Remembering Malcolm X

February 20, 2015 / By: American Culture & Difference
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Saturday, February 21st, 2015 marks fifty years since the assassination of Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) in the Audubon Ballroom in New York City. An iconic figure of the radical freedom movement of the 1960s, Malcolm X was known for his visionary leadership and uncompromising commitment to racial equality and justice. In a life spanning periods of criminality, incarceration, spiritual rebirth, and political activism, Malcolm X embodied the strength and resiliency of the human spirit necessary to defy the forces of discrimination and oppression.

Often thought of as the violent counterpoint to the non-violent Civil Right Movement led by Martin Luther King, Malcolm X was more accurately a coalition builder who understood that unity within the black community was crucial to bringing about significant movement on racial issues in America.  Though there were times in his life when he did preach separatism, in the end, he embraced unity and marveled in the diversity of the human family. As the late Ossie Davis explained in his iconic eulogy of Malcolm:

Many will say turn away from this man, for he is a demon, a monster, a subverter and an enemy of the Black man--and we will smile. They will say that he is of hate—a fanatic, a racist—who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say to them: Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him, or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did you would know him. And if you knew him you would know why we must honor him.

We should honor him for his brilliance, his courage, his honesty, and his fortitude. We should honor him for his articulation of black pride and black consciousness. We should honor him as an ethical and upright leader in a movement for justice. We should honor him because he was a great American.

--Dr. Todd Lawrence, Department of English, University of St. Thomas