Culture / Ryan Gray

Remembering an Icon – Malcolm X

“Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors … from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.”

Twenty years ago Spike Lee’s masterpiece based on the life of the fascinating Malcolm X made film history. In popular culture we are led to believe that Malcolm X was only a fierce advocator for segregation and racial hatred, but this is simply not true. While he may have not been the calmest man to have ever walked the earth, he was far from the monster that he has often been characterised as. It is often ignored how Malcolm X was viewed in African Nations, or even among his own Muslim brothers. Contrary to popular portrayals he is often described and a peaceful and caring man who after his Hajj (The Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) was a transformed man.

What I have always found appealing about Malcolm X was his ability to seemingly accept his faults and mistakes in life and openly admit he was wrong. In his biography, on which he collaborated, he tells of his regret at making a young white girl cry after talking to her too sternly when she asked if she could help him fight for civil rights. This short and rather insignificant story in relation to his life highlights that he had no problem admitting when he was wrong , something many of us often fail to do.

In society we often make martyrs out of those who are seemingly perfect, ignoring the faults they have. Although I do not believe this should be done in the case of Malcolm X (he has said and done some things which are beyond ignoring). We should remember him as the man that he was, instead of seeing him the way his racist contemporaries would have liked him to be remembered as. He is credited with raising the esteem of many Black Americans and promoting an African heritage seemingly forgotten and suppressed in the United States at the time. Also very important to note is that a large number of Black Americans feel that Malcolm X articulated their view far better than the mainstream Civil Rights movement ever did.

As already said we should not suddenly forget everything Malcolm X said or did, because not everything he did promoted peace, equality and harmony. Instead, we should remember what made him special. I will leave you with parts from of the extract of the biography I made reference to earlier in hope that if you are not already fascinated with the life of one of the most inspiring people to have lived in modern times… you will be afterwards and maybe upon reading more about him, your opinion of him will change like mine has.

Brother, remember the time that white college girl came into the restaurant—the one who wanted to help the Muslims and the whites get together—and I told her there wasn’t a ghost of a chance and she went away crying? Well, I’ve lived to regret that incident. In many parts of the African continent I saw white students helping black people…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.”

Ryan Gray 

Interact UK –

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