Yesterday marked the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X.
When I was in high school I took a class about America in the 1960s. That was when I was introduced to “The Ballot or the Bullet”, a speech of Malcolm’s from 1964. He was one of the most passionate, most sincere leaders of that time in American history.
It’s almost feels weird for me to refer to Malcolm X as part of American history and not just Black history. I know it shouldn’t seem weird, but perhaps it’s a comment about how Black history is often positioned as separate from the “American experience”–but what can be more American than Malcolm X urging Black people to “stop singin’ and start swingin’?” Is that not what it meant to be an American during the Civil Rights movement and beyond–not just for Black people, but for people of color and for women in this country?
Why is the struggle for self-determination seen as just a “black history” notion?
But I digress.
It’s very interesting to me that we wait to celebrate Malcolm’s legacy on the anniversary of his death. Inf act, I don’t think there’s any other time we talk about Malcolm X more than on February 21st.
I had an interesting discussion with my boyfriend about this earlier this week when I was thinking about writing this very blog post. It’s something that happens often with Black leaders–we celebrate their death more than their life. Often it’s not that the leader died, it’s how he or she died–particularly in Malcolm’s case.
Today let’s make an effort to remember Malcolm X’s legacy as a leader. Read his speeches, and if you haven’t, his autbiography. Perhaps it’s cliche, but the legacy of Malcolm X STILL lives on even if his physical body didn’t.