Anniversary Post: Malcolm X’s Assassination

Malcolm XOn this day in 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated. I don’t know that much about him. Some day I really should read Alex Haley’s book. But I want to talk briefly about what he seems to have represented to White America: the dangerous black man. I’ve often thought that what progress we’ve made regarding racial politics are thanks to Malcolm X. Because when I was growing up, it seemed to me that people were terrified of him. And note: he died just days after my first birthday. So they were terrified of a dead man.

Malcolm X vs MLK

That’s not to say that America’s Gandhi, Martin Luther King, didn’t terrify White America too. That is the true white man’s burden: fear of everything, but most especially that they will lose their preferred status, which is based a centuries old asymmetry of weapons technology. Of course, the White Man doesn’t exactly think in those terms. But I think he knows. I think we all know that in a fair fight, the white man would not come out on top. It would just be a mess — a diverse mess.

But if you have to negotiate a peace, you want to do it with King and his commitment to nonviolence rather than with Malcolm X and his commitment to “any means necessary.” None of this is to say that racism of any form is acceptable. But I’m much more of the separatist mentality myself. And I can’t believe there are many white men who have grown up with the privilege that we are given in his country deciding that turning the other cheek was a reasonable approach to the oppression that African Americans lived under then and continue to live under to this day.

A lot of people wonder what King might have accomplished had he lived longer. I think that Malcolm X might have had a much greater effect. As we’ve seen in this country, the times are rare when being polite and asking nicely get much accomplished.

2 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Malcolm X’s Assassination

  1. I don’t know much about Malcolm X outside of what we were taught in school. And yes, my education included some fair discussion on his views-not “angry black man is bad guy” but “angry black man had reason to be angry.”

    • Of the two African American titans of the 1960s, it was Malcolm X who was the intellectual. King, eloquent as he was, mostly stayed with Christian doctrine about grace and forgiveness. Our nation would be much better off reading more Malcolm X rather than recycling the same old King speeches.

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