“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.” -Malcolm X
If you asked me a few weeks ago who I thought Malcolm X was, I would’ve told you he was the crazy, brash, hate filled antagonist to Dr. King during the Civil Rights Movement. I would’ve told you Malcolm X advocated for violence “by any means necessary,” and that he hated white people.
My mindset has totally shifted. In part, I am angry at my educational system (I’ll elaborate more later) for not educating my fellow classmates and I more on Malcolm X. Everything I was taught up until college was that he was the bad guy. Well, I don’t think it’s possible for me to disagree with that any more than I do now.
I just finished The Autobiography of Malcolm X written by Alex Haley. I went into the book with a hunger to learn more about this man I felt I knew very little about. I expected to dive into a book that was full of negativity and hate. Don’t get me wrong, that was definitely in there, but there was also mystery and brilliance.
Malcolm X never went further than the 8th grade in his education because his teacher told him that his dreams of being a lawyer were “no realistic goal for a nigger.” Now I know that if someone told me that when I was in 8th grade I would’ve broken down in tears. Not Malcolm.
He went on to become one of the most influential civil rights activists during his time, and even still today. Now the road there was bumpy and not one of a Disney hero. I mean honestly up until he discovered the Nation of Islam, and even for some time after, he wasn’t the most upstanding person, but he was driven.
It is true that everyone is the way they are because of the experiences they’ve had throughout their lives. Malcolm X is no different. I believe his true hatred for white people was solely based on his life experiences and how he was taught to think.
We all know the saying “too much of a good thing can make it a bad thing.” To me, that’s what happened with Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. I am in no way an expert on Islam and their practices so I won’t go too in-depth on this, but I have a perspective.
I feel that Malcolm X discovering the Nation of Islam and joining with the Black Muslims is the fundamental reason he became as well known as he is. However, the Islam he learned and practiced for many years is also why he is known as the bad guy.
It wasn’t until he broke from Elija Muhammad that he started making real progress towards helping the Civil Rights Movement. His trip to Mecca was a huge eye opener to what Islam truly is, and from that point forward the narrative he preached changed.
Sadly, his life was ended entirely too short. I feel that he was on the brink of really igniting a change and starting a movement within the black community.
Malcolm X was never going to be like Dr. King, and Dr. King was never going to be like Malcolm X. Their differences are what made them both so important. To me, they were the “good cop” “bad cop” roles. Malcolm X brought a fiery and explosive approach, whereas Dr. King was more logical and thoughtful. They both had a deep passion and dedication to the issue and neither lacked in drive or willpower.
It is not fair to put them against each other. Neither one of them was a bad person. Malcolm X was not a bad person. Malcolm X was street smart. He was intuitive. He had charisma and charm. He knew what to say and where and when to say it. He was, in my honest opinion, brilliant.
I wish I could go on longer about my thoughts on who he was, but that would be a book in itself, so I encourage all of you reading this to do your own research and become informed. I highly recommend reading the book, but you could also read old news articles or credible information from the internet. Expand your knowledge beyond “Malcolm X was bad, and Dr. King was good.”
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” -Malcolm X