Why We Honor Malcolm X

By Linwood F. Tauheed

Malcolm X, the man who began his life as Malcolm Little and ended it as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, has disappointed his critics by not slipping into obscurity. From the time of Malcolm's death in 1965, America's media, has tried to make Malcolm disappear from the memory of African Americans, first by neglect, and then by painting him as a wild-eyed, slick-talking, purveyor of hate.

However, the media, which has increasingly been looked upon with skepticism by many African Americans, could not convince us that there was nothing to learn from the life of a man who had transformed himself from Malcolm Little, street hustler and drug addict; into Malcolm X, articulate, brilliant and upright leader, and then transformed himself again into El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, internationally recognized spokesman for Africans under American oppression.

To the criticism against the stamp, raised in the Kansas City Star's January 22nd (1999) editorial "Stamp Silliness," that Malcolm should be abhorred because he did not believe in a nonviolent agenda, we can respond simply by asking, "Where was the nonviolent agenda of the Founding Fathers of this Country?" That same editorial compared Malcolm to George Wallace. This is silly! Those who were hurt by Wallace can be documented into the thousands. Instead, for Malcolm, those who were inspired by his example of transformation to do the same in their lives, are thousands still. Malcolm was a faithful husband and devoted father, uncompromising, tireless and fearless champion for what he believed in. For this he paid the ultimate price for his devotion to our liberation struggle. What an example for us today.

Why do we honor him? Ossie Davis, who gave the eulogy at Malcolm's funeral, answered that by asking a simple question; "Did he [Malcolm] ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? …Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood! This was his meaning to his people. And, in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves." This quote is from The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, which is a good place to start the process of learning about the true Malcolm X.

And so we find ourselves today in a situation, where the U.S. Postal Service, an arm of that same government that Malcolm so thoroughly exposed for it's role in that oppression, is honoring his legacy with a stamp, the 22nd in the Black Heritage series. The apparent irony of this event is overshadowed by the opportunity this occasion gives to educate the community about Malcolm's true legacy, his place in the history of African Americans, of this country and of the world. And so, as Malcolm was often exhorted to, by the crowds he spoke to, I hope I have "made it plain."

Linwood Tauheed is a member of The National Black United Front's Kansas City Chapter

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