finally he was discouraged from getting an education by a white teacher because he was a Negro.
|A lynching in Duluth Minnesota - 1920|
|Lynching in Indiana|
|50,000 Klansman march in Washington D.C. in 1925 and 26.|
Malcolm as a young man would move to Boston and become a hardened, angry two bit thug that acquired the nickname Satan because he was so evil. Without realizing it he was doing everything to act white. He wore Zoot Suits, went through agonizing torture to straighten his hair and dated white women. Malcolm got into drugs and crime and he would be sent to prison where he would meet a man who would become his mentor. He was a disciple of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. After converting to this poisonous doctrine he would, at least when it came to personal vices, became clean as a whistle. For the rest of his life he would not, smoke, drink, take drugs, swear, or have sex outside of marriage. He followed the Islamic food laws and never ate pork or anything considered unclean. Elijah Muhammad was the closest thing on earth to a god that he knew. After prison he became a loyal leader in the movement and was highly respected. Malcolm was a brilliant orator and after awhile began drawing the attention of the press because of his fiery rhetoric. Elijah Muhammad and others within the movement began to feel threatened by his fame and were probably jealous. Malcolm began to sense the tension and felt betrayed because in his mind he had been a loyal follower of Elijah Mohammad. A huge rift occurred when Malcolm told reporters after the assassination of John Kennedy that this was a sign that the chickens had come home to roost. He said Being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they've always made me glad. Elijah Mohammad was very angry because he felt that the remark would draw more than usual white hostility toward the Nation of Islam since many people had elevated Kennedy to martyr status. Of course the "chickens coming home to roost" remark was exactly what Jeremiah Wright said after September 11, 2001 during those years that Barack Obama was sitting in church services but was deaf to the words and ideas of his pastor.
|A Zoot suit|
Malcolm would totally break with Elijah Muhammad after he found out that he was no better than Martin Luther King in the personal morality department. He learned that his revered leader was having sex with young women in the movement and had several children out of wedlock. Malcolm was a marked man and a dead man walking. Elijah Muhammad was determined to have him killed. After his break with Muhammad, Malcolm decided to go on a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. The trip was an epiphany for Malcolm. He rubbed shoulders with various types of people including white Muslims. Malcolm would began to moderate his beliefs. White people were no longer inherently evil or "Blue Eyed Devils". After this trip;Malcolm would state the following. "America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, even eaten with people who in America would have been considered 'white,' but the 'white' attitude had been removed from their minds by the religion of Islam"
"Brother, remember the time that white college girl came into the restaurant—the one who wanted to help the [Black] Muslims and the whites get together—and I told her there wasn't a ghost of a chance and she went away crying? Well, I've lived to regret that incident. In many parts of the African continent I saw white students helping black people. Something like this kills a lot of argument. I did many things as a [Black] Muslim that I'm sorry for now. I was a zombie then—like all [Black] Muslims—I was hypnotized, pointed in a certain direction and told to march. Well, I guess a man's entitled to make a fool of himself if he's ready to pay the cost. It cost me 12 years". Following Malcolm X’s international travels and his rejection of the Nation of Islam, he founded a new Muslim organization called Muslim Mosque, Inc., which sought to mobilize Muslims and non-Muslims alike to the cause of black equality.
Malcolm would be killed on February 21, 1965 just one week before my 15th birthday.As a man I have more respect for Malcolm X than I do Martin Luther King. Like King Malcolm would be wiretapped by the F.B.I. There is a scene in the movie Malcolm X where one F.B.I. agent is eavesdropping on him and turns to another agent and says "This guy is a saint compared to King". The movie is very accurate considering that Spike Lee directed it. Denzel Washington was a great pick for Malcolm X. My only criticism would be the propaganda at the end using Mandela and showing the Rodney King beating. After I finished the Autobiography of Malcolm X I read everything I could get my hands on about him. One of my favorite articles was in a liberal magazine but the author made some very good points. The article was entitled (Was Malcolm X A Republican?) I like the Malcolm approach to civil rights better than the M. L. King and liberal approach. If Malcolm had lived I believe he would have had a positive influence on the black community. This is why I consider him to be a hero. When you look at his economic and social ideas you might think that you are reading the ideas of Ronald Reagan. I don't like the fact that he was Muslim but beyond that I can find very few flaws in Malcolm.
Many white people look at him as a violent man. A danger to the white community. That is the farthest thing from the truth. Malcolm was a huge believer in the concept of the 2nd Amendment. He preached self defense to his followers and was critical of non-violence as a tactic. He told them never to start trouble but to defend themselves if attacked. Self defense is as American as apple pie. He would say things like the following.
I don't even call it violence when it's in self defense; I call it intelligence".
"If it's lawful to have a rifle club to kill pheasants, it should be just as lawful to have one to kill wolves or dogs that are being sicked on little black babies. In fact, it's constitutional. Article Number Two of the constitution guarantees the right of every citizen to own a rifle or a shot gun.
"Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery".
Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression, because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action".
I feel like I am reading something that Patrick Henry would have said in this last statement. Malcolm covers both principles embodied in the 2nd Amendment. The right of personal self defense and the right to oppose tyranny and oppression.
I don't like his comments on race here but I love what he says about black people and the Democratic Party. “The [Democratic] Party that you backed controls two-thirds of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and still they can’t keep their promise to you, ‘cause you’re a chump. Anytime you throw your weight behind the political party that controls two-thirds of the government, and that Party can’t keep the promise that it made to you during election time, and you’re dumb enough to walk around continuing to identify yourself with that Party, you’re not only a chump, but you’re a traitor to your race.” Conversely we as conservatives could say the very same thing about our Republican majorities in both the Federal and State governments. If we keep voting for them, even though they fail to deliver, then we become chumps and traitors to our patriot forefathers.
Malcolm X preached economic independence for blacks. The following is from an article by Kurt Davis. Malcolm X believed blacks should rely on their own economic capacity for self-advancement, not on government. This is a central tenet of the Republican Party as well. To both, it was essential to have the freedom to pursue their dreams and talents however they chose. Malcolm X wanted this freedom and believed it was only available through economic independence, not dependence. He might be dismayed to learn that many have not chosen that path.
Malcolm was also a social conservative. He came to realize that before blacks could gain economic independence and political power they had to get their own house in order. They had to be faithful to one woman or one man and work to keep their family intact. Give up the vices of drinking, smoking, drug use. Lead a moral, healthy and clean life. Avoid criminal activity because in his words, "To have once been a criminal is no disgrace. To remain a criminal is the disgrace". Malcolm X has baggage. There are things that I could quote from his earlier days, when he was a committed follower of Elijah Mohammad, that would make your skin crawl like "History proves that the white man is a devil" or "The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us that God, now, is about to establish a kingdom on this earth, based upon brotherhood and peace. And the white man is against brotherhood, and the white man is against peace. However I can identify with him because like myself he was a self educated man and he graduated from the school of hard knocks. If America's blacks ever need the philosophy of Malcolm X it is right now. Black families are torn apart by crime, drugs, alcohol abuse, and multiple sexual partners. Seven out of ten black births are out of wedlock. I will not let whites off the hook here. Our families are suffering from the same social ills that plague the black family. We are just not where they are yet but we are quickly gaining on them. I believe that Malcolm would not have approved of the young black thugs that wore his symbol on their clothing back in the day. If I had asked them to tell me what Malcolm believed in they probably wouldn't have known. He also would not have approved of the modern day fad of sagging and emulating the gangster rap culture. Finally, I think that he would bow his head in disbelief at the carnage of blacks killing blacks in our large cities. America could use a healthy dose of the conservatism of Malcolm X and should discard the socialism of the Democratic Party..