By YOUSEF DRUMMOND
FEBRUARY 21st, 2006 will mark the 42nd anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination in New York City. After all this time, however, through a span of at least three generations, many mainstream media outlets, whether in print or on television, either refuse to or cannot reconcile with his legacy; this point is all too clear. Instead, today’s media outlets conveniently chart Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s moral and spiritual development without effort. Curiously, the mainstream media refuse to chart El-hajj Malik Shabazz’s moral and spiritual development. It is as if his historical contributions to American political and social thought carry no weight whatsoever. In short, Malcolm X’s unique historical contributions are not as acutely recognized as that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s.
If we search through the annals of history on a critical level, we can attempt to understand why this nation cannot reconcile with El-hajj Malik El-Shabazz’s contribution to world history. If we take into account an interpretation of history from a Christian perspective, which by all accounts is the predominant lens through which modern civilization views itself, we find that his legacy doesn’t fit this mold. A Christian interpretation of history doesn’t lend itself to account for consistent episodes of human violence, perpetrated by Christian adherents, on native peoples. Thus many of us say that we don’t understand El-hajj Malik El-Shabazz’s historical legacy because he was either “too violent” or that he “advocated violence”. To entertain some rational justification for muscular reactions to incessant episodes of European subjugation of native peoples (including African-Americans) through violence is, in some minds, an oxymoron; something doesn’t “fit”. So a non-violent solution to racial injustice, as advocated by Christian activist Martin Luther King, Jr., makes perfect sense from a Christ centric-historical perspective. I have learned that a Christ centric-historical perspective refuses to account for any cultural determinant of history, focusing instead on a “culture-free” historical process. This realization is primarily the reason for converting to Islam, as I was raised a Christian. Modern civilization or the rise of the modern “nation-state” is replete with incessant waves of violence that was meted out to native peoples; beneath a call to imitate the virtues and values of European civilization is a wave of violence that was meted out to native peoples.
Thus media outlets seize the opportunity to project and reinforce a modern notion of human equality, of a just society, through the works of Martin Luther King, Jnr.; that he endeavored to concretize a “color-free” society. A “culture-free” historical process, by all accounts, doesn’t exist at all. Culture remains the basis for man’s moral and spiritual development. No one can deny that the chief foundation for modern civilization is rooted in violence, that European native talents gained the “upper-hand” through violent methods.
Malcolm X, as he was called prior to his journey to Mecca for Hajj, was convinced that his cultural milieu encased African-Americans into a Manichean polarity, that is, a cultural distinction of “black-white” was irreconcilable. African-Americans, he insisted, have been emasculated both morally and spiritually, through successive waves of violence, perpetuated by unscrupulous and illiterate adherents of European stock that spanned over four centuries. And the only method through which African-Americans, as a group, gain ultimate freedom is to consider violence as an option. He understood that his freedom, so intertwined with African-American freedom within an encrusted, rigid racial society governed by Jim Crow laws, entailed a thrust into the possibility of violence. His resolute interpretation of culture vis-à-vis his counterpart Dr. Martin Luther King, Jnr. ruled out any notion of human equality; this is precisely, I believe, the reason for the media’s reluctance to respect his contribution to American political and social thought as much as Martin Luther King, Jnr’s.
There is a distinction to be made between “human” equality and “racial” equality when we consider El-hajj Malik el-Shabazz’s monumental contribution to world history. Human equality is an abstract term, articulated by modern liberals, that reaches as far back as the philosopher Plato. While this philosopher applied his energies into abstract cognitive forms that he considered as “universal” in his time, today’s liberals apply his thinking to a “universal” or “objective” interpretation of society. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jnr’s legacy resonates so well with the media today because they are content with portraying this objectivity, and our society remains at ease with this interpretation. El-hajj Malik El-Shabazz’s interpretation of human society, on the other hand, elevates “racial” equality and subverts “human” equality, since what makes one “human” is to recognize that all races are equal in kind. And this is here that we, as Muslims, understand that El-hajj Malik El-Shabazz strove to realize not just a mental interpretation of a “just” society, but a concrete global universal brotherhood that recognizes no distinction based on race, a reality wholly unattainable through a Christian interpretation of history.
The writer is a recent revert to Islam and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org