He would have celebrated 91 years of life today (May 19). What can be said about a man who captivated a nation? Malcolm X or Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz as he was known in the years prior to his death, is considered by many one of the most important voices of conscious thought and for some a racist who brought evil to our land. Ask any millennial what they love about Malcolm X and you are certain to hear one of his infamous quotes roll quickly off their tongues; "By any means necessary," or his mantra to everyone, to "make it plain."
Much has been written about Malcolm X and his views on race and the experiences of the Black American. He was a skilled orator who was unrelenting and unapologetic in his critique of America. It is his legacy of words that continue to resonate as issues of race, and bias draw lines of division across the country today. He believed that the path to equality for African Americans was based in America's ability to embrace the humanity of all its citizens. Minister Malcolm taught us that we couldn't be recognized as citizens until we are first recognized as humans. And that got me wondering - has America lost her humanity? Are we so intolerant of those who look and act different from us? Are we no longer one nation under God? Are we really willing to let the blind lead the blind?
Many have written that the life of Malcolm X could be chronicled in three stages: as Malcolm Little the Machiavellian, Malcolm X, the Prophet for the Nation of Islam, and Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, the voice of racial unity and equality. Malcolm X did not expect to live a long life. He told us so. He lived his life with blazing speed. He was a man with a criminal past but one who did not hide his story. In fact, he said to have once been a criminal is no disgrace but to remain a criminal well... that is disgraceful. The man who once warned the nation about the blue-eyed devils changed his pattern of thought after his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964. He spoke often of transformation and the necessity of flexibility as the gateway to an intelligent search for the truth.
In his last days, he was a truth seeker. And for him, the truth came in many colors...at times, in persons with the bluest of eyes and whitest of skin. He embraced his past racist words and lambasted the use of sweeping statements as an indictment against any race. He understood the pain and injury it caused. He learned so that we could learn. America are you listening?