Malcolm X Essay, Research Paper
Malcolm Little, a revolutionary black power advocate and civil rights leader was brought into this world on May 19, 1925. The period of Malcolm?s life from 1952 to his assassination in 1965 will be discussed thoroughly in this essay. Malcolm believed that a common foe, the white man, hindered black, brown, red, and yellow people?s freedom worldwide throughout most of his life. Malcolm was a balck nationalist or seperateist during most of his life too. Malcolm in one of his last interviews said that he had made mistakes during his life, and he was accountable for these mistakes. Malcolm?s biggest mistake was holding the racist view that all white men are evil, but he later altered this view. A man who takes responsibility for his actions, is noble: Malcolm X was noble because he stood in the face of the black Muslims, and said, ?I was wrong in holding that all white men are evil, and you are wrong also, if you hold this belief.? Malcolm X was murdered because he had a noble soul, he fought ferociously for ?colored? people?s freedom, and this is what he should be remembered for.
Malcolm was the fourth child born to Earl and Louise Little. Malcolm?s father was a Christian minister, he worked for the unity of black people and this determination rubbed off on Malcolm. Earl and Louise worked for the Universal Negro Improvement Association, which urged blacks to free themselves from white dependence. The UNIA, taught black people to be proud of their blackness, and its members promoted the ?back to Africa? movement. Malcolm?s home life was plagued by physical hunger: ?Malcolm?s mother, would boil up a big pot of dandelion greens to feed her eleven children, all of them dizzy from hunger….[on] luckier days they would eat cornmeal mush. ( Gallen, 1) Despite this physical hunger Malcolm was spiritually fed by his family. Malcolm?s father was murdered when he was six years old. The KKK had threatened Earl Little on several occasions. Malcolm continued to attend and do well in school throughout his adolescence. Malcolm graduated the eighth grade, but at the age of fifteen he dropped out of school and began to run the streets. Malcolm began to make acquaintances with dope dealers, thieves, hoodlums, and pimps. At the age of twenty Malcolm, was convicted of burglary, he served seven years in prison. Malcolm spent his time in jail educating himself. In prison Malcolm learned about the Nation of Islam and the black Muslims, who advocated racial separation and preached an anti-white doctrine. In prison Malcolm changed his last name to X because he felt that African American?s had lost their true identity under slavery. Malcolm did not want to continue living under his false identity, with his ?Little? badge of slavery. The European Americans had made the black community commit crime, by keeping them socially, economically, politically, and educationally disadvantaged. This was the reason, Malcolm believed, that blacks were overpopulating America?s prisons. In prison Malcolm read ferociously, allowing him to gain a wide scope of knowledge that would help him become the superior orator that he was. In 1952, Malcolm was released from prison a changed man.
For most of Malcolm X?s life he was a racist: Malcolm was just reacting to the bigotry of white peoples. Malcolm was only racist towards white people. Malcolm justified his racism, by saying it was the ?hate? that ?hate? produced. White people hated black people therefore, it was legitimate to hate white people. Malcolm said the ?Negro problem? should be renamed the ?white man?s problem? because it was not the Negro who believed in the superiority of its race; it was not the Negro who enslaved millions of white peoples. The ?white man?s problem? is that he enslaved blacks, and still believes in white supremacy. Malcolm said, ?You [African Americans] catch hell whether you?re a Baptist, or a Methodist, or a Muslim, or a nationalist… you?re going to catch hell just like I [do]. We?re in the same boat and we all are going to catch hell from the same [white] man.? [Malcolm x speaks, 24] Malcolm X taught a philosophy that believed that the white man was the devil. White devils deprived colored people of their rights, he used terror tactics to hinder the black political voice, and he enacted a cast system to keep the black man down. Malcolm said that: ?all of us have suffered here, in this country, political oppression, economic exploitation, and social degradation at the hands of … white [men]…. If the white man doesn?t want us to be anti-him, [then] let him stop oppressing and exploiting and degrading us.? [Malcolm x speaks, pp 25] Malcolm?s racism stemmed from his following of Elijah Muhammad, but when he left the ?black Muslims? he altered his anti-white views.
Malcolm believed that if blacks were going to be free then they would have to free themselves by using any means nessecary. Malcolm said that freedom or, ?independence comes only by two ways; by ballots or by bullets…historically you?ll find that everyone…gets freedom… through ballots or bullets.? [Gallen 199] Malcolm felt that if black peoples could not use ballots to be free, like black people in the south or those in the north whose rights were hindered by gerrymandering, then bullets were the next option. The civil rights movement did not help the black peoples of the north, and the greatest constituency of his followers came from the north?s poor urban masses, that were not affected by meager non-violent gains. Malcolm scorned the efforts of nonviolent revolution, as, revolutions historically have always come with blood, and were fought for land. In Malcolm X?s speech ?Message to the Grass Roots,? he said, ?There is no such thing as a nonviolent revolution. The only kind of revolution that is nonviolent is the Negro revolution. The only revolution in which the goal is loving your enemy is the Negro revolution.? [Malcolm x speaks, 9] In another speech Malcolm said that it was ?criminal? to teach nonviolence to blacks when they were constantly the subjects of white violence. Malcolm said:
At any time any Ku Klux Klan inflicts any kind of brutality against any Negro, we should be in a position to strike back. We should not go out and initiate violence against white[s] indiscriminately, but we should be absolutely in a position to retaliate against the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens Council[s]. Especially, since the government seems to be incapable or unwilling to curtail the activities of…[them.] [Malcolm X Reader, ppl98]
Malcolm believed that white violence must be stopped, or that at least met equally, so that bloodshed would fall equally. Islam taught Malcolm to respect others but only if they respected him: it was therefore, all right to use violence against violence. Malcolm said,
?it?s smarter to say you?re going to shoot a man for what his is doing to you than because he is white.? [Malcolm x speaks, 213] If you shoot a man because he is white and not because of his actions, then you are going to be on the white racist?s level. White racist attacked black people indiscriminately, for trying to secure civil rights, and this was immoral. Malcolm did not want emulate the white man?s actions. Malcolm continued to promote armed defense against white injustice, throughout his whole life.
Malcolm X changed during the last two chaotic years of his life, his break with Elijhah Muhammad and the black Muslims, and his comments about his trip to Mecca are proof of his change. Malcolm admitted a change in one of his last interviews:
CLAUDE LEWIS: I notice your growing a beard. What does that mean? Is it a symbol of anything?
MALCOLM X: It has no particular meaning, other than it probably reflects a change that I?ve undergone and am still undergoing. (A Malcolm X reader pp. 1 9 5)
Malcolm?s philosophy evolved during this period, he never trusted all white people, but he believed that some were good. Before these turning points Malcolm took a segregationist or seperatists stance. Early in Malcolm?s life he said that: ?integration is impossible and undesirable,? but during his trip to Mecca, ?he saw blue-eyed whites and blacks worshipping and living together, in love, for the first time in his 39 years?and his whole concept of white people changed.? [pp 4, cleage] Malcolm X, like all human beings, evolved: definitive proof of change, can be seen in statements he made about race relations during the last two years of his life. After Mecca, Malcolm X changed his name to Al-Haji Maliak El-Shabazz, this symbolicly reflects the change in Malcolm. Ossie Davis, a friend and confidant of Malcolm said:
No one who knew him before and after his trip to Mecca could doubt that he had completely abandoned racism, separatism, and hatred. But he had not abandoned…shock-effect statements…[and continued to fight] for immediate freedom in this country not only for blacks, but for everyone.
Malcolm X did not try to internationalize the African American struggle, but he wanted to relate it to the black, brown, yellow, and red man?s struggle worldwide. Malcolm?s journeys to Cairo, Mecca, Kuwait, Beirut, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zanzibar, Tanzania and Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Guinea, and Algeria show his support for the non-white peoples in the world. He was not trying to internationalize the struggle of African Americans but believed in, ?one struggle?black men fighting for freedom everywhere, in every country, in the United States, in Africa, in Vietnam… black men fighting against white men for freedom.? (Cleage, 6). To Malcolm the black man in America was the proletariat or exploited class. Internationally the black, brown, yellow, or red man was the subject of Caucasian?s imperialism or colonization; therefore he was the exploited class too. Colored peoples of the world in unity using ?any means nessecary? to halt white mans aggression and exploitation.
Malcolm?s assassination was most likely the result of his break with the Nation of Islam. In 1963 a split developed between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad, and Malcolm X was suspended as a Nation of Islam minister. Malcolm X had become increasingly dissatisfied with the group’s failure to participate in the growing civil rights movement, and Muhammad seemed threatened by the growing popularity of Malcolm X. In 1964 Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam and formed a new group, the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Malcolm?s new stance on race relations that resulted from his traveling, made Farakhan and the ?Black Muslims? mad. This challenged their whole docterine of black seperatism and white hatred. In 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated while addressing an OAAU rally in New York City. Three black Muslims were eventually convicted and jailed for the killing. Louis Farrakhan, Nation of Islam member and current leader, denied any connection with the shooting. Later Farrakhan announced that he had helped to create an atmosphere that may have induced others to carry out the assassination.
Malcolm?s legacy can be seen in his range of influence. Malcolm said, ?In areas were our people are the constant victims of brutality, and the government seems unwilling or unable to protect them, we should form rifle clubs that can be used to defend our lives and our property in times or emergency.? [ Gallen 170] Malcolm X had a profound influence on Huey Newton, the founder and leader of the Black Panther Party. Newton?s Black Panther Party organized armed patrols to monitor police brutality and affirmed the use of violence as a means for blacks to defend themselves. Newton took advantage of a California law that allowed people to carry shotguns around in the streets, therefore embodying the ?bullets? freedom method. The assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, marked a turning point in the civil rights struggle. Non-violent demonstrators began to advocate ?black power? and ?any means nessecary,? as methods to securing African American liberation. In the late 1990?s a rebirth of interest in Malcolm X was prompted by Spike Lee?s movie based on his life. Popular culture embraced the legacy, and African Americans proudly wore Malcolm X hats and tee shirts. On the other end of the spectrum white racists wore shirts that said, ?you wear your X and I?ll wear mine? with a picture of the Confederate flag on them. This shows that racial divisions and bigotry are still prominent forces in American society.
In conclusion, Malcolm X, a revolutionary black power advocate and civil rights leader was brought into this world on May 19, 1925. The period of Malcolm?s life from 1952 to his assassination in 1965 was discussed thoroughly in this essay. Malcolm believed that a common foe, the white man, hindered black, brown, red, and yellow people?s freedom worldwide throughout most of his life. Malcolm was a balck nationalist or seperateist during most of his life too. Malcolm in one of his last interviews said that he had made mistakes during his life, and he was accountable for these mistakes. Malcolm?s biggest mistake was holding the racist view that all white men are evil, but he later altered this view. A man who takes responsibility for his actions, is noble: Malcolm X was noble because he stood in the face of the black Muslims, and said, ?I was wrong in holding that all white men are evil, and you are wrong also, if you hold this belief.? Malcolm X was murdered because he had a noble soul, he fought ferociously for ?colored? people?s freedom, and this is his greatest legacy.