On January 21st, we celebrated the birthday of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The Nobel Peace Prize winner fought for the advancement of Black Americans and equal rights for all. Most Americans would agree that King is a Black man worthy of recognition. However, he is not the only one. The equally infamous Black activist, Malcolm X, was easily just as compelling to many Americans. His angry disposition, however, did not command the same respect from mainstream America. Where King advocated for nonviolent methods, Malcolm X made it clear that he was not opposed to using violence to achieve his goals (though Ossie Davis, in his eulogy, claimed that Malcolm X never actually used violence). As a young woman, baffled by America’s tolerance of slavery and segregation, I ask “Can you blame him?”
I am fully aware that Malcolm X was not without his flaws. His usage of the term “white devils”, among other things, was highly counter-productive towards a goal of equality. However, in 1965, Malcolm X admitted to having made comments in his younger years that he came to regret: “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. That was a bad scene, brother. The sickness and madness of those days – I’m glad to be free of them.”
Unfortunately, his fanatical comments often overshadowed his ultimate message that freedom was worth fighting, killing and dying for. I sympathize with this mentality. I can’t imagine that had I lived during a time when I was treated like a second class citizen, I wouldn’t have fought. Peace has its place, but as Malcolm X so eloquently said, “We are nonviolent with people who are nonviolent with us.” The moment cops started hosing down Blacks, nonviolence became a thing of the past.
My acceptance of violence as a viable catalyst to change is surely not a popular mentality here in America. At least not these days, when the days of the Revolution and Boston Tea Party have long passed. You don’t have to agree with me to recognize that Malcolm X had profound wisdom. Below are some of his most impressive quotes and deserve mention, particularly as we near Black History Month.
“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”
“Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.”
“Concerning nonviolence, it is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks.”
“If you’re not ready to die for it, put the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary.”
“When a person places the proper value on freedom, there is nothing under the sun that he will not do to acquire that freedom. Whenever you hear a man saying he wants freedom, but in the next breath he is going to tell you what he won’t do to get it, or what he doesn’t believe in doing in order to get it, he doesn’t believe in freedom. A man who believes in freedom will do anything under the sun to acquire . . . or preserve his freedom.”
“Dr. King wants the same thing I want. Freedom.”
“I want Dr. King to know that I didn’t come to Selma to make his job difficult. I really did come thinking I could make it easier. If the white people realize what the alternative is, perhaps they will be more willing to hear Dr. King.”
— in a conversation with Mrs. Coretta Scott King.
“I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.”
Malcolm X, wikipedia.org
Retrieved on Jan 23, 2008
The Official Website of Malcolm X
Retrieved on Jan 23, 2008