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The doctrine that one’s national culture and interests are superior to any other, coupled with the love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it have been the major driving forces behind the democracy that has made the United States a global leader (Rickford 12). Religion, race, and gender have been highly controversial and debatable topics throughout the history of the country (Rickford 12). The history of the United States has been largely shaped by human rights advocates who felt the need for all people to be accorded equal respect regardless of their race or religion (Marable 31). Activism was geared towards empowering citizens to look beyond their patriotism and accept the fact that peace could not be separated from freedom, and the fact that they had to stand for something in order to give their lives a purpose.
Biography of Malcolm X
Malcolm X was an African American activist, born in 1925 as Malcolm Little to Earl Little and Louise Helen Norton Little. He died in 1965 aged 39 through an assassination. He was famously known for his advocacy against the white oppression of the black people in the United States (Haley 9). Those opposed to his activities accused him of being a racist and perpetrating violence in an otherwise peaceful country. However, Malcolm X did not let the detractors deter him from achieving his objective of seeing an equal society. This desire elevated him to one of the highly influential African Americans in the long history of the United States and the black community in the country (Haley 11). As a member and leader of the Nation of Islam, a movement he joined while in prison, Malcolm X made efforts to address other pertinent challenges in the society at the time such as drug addiction. However, through the movement, he championed for other controversial agendas such as the black supremacy and the opposition to the proposal of assimilation by the civil rights movement (Haley 12). However, after falling out with other leaders of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X renounced the group and refused to acknowledge racism. The main reasons for him leaving the group included the sexual misbehavior of Elijah Muhammad and the failure by the group to respond following confrontations with the police that led to the arrest of several Muslims (Marable 59).
This prompted him to mobilize members from various parts of the country to take action that included joining efforts with other religious activist groups, local politicians, and civil rights groups. Muhammad failed to support Malcolm X in all these response activities, thus triggering the climax of their bad relationship and the decision to leave. However, he continued to advocate for self-determination of African Americans through his newly formed group called Muslim Mosque Inc (Rickford 36). Malcolm X was later assassinated in 1965 by members of his previous group, who felt betrayed after several years of working together for a common course. Malcolm X met his wife Betty Sanders in 1955 during his regular lectures across the country (Haley 32). She later joined the Nation of Islam group the following year under the name Betty X. The couple was blessed with six daughters, with the last-born twins being arriving soon after their father had died (Marable 101).
Activism with the Nation of Islam
The activism journey of Malcolm X had its first major steps while in prison from 1946 to 1952. In prison, Malcolm X met several other activists such as John Bembry who played a huge role in influencing his decision to join the Nation of Islam (Haley 43). Malcolm X was attracted to the group by their advocacy agendas that included the liberation of the black people from white domination. He also believed that the white people were greedy, dishonest, and evil because of the way they perceived and treated African Americans. In addition, he was very hostile towards religion, an element that also endeared him a lot to the members of the group (Haley 44). However, this stance changed when Malcolm X contacted Muhammad, who was the supreme leader of the group. Muhammad convinced him back into religion and the teachings of Allah. This was geared towards helping him avoid engaging in bad things. However, Malcolm X swayed away from his religious ways and begun engaging the government for its laxity in addressing their concerns (Rickford 60).
The most famous one was the 1950 letter that he had addressed to President Harry Truman for allowing the United States to get involved in the Korean War. At the time, he also explained the reasons behind changing his second name from Little to X. Malcolm said that there was nothing white about him as symbolized by his second name (Rickford 60). Therefore, he chose letter X to represent his African name, albeit his little knowledge about his African roots. After his parole, Malcolm focused a lot on his ministry duties at both the Nation’s Temple Number One in Detroit and Boston’s Temple Number 11 (Rickford 67). He later created temples in other major cities across the country as the membership of the group kept growing. He was motivated to carry on with his activism by the large number of people that attended his rallies as well as the temples he established.
A big percentage of the people that were joining the group were African Americans who felt that their liberation would be delivered through the leadership of Malcolm X. At the time, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) launched an investigation into the likely relations between Malcolm and communist groups (Haley 81). The federal government believed that the communist groups played a huge role in empowering Malcolm to mobilize the members of the group into protests against the police, especially following the Hinton Johnson incident (Rickford 72). In addition, the media had continually given Malcolm extensive coverage with regard to the comments he was making on various issues. The government worked together with the Media to bring down Malcom X and present him to the public as a violent and racist person who was out to destabilize America. His prominence was growing, as evidenced during the 1960 United Nations General Assembly in New York, where he was part of the invited guests (Rickford 82). There, Malcolm met several influential African leaders who encouraged him to continue with his work. In particular, Cuban president Fidel Castro was impressed the most and even welcomed him to Cuba for further discussions (Rickford 106). His friendship with Castro cemented the allegation that he was working together with communist countries to destabilize America.
Relevance of his teachings and activism
The activism of Malcolm X was a very important event in the history of the United States. Firstly, through the activism he promoted the values of equality, justice, inclusiveness, and the need for mutual respect as adopted by the Nation of Islam. The teachings by the group argued that black people were the first in the world, thus the need to accord them the necessary respect (Shabazz 132). The Nation of Islam also believed that the white people were evil and would always remain inferior to the blacks regardless of the dominance they assume over them. These teachings helped to mobilize members of the African American community to fight for their rights, a phenomenon that created room for promotion of equality and human rights.
Secondly, the activism of Malcolm X played a crucial role in improving race relations in the United States. Although members of the white community repeatedly accused him of being a racist, his ability and willingness to engage the white community for the way they looked down on African Americans helped in enlightening the world about the importance of mutual respect (Shabazz 140). The relentless nature of his teachings and protests demanded the attention of the white community, as he was determined to show that everyone is important and should not be discriminated for whatever reason. The activism of Malcolm X created an inclusive environment that has made it easy for people from various races to coexist with harmony in the United States over the years (Haley 111). Malcolm X also played a crucial role in promoting democracy because his activism created room for everyone to express different views.
There are many reasons Malcolm X was very important to the struggle for liberation of African Americans and the fight against racism. The first reason is the fact that he acted as a source of inspiration and courage to everyone that advocated for equality, an inclusive society, and the end of racial discrimination (Shabazz 172). Many African Americans bought into his teachings because they felt that the idea of waiting to be accorded the freedom and equality they wanted would never happen in a society that was not ready to treat every person with respect and dignity. They wanted to end racism, violence, and discrimination in America. There was no one who matched the strength, courage, believe, passion, and charisma that Malcolm X exhibited in the fight for equality (Shabazz 172). His leadership liberated the black people from the dominance of the white community.
The second reason as to why Malcolm X was relevant to the fight for equality, African liberalism, and end of racism was his religious believes. Malcolm X was a staunch follower of the Black Muslim faith that was popular among African Americans mainly because it incorporated aspects of Black Nationalism into its teachings. His work with the Nation of Islam played a key role in the success of his activism because Christianity was considered a religion for white Americans. Its teachings were forced on African Americans during slavery (Shabazz 172). Therefore, they felt no connection to its values. The teachings of Islam were very similar to those of African Americans and promoted their identity and values. Malcolm X influenced Mohamed Ali to join the Nation of Islam and help fight for the respect of African Americans through sports (Haley 156).
From the activities of Malcolm X, it is very clear that the only way to achieve peace in the world is by first ensuring that people enjoy their freedom. The United States has come a long way with regard to the acknowledgement and promotion of human rights. Malcolm X was an influential figure in the history of black people in the United States by helping them understand that there is a huge difference between the freedom of expression and freedom after expression. In addition, he ensured that Americans understood the importance the understanding and accepting the reality. Although the United States of America is not doing excellently in terms of addressing racism, the efforts of Malcolm X have surely bore some noticeable fruits.
Haley, Alex. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Ballantine Books, 2010.
Marable, Manning. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. Penguin Publishing Group, 2011.
Rickford, Russell. Betty Shabazz, Surviving Malcolm X: A Remarkable Story of Survival and Faith before and after Malcolm X. Sourcebooks, 2003.
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Shabazz, Ilyasah. Malcolm Little: The Boy who grew up to become Malcolm X. Simon and Schuster, 2014.