“To come right down to it, if I take the kind of things in which I believe, then add to that the kind of temperament that I have, plus the 100% dedication I have to whatever I believe in–these are ingredients which make it just
about impossible for me to die of old age.”
That quote, from the autobiography of the late Nation Of Islam leader and civil rights activist Malcolm X, epitomized the central algorithm by which he lived his life.
Despite what some profess, integrity is one of the few burdens that most of us honestly bear. In fact, barring the times that we are morally challenged in front of others, most rarely operate within integral perimeters. Suffice it to say, save an elect few- that many live their lives under the “It’s only illegal if you get caught” heading.
However, when it comes to the policy of truth, those within such confines find it impossible to feign ignorance. In other words, to ‘un-know what they know.’ As a result of such circumstances, we may find ourselves facing in our lives what Malcolm was confronted with in his. This too, was the case for me.
For most of my adult life, I was not a fan of Malcolm X like many of those that I knew. As a young black man raised in West Fresno, California, considered by many to be the “hood,” most of my neighborhoods, churches, and even the schools I attended were predominately black.
Although there were children of other races, including those that were white, white families living in the community were few and far between. However, unlike many of those around me, I was not taught an animus for white people. There were many misconceptions I had heard growing up, such as white people could get away with certain things that we, as black people, could not.
While there was some truth to that at points in our nation’s history, that was not always the case.
And then of course, I heard about slavery.
After I watched the tv mini-series, “Roots” in 1977, many of the black people that I knew were outraged. Yet, I could not understand why. Even then I understood two things: that was then, and this is now. Clearly, not all white people were like the ones on my tv screen. Growing up, I never got the sense that my mom hated white people, or even disliked them.
In fact, she had co-workers that were different races, and spoke well of most of them. Any issues that she did have concerning them were not due to race. The only ones she seemed to take issue with by-and-large were black people. There was almost an innate disdain for many representing that group, more so than any other. I did not understand then, but I was going to. That was the worldview I received from those I was closest to.
As a result, when I heard Malcolm X speak, I could not relate to his hateful rhetoric. After all, he made it sound as if all white people were evil; he even called them ‘Blue-eyed Devils.’ With talk like that, there was nothing he said that I wanted to hear. As I got older, I began to pay attention to the way the world worked.
In the process, I developed a better understanding, which forced me to see things differently than
many of those I knew.
White people by and large were not evil.
Further, they most certainly were not “blue-eyed devils.” I’ve discovered that a sincere desire to know the truth will force you to see situations and people for what and who they truly are. Because of this, my perception changed. Such was the case of Malcolm X.
Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska to a fair-skinned mother and a dark-skinned father, he was raised in a bastion of racial challenges. Malcolm’s father was a preacher and very outspoken concerning the racism that was seriously prevalent at the time. Malcom would later recall a quote from his father that he never forgot: “You can’t make a rooster stop crowing once the sun is up.”
Those words regarding facing undeniable truths played a much larger part later in Malcolm’s life. Earl Little, Malcolm’s father, was a follower and staunch supporter of Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey. Through Garvey’s teachings, Little pushed for the blacks in his community to unite and revolt against the whites in authority, which included talk of going back to Africa.
Needless to say, such talk was a powder keg during such turbulent times, as well as threatening. Under such conditions, there was very little doubt regarding the worldview young Malcolm was destined to have. It was
only a few short years later that Malcolm would end up in prison at only 20 years old, after his father was murdered, and his mother was committed to a mental hospital.
Clearly, the young man was at the most pivotal point in his life.
Of course, Malcolm grew to be one of the most-known civil rights activists in American history. And he’s often thought of as a racist in his own right, hating white people. But is that the truth?
Stay tuned Thursday to dig deeper.