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Malcolm X: The Most Misunderstood Man of the 20th Century

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  1. TC says:

    I agree with the title of your article and appreciate your sentiment. Reading your article will still, however, leave someone with a misrepresentation of Malcolm X. Therefore, your article does not make him any less misunderstood. For one, Malcolm X was not “viciously anti-American and anti-capitalist.” Nor would Malcolm X want to be regarded as “anti-American” or “anti-capitalist.” He hated such labels, and tried hard to shake them. He was anti-racist, anti-exploitation, and anti-oppression, period. Consider these quotes from Malcolm X:

    Letter – Circa September/October 1964

    “I am not anti-American, un-American, seditious nor subversive. I don’t buy the anti-capitalist propaganda of the communists, nor do I buy the anti-communist propaganda of capitalists.”

    January 1965 – Prospects for Freedom Speech

    “Now, in speaking like this, it doesn’t mean that I am anti-American. I am not. I’m not anti-American, or un-American. And I’m not saying that to defend myself. Because if I was that, I’d have a right to be that — after what America has done to us. This government should feel lucky that our people aren’t anti-American. They should get down on their hands and knees every morning and thank God that 22 million black people have not become anti-American. You’ve given us every right to. The whole world would side with us, if we became anti-American. You know, that’s something to think about.

    But we are not anti-American. We are anti or against what America is doing wrong in other parts of the world as well as here. And what she did in the Congo in 1964 is wrong … And what she did to the American public, to get the American public to go along with it, is criminal. What she’s doing in South Vietnam is criminal. She’s causing American soldiers to be murdered every day, killed every day, die every day, for no reason at all. That’s wrong. Now, you’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or who says it.”

    October 1964

    “Since I learned the truth in Mecca, my dearest friends have come to include all kinds — some Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, and even atheists! I have friends who are called capitalists, Socialists, and Communists! Some of my friends are moderates, conservatives, extremists — some are even Uncle Toms! My friends today are black, brown, red, yellow, and white!”

    “When we all learn to think as human beings instead of as capitalists, communists and socialists, this will then be a world for all human beings … We must forget politics and propaganda and approach this as a Human Problem which all of us as human beings are obligated to correct. The well-meaning whites must become less vocal and more active against racism of their fellow whites . . . and Negro leaders must make their own people see that with equal rights also come equal responsibilities.”

    Does that sound like someone who wanted to be regarded as anti-American or anti-capitalist? Sure, he criticized bad things America did and capitalist exploitation, but his views were much more complex and nuanced than that. Moreover, he never defined what he meant when referring to capitalism or socialism, and some of the OAAU’s economic principles contradict socialism. He himself made it clear on the Stan Bernard Show the week of his assassination that he was not a socialist, nor did he even “break bread with socialists.” He liked the Socialist Workers Party because they respected him and gave him a platform to speak on. Although he harshly critiqued capitalism, some of the things he said were compatible with capitalism. I don’t think a truly nuanced analysis of his evolving economic views has ever been done. The scholars either try to paint him as becoming pro-socialist or they focus on his earlier beliefs which were black capitalist. It’s best not to fall into the trap of overgeneralizing his economic views.

    Lastly, I think this was just a typo on your part, but it was Malcolm X’s grandfather who was white. The way you worded it makes it seem like it was his great grandfather. Louis Little’s father was white. It should also be noted that according to Jan Carew, who got to know Malcolm during his February trip to the UK, Malcolm told him he had only said he hated every drop of white blood in his body for political reasons and that he did not actually feel that way anymore.

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