Malcolm X aka El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz would have been 92 years old had he not been assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom as he prepared to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity on February, 21, 1965.
Many will recall Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, from the Spike Lee’s cinematic opus in 1992. Others will remember his name from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which he co-authored along with Alex Haley. But it’s so hard to put into words what Malcolm X meant and continues to mean for Black people in America today.
His legacy of speaking sternly in the face of racism and being a vocal proponent of self-defense as the only viable option for Black people over peaceful gatherings and protests is as profound today as it ever was.
That still strikes a cord today. Especially so when we see how, no matter if it’s in broad daylight, on camera or inside of correctional facilities, police officers and their proxies will not hesitate to brutalize and kill people they’re supposed to be trying to protect.
The mechanisms of white supremacy were purposefully set against the betterment and improvement of black life in America. Also like today, said mechanisms had many violent and vocal allies who relished the thought of terrorizing, torturing and lynching Black folks in order to control isolated communities by fear, and the rest of the black populous by extension.
Like today, Klan members were rarely brought to trial and convictions were rarer still. Those terrorists have successfully entrenched themselves in law enforcement, politics, banking, business and entertainment so deeply that it has become difficult for anyone to discern those ambiguously functioning within a passively racist mechanism from individuals whose sole purpose in joining the system was so that he or she could become government sanctioned domestic terrorists.
The right to petition for a remedy to grievances is the very essence of the Constitution, but only if you’re white.
For Malcolm, protest and asking for integration were not enough and he openly supported arming blacks to defend themselves against whites and preached self-determination for Black people. Though Malcolm had espoused some very incendiary views about whites in America, partly due to his training and tutelage under the wing of Elijah Muhammad, he would eventually ease up on his views of white maleficence in America following a trip to Mecca, Saudi Arabia where he met and worshiped with Muslims of all races.
However, he remained unwavering in his belief in Black Nationalism and Self-Defense.
He even was preparing to take the case of Black Human Rights before the United Nations prior to his assassination. His autobiography is considered as one of the most influential books of the 20th century, but as the battle for the soul of America spills all over the media via an ugly election season and explosive riots occurring in Ferguson and Baltimore, many still struggle to grasp Minister Malcolm’s true self.
We remember his split from the Nation of Islam, we remember the statements he made following the assassination of JFK and we remember him calling Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a “chump”, but many still can’t capture the full picture.
A one-time pimp and petty criminal, ex-felon and heroin addict, Malcolm X, who was 39 years old at the time of his death, grew into one of the greatest orators in American history and a glaring example of how the boldest among us are taken away before their full potential is realized.