Racism still haunts the U.S.: “Black Lives Matter” protests erupt every time the police kill or seriously harm a black person, and it is quickly becoming a social phenomenon.
In the history of U.S. racism there shines one controversial historical figure that is still greatly admired by many young people today.
“Black is Beautiful” – the slogan that Malcolm X (1925-1965) left behind in the African-American Civil Rights Movement echoes throughout American history.
He was a charismatic Black Muslim leader, known for his radicalism, violence, hatred of black assimilation into white society, and advocating complete separation of blacks from whites.
One of his contemporaries fighting in the Civil Rights Movement was Martin Luther King Jr., who unlike Malcolm X, aimed for harmonic coexistence between blacks and whites through nonviolence. Malcolm X, on the other hand, started movements that adopted any means necessary to achieve equality.
Malcolm X’s dramatic life was a series of realizations and self-changes.
He was born in Nebraska in 1925, at a time when many black Americans were treated like cattle. His father was a local anti-establishment leader who continued self-supported activities without currying favor with the whites.
Malcolm’s family became the target of the Ku Klux Klan and Black Legion, then in its zenith. His father was killed when he was just 6, after which his mother suffered a nervous breakdown and her 9 children were sent to foster homes. These experiences as a child later came to form a great part of Malcolm’s philosophy.
Malcolm was taken in by a white family, and showed good results at school. He wanted to pursue medicine or law, but his white teacher told him that was “no realistic goal for a nigger”.
“I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare” – Malcolm X
Malcolm got sick of white-centric society, dropped out of high school, and began a shoe polishing business. Soon he began gambling, drug dealing, and robbery. When he was 20, he was arrested for burglary and began serving a sentence of 8-10 years.
Imprisonment at the young age of 20 seems like a life ruined, but it was during this imprisonment that his life began to change for the better.
Studying in Prison
At first, Malcolm was in no condition to read or write, but then he met fellow convict John Bembry. Bembry took Malcolm to the prison library and handed him a thick book. Malcolm immediately developed an urge to study and copied the entire book word for word.
He was angered by the fact that the dictionary said “black” meant evil and “white” was good. Still, he went to the library everyday to study, especially books on religion and history. He learned of the history of white exploitation of the black people. It was here that he gained a depth of knowledge and understanding of the world.
“Once he is motivated no one can change more completely than the man who has been at the bottom” – Malcolm X
Malcolm soon became an admirer of the Nation of Islam (NOI), a relatively new religion at the time, which advocated black supremacy.
Charismatic Leader of Black Muslims
After his release, Malcolm became a spokesperson for the NOI. His skills as a speaker were highly regarded, and his speeches mesmerized his followers gathering much support. While he gave strength to his fellow black people, he criticized the whites harshly, demonizing them.
Mecca Pilgrimage Changes His Philosophy
A problem arose when the leader of the NOI was having affairs with NOI secretaries. Malcolm was disillusioned, and accused his leader. His position in the organization became unstable, and hearing rumors of his assassination, he announced his break from NOI. He then established his own black freedom Muslim group.
He decided to make a pilgrimage to Mecca in order to truly grasp Islam. For Malcolm, this pilgrimage was a succession of shocks. His greatest surprise was that during the pilgrimage, people of all races – whites, Asians, Arabs, etc. – were treated equally.
Malcolm, who had demonized white people until that moment, realized that there were good white people too. He changed his idea of segregation, and began to hope that various different races could coexist.
Malcolm had been criticizing Martin Luther King Jr. for being too soft, but his ideologies became closer to King’s after his pilgrimage to Mecca.
But conflicts ensued between him and his old religious organization, and Malcolm and his family were under constant threat. During one of his lectures in 1965, three people from his old organization killed him with 15 bullets. He died at the fateful age of 39, the same age as King when he died.
If they lived longer, there is no doubt that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. would have achieved many other great things.
In early September 2016, Master Ryuho Okawa founder of Happy Science, called upon the spirit of Malcolm X to record a spiritual interview.
The spirit of Malcolm reiterated his opinion that whites should apologize to blacks for enslaving them for 400 years. He also said that in the New America, blacks and whites and yellow people have to become friends, and love one another. Violence will no longer be necessary. But until that day comes, he opined good people must continue to fight through their activities.
Malcolm X’s soul lives in the hearts of those who are joining the struggle to solve the problem of racism in the U.S.