Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz
This revolution begins with the idea that there are black people spirits capable of channeling in the predominately white-people area of metaphysics.
Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz gave their lives in service to what became known as the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's. It seems that historians tend to be reluctant to acknowledge this service, in large part because Malcolm X, as an icon, was portrayed rather narrowly in the media as being an angry, racist, black-supremacist.
In short, he was stereotyped, nay, was molded, as the very image of Angry Black Man. His greatest threat to society, apparently, was that he was an effective, educated, knowledgeable, strong and dedicated Angry Black Man.
Malcolm X dictated his autobiography to Alex Haley, who would later distinguish himself as an important black literary figure as the author of "Roots". Malcolm X gave Haley permission to write the story of Malcolm X because Malcolm suspected he wouldn't be alive to see the book published. (He was assassinated a few months after the story was dictated but before the book went to press.)
The autobiography, as well as Spike Lee's movie, "Malcolm X" (which draws very closely from the autobiography, Haley's notes, and from the recollections of Betty Shabazz, Malcolm's widow) details in honest and concise form Malcolm's life as a child of a broken family. (The family was broken by a government welfare agency after Malcolm's father was murdered by white supremacists.)
The narrative continues with Malcolm's years as a young man bent on hustling, drug and alcohol abuse, and organized crime. Malcolm went to prison, and while in prison learned to read and to understand the need for education and discipline. He also met a man who eventually introduced Malcolm to a sect - primarily African-American - known as the Nation of Islam.
Once out of prison, Malcolm had truly "reformed" and became a dedicated leader of Islam, which he saw as the solution for helping black people get out of their cultural and economic ghettoes - the prisons of their minds and of their society.
Malcolm assumed "X" as part of his name as a literal and symbolic gesture of purging his identity from a system - namely commercial slavery - and to "divorce" himself from a race - the American race, at the time - that he felt he had not consented, through his own will or that of his ancestors - to be a part of.
Shabazz was the name Betty took, based on the Islamic belief that their people were known as the "tribe of Shabazz."
Malcolm X did eventually break with the Nation of Islam because of serious internal differences, but he never gave up his beliefs in the fundamental values and ethics the Nation of Islam espoused.
This was a particularly soul-searching period for both Malcolm and Betty, and it is fair to say that their absolute commitment to each other, their faith, and their family is what kept them intact and able to deal with the public and private pressures they were under as a result of political differences with other Afro-American leaders, government agents fomenting divide-and-conquer tactics, and internal squabbles among Nation of Islam leaders.
The nature of the "rise and fall" of Malcolm X as covered by the media during the height of the Nation of Islam is what tends to be remembered about Malcolm X. In the last year or so of Malcolm's life, he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and it was there that he had the spiritual breakthrough that changed his life, and also became the basis through which he began to introduce true multiculturalism to his students.
Whatever Malcolm was famous for, it should be remembered that his actual accomplishments and greatest achievements were in teaching and enlightenment. Malcolm never fomented a riot, but he did address classrooms at Harvard regarding the necessity to understanding family responsibility and good citizenship in a cultural environment. Malcolm never staged a rebellion or an invasion, but he did teach Muslim women how to respect themselves as women first, as windows of Motherhood (thus, the beginning of Consciousness), and then as leaders.
Much of what Malcolm and Betty were interested in was not black segregation, but black integration. They contended that through history - for whatever reasons - the Black Man in America, as a individual and as a societal force, had lost his identity, and was in danger of becoming less than black... a mere shadow of a once-proud race.
Thus Malcolm X said in a press conference, to wit, that his interests had shifted from Blacks ripping the social fabric of what had resulted from neo-colonialism, but rather restructuring that fabric so that the essence of Afro-Americanism could redefine itself in a twentieth-century reality; to adapt, survive, and thrive, simply by directing energies toward re-establishing the Black Man, Woman, and Unit, as an esteem-based, healthy, educated and perceptive individual and collective autonomous source and resource necessary to the survival of the Afro-American race.
In short, Malcolm X is on record as having said that the white people could not help the black people until the black people learned to help themselves; they would not be acceptable to white people until they became acceptable to themselves. White people could help, he said, but they could not themselves do the necessary work required for black re-integration to occur.
This concept, put forth by Malcolm X with Betty at his side, strikes at the very heart of what is wrong with the current welfare-driven society of America today. Malcolm's wisdom was in understanding that quality of life is not about what opportunities are manufactured and handed out; it is about what opportunities are truly available in a sincere democracy, where the goal is to teach citizens - all citizens - how to make choices, and how to care properly for one's self, and how to accept and to meet responsibilities.
And, in a sincere democracy, the man or woman who had met those obligations of responsibility would truly have the freedom, and the opportunity, to have choices available.
In the generation after Malcolm's death, we have seen much progress as a result of the Civil Rights movement. Laws have been rewritten, barriers have been broken, and communication between the black and white races is unparalleled in American history.
Yet, ignorance on both sides still prevails, and there is still a problem with treating symptoms, rather than causes. One can attend multicultural diversity seminars until one is black, white, or blue in the face, or one can take up the increasingly popular sport of suing for punitive damages to force people to live in an Orwellian society where individual expression is not tolerated because someone might be offended, and then the Almighty System would break down.
The point of Malcolm X and Betty's rebellion against traditional multi-lateralism was not to tear down one system to replace it with another; what they fought for was to keep people free of systemic thinking and behavior. By people being themselves, thinking for themselves, and acting under a fairly universal code of ethics, it was implied that citizens could manage - rather than be managed by - society as a system.
Malcolm was not an "Angry Black Man" in the interval before he was assassinated. He had come to terms with his own life and responsibilities. He had come to realize that the greatest threat of imprisonment occurred when one passively allowed one's self to be part of the "hive mind", like sheep, when an individual shirked responsibility by blaming one's circumstance on outer circumstance. Malcolm's break with the Nation of Islam was one of the great precipitators of this awareness; by the same token, it was when he fully realized that the "heart of his family" was truly the "heart" of his own existence, that he was able to truly move freely as an independent Soul in search of the Divine Truth that all people - regardless of color - are searching for.
When Malcolm stopped being the "Angry Black Man," he became a Man. He was free from his prison of color. Only time would liberate "color" as a password in our society.
After Malcolm's assassination, Betty managed to care for their children without ever resorting to governmental assistance. Every one of their children went to college. Betty remained a vocal advocate and supporter of Malcolm's legacy to Afro-Americans. She died while trying to save a grandson from a house-fire. The grandson was known to be troubled and confused; angry without purpose or direction - the very endemic to black society Malcolm had struggled to remove via education, validation, and united support.
In the last decade of the twentieth century, we perceived a curious re-division of the so-called lines between the black and white races in America. It seems as if, once the "Civil Rights furor" became an item for the back pages of history books, the focus on racial identity - as a harmonizing concept - became a matter of the races trying on each other's clothes, but not quite walking around in their shoes.
Thus, rather than an evolution, we seem to be facing a devolution, of blacks and whites learning from each other... but not necessarily learning about the "best" of what either might have to offer. This problem seems particularly startling among the youth and teen population.
This is less a race problem than it is a youth problem. Since the 1970's, American society is being systematically ripped to shreds as a culture because of the absolute breakdown of family and social structure. The divorce rate - among all races in America - is absolutely astronomical. Teen pregnancy is rampant, drug abuse is prevalent, and petty crime is routine among teenagers in urban societies.
Our assessment is that the breakdown is in the family structure. In our view, this does not advocate nor recommend either religion or civic virtue (or patriotism). We believe education is the heart of the solution; education to the parent; education to the child. Neither is superior, but both have their place as a cooperative effort of mutual survival. Again, it is about responsibility, to one's self, and to one's unit. Only by restructuring and reorganizing at the core, microcosmic level, will society as a Whole be able to redefine itself, and to put the power back into the hands of the individuals.
The individuals must learn to wield power over themselves, and that power is most effectively obtained - by blacks and whites - through education, understanding, and commitment to overcoming the barriers of ignorance, passivity, and involuntary submission to forces within our control.
The first step to individual Freedom is to quit thinking like a slave.
Take responsibility for your thoughts and actions.
Learn, and you will teach.