Thursday, June 9, 2011

El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) was awesome

I put this in a facebook note last year and is partly the reason I started blogging.  I think maybe other people would like to hear what I think on it too.

The personage of Malcolm X has been severely distorted after his death, something he himself saw coming, as one of being one who propagated violence. In truth, he taught obedience of the law but if there is anarchy or someone is attacked against the law, they are entitled to self defense irregardless of race. That too is upheld in the law.  This was the case even when he was part of the Nation of Islam, it was just racist attitudes prevalent at the time that helped to demonize him as he was a strong opponent of many mindsets of different races held to be normal at the time.

I also disagree very much that his approach to the race problem and Dr. King's problem had varying degree of results because both of them were approaching it differently at different points.  This is in response to a poster I saw at the UMD book store which stated "Dr. King's message" was more successful than "Malcolm X's message".  Its also worth noting that a lot of people also ignored whatever they were saying altogether in the way a person agrees with someone wholeheartedly to their face but refuses to change because that's how its been for him always or he doesn't have the guts to take action.  Also, those further away in time from a certain message will forget it also like followers of Prophets and their messages.

The former more strongly approached the social change, first in just the African Americans themselves and then, when his views changed, people all around but he still focused his efforts mostly on blacks because he identified very strongly to them and knew they needed unity.  At first it was very extremist in the sense that he generalized about a people the way they did him and irrelevant of how justified he may have been, it was wrong.  He also followed a version of a belief that was changed by people to fit one cause but was not only for that cause originally and he found that out later.

Dr. King had all of that but he also pushed for the political change with such bills as the various Civil Rights Bills that were passed but those things by themselves did not foster the change in the minds of the people which would lead them away from racist ideology.  He also seemed to be more of the mind of let alone whatever happened and lets move on which is a good attitude and mindset but when wrong things have been done, most people can't just pretend they didn't happen and eventually they have to be faced.

I think that in the end, they both had a fair amount of success but Malcolm X is less remembered by everyone b/c of his past with the Nation of Islam where he admitted he was not right on many things, particularly of the reverse hate of whites.  It eventually led him to a greater truth but people find it hard to let go of somethings, particularly the media which never portrayed him in a good light and were at the forefront of pushing that everlasting bad image of him.  He also followed a religion which the majority of people in this country can't relate to while on the other hand, people all over Muslim countries know him as well as they knew Muhammad Ali because of his faith.

By the way, the popular poster of him holding a rifle with the caption "By Any Means Necessary" is such misrepresentation and I was surprised to find out that it wasn't even people who hated him that started that if I recall correctly.  He was afraid for the lives of his family and if he had enemies before leaving Nation of Islam, they multiplied afterward.  He believed in self-defense as stated and and also stated is its legality in the law.  If its saying I'll protect my home and family by any means necessary, that's perfectly fine.


  1. I agree, but disagree. The poster is inane, given. But I think it has more to do with how slogans collapse complicated issues into digestible pieces at the expense of truth. Even if Malcolm X was exactly as the poster inaccurately portrays him (as an advocate of violence in the service of a one-sided racially biased perspective), the claim that his "message failed" is still deeply stupid. If by "message failing", the makers of the poster mean that racial pride and/or hate groups no longer advocate violence, then they are obviously wrong. If on the other hand, they mean that the message failed inasmuch as it didn't play as important a role in the civil rights movement as King's, then they are still wrong but less obviously. For one, the claims about the efficacy of none violence in social change are laden with bias and short of it, the poster's claim could be reversed with as much at-hand justification (and maybe even more given the historical record of social change). In other words, the fact that non-violence is historically new as a mass movement strategy suggests that we would be safer to assume that its affect on the civil rights movement is probably inflated. For more cynicism regarding civil disobedience and the heritage of Thoreau see How do you feel about the heroes in the Indian independence movement? How would you weigh the contributions of men like Gandhi or B.R. Ambedkar, brothers in struggle but castes apart?

  2. I haven't read much about B. R. Ambedkar but he seems like the closest thing to Malcolm X where Ghandi would be MLK Jr. In that respect, I see them both having made equivalent contributions and to different areas and also they both have had their shortcomings. In the US for example, blacks still make up a good percentage of the impoverished and despite the leaps in race attitudes, a lot of people in various places still hold these prejudices, just secretly and they show it in different ways.

    Its actually a lot worse in India, for one thing, there's still a lot of ill will between Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, etc. in various places in India which has been expressed many times over the years in riots, gang violence, and wars with Pakistan. Poverty is still ridiculously high with the caste systems still gripping many places in India however "illegal" it may be considered. Murder is considered illegal in Pakistan yet they call the murder of Ahmadi Muslims righteous and a must for every Pakistani non-Ahmadi Muslim and of course, it is committed on a regular basis.