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Malcolm Little was born on May 19, 1925, at Omaha’s University Hospital in Nebraska, and he was the fourth child for Louise and the seventh for Earl (Marable 23). As a child, Malcolm’s parents were in the Marcus Garvey Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA). They married on May 10, 1919, and decided to dedicate their lives and future to the building of the Garvey movement in the United States (Marable 16).
As a child, Malcolm frequently went with his father to give guest sermons at local churches. Earl championed the teachings of Marcus Garvey and served as organizers of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) together with his wife. Earl’s pursuit of human rights and equality elicited aggression from white exponents. Despite the efforts to evade the Legion, “Earl’s Michigan home was burned down in 1929, and later he was found dead in the town’s trolley tracks, and police ruled the incident as an accident” (Haley 91).
Malcolm’s life became much harder, but he stayed focused and purposed to pursue his father’s dreams. In 1946, the two were arraigned in a court of law and jailed on burglary allegations. Malcolm’s influence on social and cultural perspectives on the lives of many Americans is vivid even in contemporary times.
His models and ideologies of violence to combat rejection and advance the accommodations approach of the radical resistance of Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) have been adopted by various groups when immediate change is deemed inevitable. In contemporary society in the United States and beyond, the use of force has worked to bring social and political changes after the failure of dialogue.
Malcolm’s involvement with the Nation of Islam
Malcolm’s period in school marked a time for self-enlightenment as he furthered his education. His brother, Reginald, “would visit and share his knowledge and beliefs to the Muslim religion while in prison” (Cleaver 19). Malcolm started “studying the doctrines of Elijah Muhammad, who was the leader of NOI” (Haley 111). At the time in the US, prejudice and discrimination were very common and tolerated. Malcolm’s experiences revealed an ignorant and discriminative American society.
This rejection, coupled with segregation against all African Americans, compelled the likes of Malcolm X to seek acceptance and parity for all people. Full of self-belief, Malcolm was becoming prominent in the Nation of Islam, as Elijah Muhammad cultivated belief in Malcolm and appointed him the minister and national spokesperson for the NOI (Breitman 43).
Muhammad believed and taught that the white fraternity joined forces against the empowerment and socio-economic-political insight by the black Americans. In the modern United States, the experience is different as all Americans work closely together to eliminate all sorts of disparities that persist in society. Even though the ideology of violence might appear indecent in contemporary society, even the non-violent protesters engage in violent deeds to achieve their goals.
Malcolm was fast and precise in his esteemed roles, and he utilized both the print and broadcast media to pass the NOI’s agenda across the American society. His unmoved drive and personal appeal catalyzed the process of winning the support of many people across the United States. People believed in what NOI was advocating, and they were ready to make a giant step in fighting for a state of their own and independence from the influence of the whites.
In 1952, Malcolm was acknowledged with raising the NOI membership from about 500 to 30,000 by 1963 (Breitman 48). The masses behind Malcolm bulged, and many controversies surrounded his daily life, which attracted the media. His life was projected with the media mainstream focusing on the objectives of the NOI. As people believed in Islam, the United States’ security agents such as the FBI edged in the organization to extract information about the group’s activities.
During the peak of the civil rights movement in 1963, Malcolm’s relationship with his mentor, Muhammad, declined. Malcolm discovered that his leader, Muhammad, was having secret relationships with several women within the NOI organization (Stockley and Hamilton 98). This act was against the teachings of the Nation of Islam, and Malcolm felt betrayed by his leader on top of feeling restricted by the peaceful approach by the NOI.
Unable to underestimate Muhammad’s disappointment, Malcolm severed his association with the NOI and opted to establish his own religious movement, viz. the Muslim Mosque. Today in the US, people have become free, and they do not tolerate their leaders if they feel they are violating the freedom to express one’s views.
The Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) fuelled the spirit of black radicalism, which was fundamental in influencing the life of Malcolm X since his father largely subscribed to Garvey’s teachings (Haley 43). Such teachings included black pride and economic self-reliance. He gained the sentiments of avoiding reliance on the white-ridden economy from his father, who practiced nomadism to support his family.
Malcolm’s teachings have helped African Americans to establish independent and sustainable economic means through establishing their own businesses and moving free from exploitation by the whites. The teachings of Garvey emphasized self-reliance as a way of achieving individual freedom. Malcolm X believed that his father’s commitment to preaching was a way of self-engagement and means to evade the exploitative labor by the white-dominated economy.
Malcolm had a distinct political philosophy from the majority of the African American leaders who came before and during his time. Malcolm did not believe that black liberation was to be granted or achieved through peaceful means and agreements (Young 7). For Malcolm, the problem of segregation had matured through the centuries, and it was time to stage a protest forcefully and achieve assertion of equality, justice, and freedom for all humanity.
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Unlike the conservative nature of the Nation of Islam teachings of non-violence, Malcolm acknowledged the good morals advanced by Elijah Muhammad, but he insisted that the oppressors could not be leveled by peaceful and cowardly approaches. In most of his speeches, he retaliated that they were black first, and anything else would follow. This assertion motivated his audience to be proud of their black heritage and adopt volatile self-defense to end white dominance (Breitman 112).
Apparently, most African Americans have ascended to positions of power and influence mainly because they acknowledge themselves as blacks with equal potential as the white Americans to lead the United States. For instance, the current president of the US, Barrack Obama, is a black American, which manifests the maturity in perspectives by all Americans.
Unlike other black activists like Marcus Garvey and Luther King, who contributed to the black liberation by setting the pace for the coming generations, Malcolm wanted an overhaul revolution, which would grant justice to generations.
Even before quitting the Nation of Islam, Malcolm was demonstrating independent reasoning from that of his leader, Muhammad. He opted for nationalism as his philosophy towards the liberation of the blacks. Such a philosophy could not allow compromise, and it encouraged blacks to have self-esteem in the quest to defeat white supremacy.
Malcolm X emphasized radical democracy among black radical organizations (Haley 17). Today marks more than 50 years after signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and most Americans believe that racial discrimination has dropped significantly, with the gap closing gradually with the hope of achieving what Malcolm X advocated in the 1960s. However, his contributions, even after his immature death, continue to be cherished. The Nation of Islam exercised unquestionable command from the top.
Women were excluded from taking positions in leadership. There was no room for criticism, and thus any critics would be silenced and accused of their alleged indecent perceptions about their leader, Elijah Muhammad (Stockley and Hamilton 101). When Malcolm formed the Organization of African-American Unity (OAAU), he intended to create a platform of radical democracy to all his followers.
He strongly believed that freedom was a fundamental right for all people. Malcolm’s call to achieve radical democracy has not just had an impact in the US but also all over the world since he traveled to many countries and particularly Africa (Baraka 122). For instance, the current Egyptian uprising against the government is seeking to enhance democracy and religious tolerance for all.
Malcolm believed in black power, unity amongst black people, and motivation to propel black movements as icebreakers in the fight for freedom. He insisted on the need for the blacks and whites to join hands regardless of their extremes for the common benefit of humanity.
He argued that it was time for a change, people in power were not ready for a revolution, and anybody who was ready for change was welcome. However, Malcolm was keen to encourage blacks to achieve unity among themselves first before seeking interracial unity. During his time in the Nation of Islam as a minister, Malcolm emphasized the need for the blacks to have solidarity as a technique to put off the tricks of the oppressor (Finley and Margarita 31).
Malcolm’s view on the position and role of women in society had a significant effect on the black radical organization. Islam taught strict laws against women and the nature of the real man as strong as opposed to the weak nature of women. Malcolm’s “hajj and his trips to Africa and the Middle East were important in shaping his understanding of gender” (Taylor 196). His visits to Mecca helped in opening up the idea about women, as he realized that they had the capability to take prominent duties in the fight for freedom.
After traveling to many different places, Malcolm acknowledged that the degree of progress was attributed to women in most ways. However, he advocated the need to educate women, coupled with giving them freedom, hence the incentive to empower their children. For instance, when he founded the OAAU, Malcolm ensured that women were involved in the decision-making processes (Taylor 188).
He knew that women’s liberation was to serve as a catalyst to black liberation. Malcolm’s experience had become diverse and wide, and his social vision and mission broadened. He had grown to tolerate and appreciate women’s presence in the struggle to end racial segregation. This notion has been incorporated into the women’s empowerment agenda by ensuring that they take important roles in leadership.
Malcolm was critical in rebuilding the black cultural identity, which was designed to create harmony within the class characters of the differing cultural behaviors among the black people. Malcolm helped African Americans to restore the resistance nature in their social and religious lives (Baraka 113). More than anyone before him, his charisma and determination helped to revolutionize the black perspective coupled with changing conservative Negroes to gain pride in their black color and remain courageous African Americans (Haley 8).
Artists devoted their skills to creating black inventive and beautiful art, thus demonstrating black as adorable. Following his assassination on February 21, 1965, every region of African Americans acknowledged the impact of his cultural philosophy, and many embraced it further upon his death. Before Malcolm, many African Americans did not know who they were, as the majority thought of Africa as a continent of slaves, and they even disliked him for his assertions about the ‘black continent.’
Malcolm often reminded people that they could not ignore the roots of a tree and mind the tree (Marable 87). He was keen to let African Americans learn about themselves; hence, he made them love their origin just as they loved themselves. This aspect has influenced Africans everywhere across the globe to come out publicly to practice democracy by contesting for elective positions even when the whites form the majority.
According to Stockley and Hamilton (210), before the end of one year after Malcolm’s death, the need to assert black power was needed than ever. In order for African Americans to be free as Malcolm had always aspired, the authors called for blacks to start and control their own institutions, politics, and schools. Soon Malcolm’s influence was felt as non-violent movements started to embrace black power as opposed to white friendship.
Malcolm’s impact was overwhelming as every racist endeavor by the white was countered with the violent black response (Baraka 121). The white government and white supremacist groupings today are compelled to relax their stand and perspectives against the blacks. Africans in the diaspora are impressed with the immediate effects of the liberation efforts, which are accounted for violent resistances when dialogue is futile.
In most countries in Africa, Malcolm inspired Africans who favored violent resistance as opposed to the long, tedious, and compromising journey to liberation like the one adopted by Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Even in the contemporary era, there is a widespread acknowledgment of violent resistance across the world (Peniel 136). For instance, treaties, memorandums of understanding, and ceasefire agreements are, in most cases, attained after a series of violent engagements.
Like every other black person, Malcolm X felt the pain of segregation, and thus he dearly desired change for he knew something had to be done. His involvement with Marcus Garvey’s UNIA through his father, his life in prison, and joining the Nation of Islam transformed him from Malcolm Little to Malcolm x. His philosophy of violent resistance had a great impact on changing the perspective of both whites and blacks. Malcolm was successful since he led by example, and he was ready to press harder on behalf of the coming generations.
His ideology of violence was different from those of other leaders, as any case of violent demonstration spurred a quick response. Malcolm’s charisma and independent thinking influenced the young black radicals who later succeeded him. His contributions to socio-economic and political justice and self-assertion had an undisputed impact on the history of the United States. His influence on the blacks to be proud of themselves and the need for constant action are some of his significant legacies that live to impact humanity.
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