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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Malcolm X

Tonight I saw the film Malcolm X (1992).  The film raised my class consciousness and my race consciousness.  I guess I will always compare Malcolm X with Martin Luther King, Jr.  Since MLK was Christian and the son of a minister while Malcolm X entered life through the school of hard knocks and eventually became a Muslim, I share a greater identity with MLK.  Since I cannot put myself in Malcolm X’s shoes, I have no grounds to judge him.  While MLK always attempted to draw a circle that included me, I think that Malcolm X was content to draw a circle that excluded me—at least until his trip to Mecca.  It could be said that the circle that excluded me was in direct response to the circle drawn by whites that had excluded blacks for centuries.  Malcolm X seemed to say, “OK, if that’s the way you want it, we will survive, flourish, and prevail in our own circle—we don’t need you, we don’t want you, you have hurt us.”  He represented an acknowledgment of considerable unvarnished truth coincident with an assumption of personal and racial responsibility. Of course, many whites (including me) resented being lumped in with the Klu Klux Klan.   But I keep returning in my mind to his early years and the pain and sadness that it represented—when he so much desired to be part of the white circle as evidenced by straightening his hair and dating white women.  The way things stood in America; all attempts at crossing the divide were doomed.  Do I wish I could say that all exclusive circles have disappeared and now only one circle exits?  Somehow I don’t like the sound of that—“now only one circle exists.”  It sounds stifling and even threatening.  The answer perhaps is to have many circles all within a larger circle of freedom characterized by goodwill and charity for all.

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