By Brenda Robinson
Dear Minister Malcolm,
We’re celebrating Black History Month and we wish to make an appeal to you, just as we did to Martin Luther King Jr. We wrote him a letter, he didn’t answer, but at least we feel better. Expressions are good for the soul, as you well know. But, before we make our appeal, we apologize if our greeting offended you. We really are ignorant as to how we should address you. Do you prefer Minister Macolm, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, Malcolm X, or just plain Malcolm? We suspect how we address you is not a priority. Probably, knowing your position after your pilgrimage to Mecca, you prefer we spend our time solving racial and social problems and gaining political and economic power, not fretting over “what’s in a name.”
In our letter to Dr. King, we expressed our inability to make the social, economic, educational, and political climate for black people equal to that of white people. We’ve seen some changes, at least on individual levels. Blacks are professionals, business owners, attend prestigious universities, hold political office. America elected its first black president in 2008! Kenneth Chenault, a black man, is the first CEO of American Express! Both of these men graduated with law degrees from Harvard University, which shows us black people really do have to be “educationally superior” to their white counterparts to obtain high level jobs. However, upon examination, the real collective numbers show blacks lag significantly; economically, educationally, and politically. We just can’t figure this thing out.
Racism still rages and we still have some identity problems. Our families are in shambles and many of us still think the “white man’s ice water is colder.” But, if we had to choose one area where we are most in need of your guidance, we would select saving our young black men. If anyone has the “hook-up,” its you. Prison was the place where you were introduced to The Nation of Islam. Afterwards, you literally rescued thousands of black men from total destruction. We need another rescue.
We are sorry for our rejection of you simply because you were a member of the Nation of Islam and that rejection continued even when you embraced Sunni Islam. Your prospective became more broad after your visits to Africa and the Middle East. You denounced Elijah Muhammad and discontinued teaching “hate for white people” Yet, you clearly taught black pride, self-determination, self-defense, and race loyalty. Some of us didn’t get the memo then and still haven’t gotten it. But, some of us know the Koran is just as legit as the Bible. Some of us know both Islam and Christianity are under the auspices of a Supreme Power, We therefore have the same gratitude for your contributions as we have for Dr. King. Your widowers, Betty and Coretta, became friends, after your assassinations and jointly worked for justice for all people, despite their worship preferences. Surely, we could do the same.
The main disenfranchising source of young black males is still incarcerations. We won’t bore you with the specifics, its “just the same old song with a different meaning since you’ve been gone.” Young black males in prison are basically products of poverty, mis-education, fatherless homes, and just plain hopelessness. Violence is a killer, just like cancer, of black males. What a positive difference would emerge if you could again go into prisons and on street corners with your message of self-empowerment and racial pride. There was something about your style (the young brothers now call it swag) that was appealing. And, of course, you engaged in some destructive criminal behavior, which legitimized your message. You in effect said to black males, “I dealt drugs, gambled, racketeered, robbed, and pimped. I changed; learned to bend my knees to Allah, read the right books, learned to respect my self, my brothers, and black women, and changed my name to Malcolm X, symbolizing acknowledgement of my rich African heritage.”
Before your travels, you did preach hate. Perhaps, such sentiments were unavoidable, due to crimes committed by White America upon Black America. You later repudiated hate sentiments and adopted a message of self-empowerment, race loyalty and economic independence. In a famous letter from Mecca you said that pilgrimage convinced you to rearrange your thinking about white people. You proclaimed you met some “blue eyed” missionaries who respected justice for all people.
Minister Malcolm, you are now considered one of America’s most influential champions for justice. You have received many honors. In cities around the world, your birthday is celebrated. Streets have been renamed after you in Harlem, Brooklyn, Oakland, and Dallas. Schools now bear your name. The U.S. Postal Service issued a Malcolm X postage stamp in 1999.
We know you and Dr. King had different approaches to civil rights issues. However, you were together on at least one occasion, as indicated by a photo of the two of you. You also encouraged African Americans to exercise their right to vote, with caution. We can’t help but wonder if the two of you were alive today would you find some common ground on working out our civil rights issues. We do believe, however, that both of you are in the place where all good men go. We do know that America is better because the two of you gave your lives for freedom.
Thank you, Brother Malcolm.