I chose to cover Malcolm X’s interview given on a Chicago television show called “City Desk” on March 17, 1963. This artifact covers a discussion that Malcolm X has with a white interviewer about his name, as well as the name of Elijah Muhammad. To start the interview the man asks him what his ‘real name’ is. Malcolm X insists that his name is, in fact, Malcolm X. The man follows up to ask if he had gone to court to change his name to that, to which Malcolm X insisted that he did not need to do that, because there was no process to determine last names when Africans were brought to America in slavery. Malcolm X speaks on slave names and defends his right to denounce his slave name as well as other African Americans to do so.
I wanted to chose something by Malcolm X specifically because, lately, I’ve been really intrigued by him. I have been speaking about him often because of the state of racial tension we have in America right now where protestors are demanding fair treatment from the police. At points in these protests there has been some violence: Windows being broken and businesses even being looted. I think that in our education system we are taught that Malcolm X is bad because he was not against violence and Martin Luther King Jr. was good because he advocated for peaceful protest even in the face of violence. I believe that both are important to any civil rights movement. Our education system tries to teach us that you can only demand fair rights if you demand them in an establishment approved way. I say that to denounce protests where some windows get broken is to say that people like Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party had no impact on the civil rights movement, which is not correct.
I chose this particular piece because I thought that it connected well to what we have talked about in class. Taking names away from slaves and erasing their history is a way that slave owners disenfranchised slaves. He also talks a little bit to the end about the construction of race and how religious blacks are racialized.
Malcolm X was a Muslim minister and a civil rights activist. He advocated for blacks during the Civil Rights Movement. He spoke the truth always, never mincing words he indicted white America on their crimes against humanity and called on African Americans to do the same. His voice was to demand equality, as he said, “by any means necessary.” He advocated to meet violence with violence if it took that. One misconception is that he preached hatred and violence against whites; what he actually preached was closer to ‘treat them how they treat you.’ A quote of his says, “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.” He is one of the most influential people in history.
The interview took place in 1963, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. It is self explanatory why an interview with a civil rights leader would be important during a civil rights movement. Here he explained that slave names have no bearing on a person’s true name. In fact, he won’t even acknowledge his slave name because it has no agency over him. By doing this he encourages other African Americans to not be defined by white America and what has been imposed on them and their ancestors.
Five years ago I would have said that it changed over time because the civil rights movement is over. While I always knew it was far from equal, I didn’t realize how real it was still. In just the past few years it has really become a civil rights movement in the truest form as African Americans across the nation demand equality, specifically they would really appreciate if our police officers would stop shooting unarmed people. I think the message over all is a message of empowerment to African Americans and so, no, I don’t think that it has changed over time.
In class we talk about racialization of blacks before, during and after slavery. In the interview Malcolm must explain that when he says that a plane crash was an act of God, he is not saying that he is happy that the plane crash happened. I mentioned that a white christian pastor called it an act of God and it wasn’t and issue at all. He said the same thing and the headline in the newspaper the next day is that Malcolm X is glad that a plane crashed. This is the difference when you are a black Muslim instead of white Christian.
We also spoke about disenfranchisement of slaves. We went over things that slaves kept and lost in the middle passage. Names and ethnic ties were one of them as Malcolm X describes that his ancestors’ slave holder’s name is not his.