Malcolm “X” Little was born in Omaha, Nebraska during a time where blacks were treated inferior to whites and racial inequality was at an all-time high. After a troubled childhood, where his house was burned down and his father murdered by white supremacists, he went on to preach the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and spread a message to all the blacks of the United States: “defend yourselves by any means necessary.”
So, what can we learn from the life of Malcolm X, as a community and as individual’s?
Malcolm X experienced some devastating events as a child. He lived through a time where racism was radical and white supremacists stopped at nothing to ruin black culture and pride. He went down a crooked road and found himself in the direct path of crime, like many others in his situation. But it’s not about where you start its about where you finish. He took his time in prison to reflect on his actions and better himself as an individual. When he came upon Elijah Muhammad’s teachings of the Nation of Islam, he was immediately inspired. This inspiration motivated him to dive deeper into Muhammad’s teachings, where he learned and recited the beliefs of the Nation of Islam. When he came out from the confinements of prison, he overcame adversity and spread the word to people all over the world.
Malcolm X grew up during one of the worst periods in African American history. The Ku Klux Klan and the Black Legion were stopping at nothing to kill off innocent blacks and destroy their culture. Even his father was victim of the disgusting actions these cruel cults committed. But none of this scared Malcolm, not even a little bit. And if it did he didn’t show it. He spoke up to thousands of people all over the United States and directly called out the actions of corrupt America and these sad groups. He didn’t let fear, fear that what happened to his father would happen to him, stop him. He preached what he believed and did it confidently so that the whole world could hear it. Fear would have kept Malcolm from being the inspirational leader, and motivational speaker that he was. It was his fearlessness that let him speak words so powerful that nobody could stop them from spreading. He was broadcasted on television, radio stations and in print across America. And he did so fearlessly.
When Malcolm X spoke of his beliefs, he spoke with pride, confidence and undeniable honesty. His words were unconventional and his logic completely contradicted that of the great Martin Luther King. And while some people called him and the Nation of Islam racists, violence-seekers, and black supremacists, it didn’t matter. Malcolm was proud of what he believed in and wanted to share it with the world. That’s part of what made him so powerful, it was his pride. He had the ability to influence others in a way very few people have been able to before. It made no difference that he was living during a time that blacks were treated with no respect or compassion. He had respect and compassion for his people and taught blacks how to have more respect and compassion for themselves. It’s easy to be proud of your roots when you are constantly being admired and appreciated. But it’s not so easy to be proud when you are constantly being bashed and mistreated. Malcolm knew what him and his people deserved and he was proud to preach it to the world.
Malcolm X wanted to bring people together who believed in a certain cause. He knew that what was going on around him wasn’t fair. And he knew that it would take more than one activist to put an end to it. When he spoke to people, he spoke to the masses. He spoke words so true and inspiring that it brought people together. It’s no secret that he is responsible for uniting the Nation of Islam and increasing membership from 400 to 40,000. But he was also able to earn the support of prominent athletes and political figures. Through this, he united more than just the people of America. He brought unity to other countries as well. The battle for equality was an uphill climb and Malcolm knew that to make it he had to bring together the masses. It was through his united efforts with prominent figures and the people of America that he set the bar for how his people should and shouldn’t be treated.
So, what can we learn from the deeds and attributes of Malcolm X, that will help us to grow as people and most importantly as a community? Firstly, perseverance is key. Through his perseverance and determination Malcolm X was able to overcome adversity and make a difference in the world. He then teaches us the problems with fear and the benefits of overcoming it. He shows us that if you are too scared to inspire change, in fear of the retaliation, things will never change. But if you challenge fear and look it straight in the eye, there’s a chance that you can make a difference. And without pride, what are we as individuals, as communities? It’s through pride that we build confidence and determination. It’s through pride that we inspire others to be proud of what we are and through pride that begin to believe in ourselves. Finally, the most important lesson that Malcolm X taught is unity. As one, we are nothing. But when we come together as a whole, we are everything.
Regardless of the ideologies you support, whether it be the Christian beliefs of Martin Luther King or the “by any means necessary” strategy of Malcolm X. You can’t deny the impact that Malcolm X had on America and black culture. Men like Malcolm X serve as examples of the kinds of people we should all strive to be.
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