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OPINION- On the third Monday of each year, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is celebrated. He is celebrated and remembered annually with good reason.
Dr. King was an incredible leader, guiding millions of frustrated Americans into peaceful action, changing the face of both this country and our entire globe by showing us that the fight to assert our own humanities is never a hopeless undertaking.
The scope of Dr. King’s influence cannot possibly be forgotten. Scores of Americans remain in awe of him, both those who lived in the sixties and also those who only learned about him from the history books.
I am happy to celebrate Dr. King every year. The man was simply brilliant and it is my hope that he remains a part of our national consciousness and memory forever.
While honoring Dr. King, however, I feel that it is important to remember the other key members of the black rights movements. He was one among many who sought to change the world they lived in.
Malcolm X, however controversial he may have been, inspired millions of oppressed people, American and otherwise, never to abandon the fight for their human rights. For his lengthy contributions to black rights, he should be honored in this country.
Malcolm X told people to fight. Not for the sake of meaningless violence, but for the sake of self respect. Global audiences remember Malcolm X telling them to demand those invaluable rights of freedom, justice, equality and humanity. His bald courage in saying things that made his fellow Americans nervous made him interesting. But it was Malcolm X’s charisma, brilliance and gift of words that made him a natural leader in the battle for racial justice.
Of course, Malcolm X was both controversial and offensive. His claims about the inherent evil of the white race understandably angered many Americans, especially those who fought for racial equality themselves.
If anything, Malcolm X taught us to think. He stimulated the minds of critics and followers, forcing them to consider the ugly fact that, as he said, “the only people in this country who are asked to be nonviolent are black people.” That one sentence shakes my mind, as it certainly remains relevant today.
Malcolm X, in my opinion, was not a violent man. On the contrary, he pushed black men and women only to fight back and use self defense, never encouraging breaking the law. Indeed, Malcolm’s words were his sharpest weapons.
He also showed great growth and intellectual evolution in the few years leading up to his assassination, renouncing most of his former negative remarks about whites, Martin Luther King, Jr., integration and the nonviolent civil rights movements. If he were given more time to further develop his mind, I believe Malcolm X would have won over his harshest critics with his brilliance and eloquence.
The fact remains that the ’60s in America were a time of great discontent, anger, protest and violence. Malcolm X simply represented a different path towards social justice for black Americans that did not involve nonviolent protest. He absolutely was not the only activist who felt that way.
I do not believe we can put all black activists of the 1960s into one category. The truth is that each of them was influential in their own way, whether they wanted to march for freedom or raise their fists in anger and pride.
Like Dr. King, Malcolm X led his own new order of social activism. He was just as influential as his contemporary, only for different reasons.
Like Dr. King, he also wanted unity and solidarity for all black Americans. He wanted justice, freedom, equality and improved race relations and, like King, he fought for them. We cannot forget that both men wanted the same thing: freedom. In some way, both men achieved that goal together.
To me, Malcolm X was just as much of a contributor to black rights as Dr. King was, however much his ideology diverged.
Our country should honor the memory and the work of Malcolm X. His demands for change rattled all Americans and forced them to really think about race and justice.
If not Malcolm X, why not celebrate other influential black activists of the ’50s and ’60s? Further, why doesn’t our country celebrate any black women activists with a national holiday? Among countless others, I would like to celebrate Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Maya Angelou, Angela Davis or Lorraine Hansberry.
Remembering other key figures of the ’60s does not take away from Dr. King’s own star. If anything, honoring and celebrating the lives of other activists of the civil rights movements makes Dr. King’s star shine even brighter, broadening our horizon with other models of social activism.
Malcolm X certainly inspires me to fight for social justice and for the natural rights of all human beings. For me, he remains as relevant in 2011 as he was in the 1950s and ’60s. We must remember his brilliant mind, his insight and his courage as we set out to uphold and continue the work that he, along with his unforgettable contemporaries, set out to do.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Neda Habibi at Neda.firstname.lastname@example.org.