Malcolm X Essay
The road to equal rights for African Americans has been a long, hard, treacherous road that still continues today. Several prominent African American’s have become strong leaders in the fight to bridge the racial gap. Malcolm X was one of the most celebrated of these leaders, some considered to be a hero, where others saw as a “racist monster.” From negative racist experiences, early on, Malcolm learned to stand up for what he believed in. His critics portray him as an inately good man, but they criticise the way in which he makes his stands. Some would have liked to have seen him join forces with Martin Luther King Jr., another civil rights activist. Despite how he may be portrayed, Malcolm X was a great man of many talents and achievements and will forever be remembered for his contribution to the civil rights movement.
Malcolm X’s personality developed throughout his life, these changes can be mapped into four respective parts, each part helping Malcolm determine ho he was. As stated by Malcolm:
People are always speculating: why am I as I am? To understand… any person, his whole life, from birth, must be reviewed. All our experiences fuse into our personalities. Everything that ever happened to us is an ingredient. I was born in trouble!
Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, lost his Father, at the age of six, to violence of the Klu Klux Klan, although Newspapers at the time, reported differently “Earl Little, 41,…sustained fatal injuries… when he was run over by a streetcar…” (Myers 21) This tragedy, caused a great tear in Malcolm’s family.
By the age of thirteen, Malcolm had seen his house burn down. He had been exposed to the violent death of his father, had known extreme hunger, had seen the slow breakdown of his mother, and had also seen brothers and sisters placed in homes. (Perry 32)
Years without proper schooling, left the troubled Malcolm to a life on the streets. While imprisoned on burlary charges, Malcolm found the Black Muslim movement, and the Islam religion.
Malcolm X, a man of strong morals, believed that:
power in defense of freedom, is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression, because power, real power, comes from conviction, which produces action,
Malcolm also believed that this freedom should be sought out:
By any means necessary! I’m for freedom…. Http://mercury.spaceports.com/x/quotes.html
In respect to the revolting by Black Americans, Malcolm believed that : “it is incorrect to classify the revolt of the Negro as simply a racial conflict of Black against white,…it is a global rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor…” (http://bc.bluffton.edu/BCNews) He believed that this revolution by the American Negro was part of the rebellion against all oppression which seemed to characterize the era.
Due to the vast resources relating to Malcolm, there are a number of common misconceptions, such as with regards to his trip to Mecca, which supposedly changed his entire system of belief. This in actuality was the opinion of Reverend Albert Cleage, in a speech which he delivered in Detroit he states: “I reject it Malcolm’s total change of beliefs completely… I say if this kind of transformation, if in Mecca he had decided that blacks and whites can unite, then his life at that moment would have become meaningless in terms of the world struggle of black people” (Bailey 15) Another misconception was that Malcolm X supported violent action, when in fact he often told his followers that they should never initiate violence (Perry 283).
Many people wondered how appropriate Malcolm’s ways of achieving his goals were, but questions aside, the critics praised Malcolm. Many white reporters and politians were pleased with Malcolm’s respectful ways, he may critisize them but he did not treat them in an ungentlemanly manner. As he said to one audience of blacks, in respect to the white policemen: “maybe some of these blue-eyed devils in blue uniform here are really black. If any of them smiles, it’s ’cause…he’s a brother.” (Perry 284) Malcolm was often noted for his abilities to rally the spirit of a crowd. Malcolm’s audiences would often become very involved in the speach itself, often crying out : “Say on, brother, say on.” (Perry 175) . Despite all of Malcolm’s praise, there was also some miscontent, Malcolm was alledgedly arrogant towards his “students”. “He made sure that they knew that he was the teacher and that they were the students” (Perry 275). It was also frequently noted that Malcolm verbally degraded, Martin Luther King Jr. In reference to Martin’s peaceful sitins, Malcolm states: ” Anybody can sit. An old woman can sit. A coward can sit…It takes a man to stand” (Perry 282) Although the people wanted the racial barrier to fall, they couldn’t accept violence as a means to do it. “If he wanted to create some sort of peace between the two, then why would he try to create more violence to stop the existing violence.” (Perry 285) They disagreed with his philosophy “by any means necessary.”
There are many speculations as to what would have happened had Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. joined forces. In Malcolm’s eyes the main difference between himself and Martin was that “Martin doesn’t mind being beat up and I do.” (Perry 323) Malcolm told one audience: “you’re going to have to fight!” (Perry 282) By saying this he implied that violence was to be tolerated if for a good cause. Martin’s view on fighting for civil rights was almost the directly polar to Malcolms, “forgive them, they know not what they do” (Perry 183), he was quoted as saying. He believed that non-violence portrayed blacks as people who only wanted to exercise their rights as Americans. These strong differences in opinions made a relationship between the two men difficult. Perhapse if the two had joined forces, a new revolution that exempified the defeaningly silent battle against the racial barriers would have been birthed.
Having studied several debating styles he often chose to answere a question with a question, “parrying” difficult questions with equally difficult ones of his own. He was once asked whether the Nation of Islam supported the US government to which replied: “Does the government support and protect us?” (179MALCOLM) In this way Malcolm was able to indirectly answer the question asked of him, yet at the same time, create questions of his own. Along with his debating skills Malcolm was skillful at using political metaphors. His use of these metaphors reinforced his reputation as a “preeminent” spokesman for black separatism. Comparing a child’s independence from his parents, to the independence he was advocating. He warned that if the “mother” (US) didn’t give the “child” (blacks) independence, it would have to be taken forcefully, and if it escalated to this, if could cause the “mother’s” death . (Perry 187) Malcolm’s ability to adapt to his surroundings, let him rally a college campus one day and a group in the ghetto the next, his popularity increased because he was able to speak to his audiances, in a way which spoke to them.
In the Nation of Islam’s temples,…Malcolm spoke in terms of devils and gods. At institutions of higher learning, he talked in terms of the oppressed and their oppressors (Perry 179)
While in Harlem, Malcolm completed another stepping stone in his life. He became the Chief Minister of the Harlem Mosque. Here “he learned from, debated and struggled with the competing platforms of revolutionary and cultural nationalism, electoral politics, socialism and communism” (http://bc.bluffton.edu/BCNews/Archive/news.stm.) He learned how the majority of blacks felt and thought. On December 4, 1963 Malcolm was suspended from the Nation of Islam for his inappropriate comment on J.F. Kennedy’s assassination. After his suspension he left them and go on to form the Muslim Mosque Inc, in 1964, and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. These allowed Malcolm to show “his” people his new found beliefs, that blacks and whites could co-exist in one society. In the Establishment part of the Organization’s declaration it states:
The Organization of Afro-American Unity shall include people of African decent in the Western Hemisphere, as well as our brothers and sisters on the African continent. (Myers 158)
This shows that Malcolm’s definition of an “African”, as stated in the declaration, includes both whites and blacks not just “black Africans”. It also shows his willingness for blacks and whites to work in harmony.
The March on Washington took place on August 28, 1963. Malcolm didn’t like the march refering to it as the “farce on Washington” (Myers 130) He thought it was altogether too peaceful and hated the fact that blacks had allowed whites to become leaders of the march. Malcolm’s idea that the whites would take over was right.
members of the student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (S.N.C.C.) who had been active in sit-ins throughout the South, had prepared a speech. But the speech was viewed by some white clergymen as being too hostile and it was changed. (Myers 130)
Shortly after this, Malcolm stated that “whites were using the blacks as “puppets”” (Perry 131) . Three weeks later a church in Birmingham was bombed, four childer died and in another part of the city, a thirteen year old was shot to death. These events angered Martin Luther King Jr.’s supporters, who said that he couldn’t preach non-violence at a time when black children were being killed and not have a positive plan which blacks could take to move forward. Despite the people’s feelings, King stuck to his non-violent beliefs. Due to the recent horrors, the people’s hearts prefered Malcolm’s voice which loudly demanded “How could you turn the other cheek when your children were being killed?” (Myers 133) In Malcolm’s opinion about the march was that:
It ceased to be angry. It ceased to be impatient. In fact, it ceased to be a march. It became a picnic (Perry 211)
In some ways the March was successful in bringing about awareness for the civil rights action, but more so, it added to Malcolm’s popularity. When the march’s downfalls were depicted, it was then that the people were able to see, hear and recognize Malcolm’s true greatness.
Malcolm X was a great man who knew exactly what he believed in. From the early stages of his life, Malcolm saw the pain that racism caused the black community. He caught the attention of many critics, but all the criticism didn’t come in the negative form, many thought him to be a spectacular man and leader. His amazing ability to speak to people of various lifestyles was incredible. He was able to capture the attention of any man and get him involved. Malcolm may never have created any new civil rights legislation he was able to take the anger of the blacks which had been bottled up for a long period of time and release it, to put it to good political use. His ability to stand up for his beliefs and the inspiration he provided to his followers to do the same is what makes Malcolm a great man.
Paraphrase for #3 end. El-Hajj Malik’s new universalistic message was the U.S. establishment’s worst nightmare. Not only was he appealing to the black masses, but to intellectuals of all races and colors. Now he was consistently demonized by the press as “advocating violence” and being “militant,” although in actuality he and Dr. Martin Luther King were moving closer together in outlook:
The goal has always been the same, with the approaches to it as different as mine and Dr. Martin Luther King’s non-violent marching, that dramatizes the brutality and the evil of the white man against defenseless blacks. And in the racial climate of this country today, it is anybody’s guess which of the “extremes” in approach to the black man’s problems might personally meet a fatal catastrophe first — “non-violent” Dr. King, or so-called “violent” me.”