On Feb. 1, America woke to an aura of pride emanating from black households nationwide. Feb. 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month, a time to celebrate and reminisce on the countless impacts Black Americans have made on the development of the country as we know it today. As we take the time to recount the tales of black heroes and geniuses, one icon seems to be neglected from too many church programs and school events.
Among the many Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parades, Frederick Douglas seminars and Harriet Tubman plays, Malcolm X has remains in the shadows of history in comparison to his equally famous civil rights associates.
During this unique time in American history where abrasive personalities and controversial ideals can get you elected into office, and radicalism can run rampant in streets unbothered, the rise and fall of Malcolm X and his legacy deserve to be re-evaluated and perhaps celebrated among the people he fought for the hardest.
Malcolm X, born Malcom Little and formerly known as Malcom Shabazz, was a civil rights advocate and religious leader who gained notoriety in the 1960s during the Civil Rights movement for his polarizing and radical views. As a member of the Nation of Islam, his dramatic appeals for segregation and call for violence shocked and turned many from listening and instead turned to his non-violent counterpart, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for guidance during that transformative time.
“Malcolm represented the kind of attitude and political perspective of many young black so-called militants and radicals coming out of urban areas in the north,” said historian Herb Boyd in an Al Jazeera article, “Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.” For this, he is most widely remembered.
“They had a different kind of attitude. It was hard for them to swallow this notion of non-violence … Malcolm says, 'Somebody hits you. You send him to the cemetery.'”
Despite the abrasiveness of his approach, which he would later change, his passion and drive for providing a better America for its black citizens remained virtuous. He would continue to strive to convince the world so until his assassination in 1965.
Because of the blatant dismissal of his early ideas by the prevailing media of the time, his reasonable messages of advocating for a reformed justice system, the value of black businesses, and push for education were left unmentioned.
“Malcolm Shabazz is a whole man, not excerpt periods of his life,” said Attala Shabazz, Malcom X’s daughter as featured in Sebastien Malo’s article “Malcolm X's legacy survives 50 years after his assassination” for Reuters.
“I would never suggest that my father would want the revolutions of today to have to be violent,” she continued.
In a time where the many injustices against black people fill headlines, where neo-Nazi beliefs are slowly creeping back into the mainstream, and the acceptance of blatant racism and ignorance is becoming an effective tool for gaining power, it is hard not to feel despair at the state of the nation. For many, an icon of inspiration is needed as a reminder for how to react, and Malcolm X provides a great mold to start.
As he called for changes in society, he also practiced being openminded and adjusted his opinions, which can teach a potential lesson in being nonjudgmental and welcoming, as he would later state, “I saw all races, all colors, blue eyed blonds to black skinned Africans in true brotherhood! In unity! Living as one! Worshiping as one! No segregationists, no liberals; they would not have known how to interpret the meaning of those words.”
The legacy of Malcolm X contains more than just a radical call for action. His vision of uniting the black people of America under a fair system and advocating for the chance for black people to obtain equality was shared among every civil rights activist.
Even if the approach was unagreeable, the goal of creating a better America for black people is cause of celebration – and recognition.