Malcom X

From dKosopedia

Malcom X was a black nationalist and convert to Islam. He preached a message of self-help, separation, and resistance, even violent if necessary, to the oppressions visited upon black people in the U.S. by various racist and repressive political forces. His militant stance appeared threatening to the white establishment (among others) and created a counterpoint to the pacifism represented by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Civil Rights movement. Although their philosophical positions appeared to be diametrically opposed, the two men did meet during life, and the stark opposition of their views on violence made it clear for all to see that there was a continuum of action available to oppressed people. The few photographs of them standing together are viewed as illuminating a particularly poignant moment in the history of the Civil Rights movement.

Malcom X was one of several African-American figures in the Civil Rights movement who converted to Islam. Among all of them, his was the clear clarion call to black people to rally to a religion that would (he believed) best further the full range of their aspirations. The movement among many African-Americans to convert to Islam may have been in part because of its historical connection to Africa. But most African-Americans in his time did not come to Islam as a result of contact with orthodox Muslims. Malcolm X was originally associated with the Nation of Islam, an organization based on a non-orthodox version of Islam taught by Elijah Muhammad. He later converted to orthodox Islam when he broke with the Nation of Islam. Although he had enemies on all sides because his penetrating critiques threatened many repressive factions present in American life, it is generally believed that members of the Nation of Islam assassinated him. He was gunned down in 1968.

Malcolm X taught his followers to resist injustices and attacks "by all means possible," and many people have interpreted these words as condoning or even advocating violence as the first response to any provocation. However, his actions when in tense confrontations clearly showed that he literally meant to have at hand all of the entire continuum of possible responses and use those of them that would be most appropriate. When his group came into confrontational situations he maintained iron discipline so that no violence could spring from his side.

Malcolm X taught by his life that transcendence is possible. Even before he encountered the teaching of the Nation of Islam he had been prepared by life experiences to have a strongly negative, even hateful, attitude toward white people. The Nation of Islam teachings made it an article of faith that whites were innately evil. Yet when he made his pilgrimage to Mecca he encountered blond, blue-eyed people who convinced him by the character of their interactions with him that they were not racist and not evil. His racial prejudices against whites were washed free by this experience. He transcended his conditioning. But he did not for that reason look any more kindly upon injustices and evils. He continued his acute critique of the evils of American life even as he came into conflict with the Nation of Islam due to his discovery of the unethical behavior of its leader.