Remembering Malcolm X

Yesterday was the 46th anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination.

As a feminist, I have always been very drawn to Malcolm’s ideological transformation. After reading his autobiography, I saw Malcolm less as a sexist and more as a man who was prompted to reevaluate his world view because of sexist injustices against women. It is no secret that his break with the Nation of Islam was primarily motivated by Elijah Muhammad’s affairs with his young secretaries where he fathered 6 children. While this doesn’t give him a pass on vitriolic remarks such as “The closest thing to a woman is the devil,” it is important to recognize feminist moments about this leader that have been understated or unstated altogether.

Along with this, as someone who stands against the religiophobic sentiments towards US Muslims in recent years, I am drawn to how Malcolm’s conversion to Islam enabled him to find inner piece and broaden his viewpoints on race:

Transcript after the jump.

“No matter how much respect, no matter how much recognition whites show towards me…as long as that same respect and recognition isn’t shown towards everyone of our people in this country–it doesn’t exist for me.”

And of course, Malcolm has been idolized as a man never scared to tell folks how it is. Despite his many virtues and his willingness to abandon his more incendiary viewpoints, several months after this video is taped, he is murdered. Yet, through YouTube, his six daughters, and the minds and hearts of all who remember him, he lives on. We should all reflect on the legacy of leaders like Malcolm X.

Malcolm on your trip abroad you said you sensed a feeling of great brotherhood and that conceivably be working towards integration in this country now.

I don’t think I mentioned anything about working toward integration. If I recall, I pointed out that while I was at Mecca making the pilgramage, that I spoke about the brotherhood that existed at all levels, and among all people who were there on that accepted the religion of Islam, and I pointed out that what it had done, what the religion of Islam had done for those people over there despite their complexion differences, that it would probably do America well to study the religion of Islam and perhaps it could drive some of the racism from this society as it has driven the racism from the Muslim society.

Is the integration drive aiming for this goal?

I can’t say the integration drive is aiming for that goal because it hasn’t realized the goal in any state – they haven’t even gotten integration right here in New York City. You have worse integration problems in the North than you have in the South. So if you can’t bring about integration in New York City, as up to date as it’s supposed to be, you will never get integration anywhere else in the country.

Malcolm, has your experiences with white-skinned Muslims in Africa and the Middle East made you feel that relations between negroes and whites who are not Muslims is any more possible?

When I was at the pilgramage, I was in close contact with Muslims whose skin in America would be classified as white and who Muslims themselves would be classified as white in America, but these particular Muslims didn’t call themselves white. They looked upon themselves as human beings, as part of the human family, and therefore they looked upon all other segments of the human family as part of that same family. They had a different look or a different air or a different attitude than that which is reflected in the attitude of the man in America who calls himself white, so I said that if Islam had done that for them. Perhaps if the white man in America would study Islam, perhaps it could do the same thing for him.

I think what a lot of people are interested in is whether this experience has made you feel that your feelings have changed, that the animosity that you have expressed in the past toward all whites –

The one thing that I want to make clear – no matter how much respect, no matter how much recognition whites show towards me…as long as that same respect and recognition isn’t shown towards everyone of our people in this country–it doesn’t exist for me.

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