The Bridge: In Honor of Malcolm X

 Malcolm X

By Darryl James 

May 19th is the birth date of El Haaj Malik El-Shabazz, known to us as Malcolm X.

Who was Malcolm X?

Malcolm X was a number of things to a number of people.

To white racists, he was the physical manifestation of the chickens coming home to roost—the sins of the father being visited upon the sons. He was committed to the respect and protection of the Black community and unwavering in the extent to which he was willing to go and to which he was willing to influence millions to go to oppose and stamp out oppression.

His mission? In his own words, it was “to bring about the complete independence of people of African descent here in the western hemisphere…and bring about the freedom of these people by any means necessary.”

Those means included violent retaliation, of course, but those means also included economic revolution. Malcolm X advocated Black self-reliance as a means to freedom.

“If you can’t do for yourself what the white man is doing for himself, don’t say you’re equal with the white man,” Malcolm chided.” If you can’t set up a factory like he sets up a factory, don’t talk that old equality talk.”

Brother Malcolm became the universal symbol for Black Manhood as he challenged white superiority and privilege in a way that frightened America and made conscious Black people proud.

He also challenged the foundation and purpose of the Civil Rights Movement, which did not make him an enemy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as many people today believe.

 It is ignorant to detract from one man to glorify the other. Brother Malcolm was as crucial and relevant as Brother Martin, but a fearful nation would not embrace him the same because he represented the fiery response to violence—a divergent option to Brother Martin, but certainly not an opposite option.

In a 2005 installment of his column for the New York Daily News, Stanley Crouch, a self-hating Negro, claimed that Malcolm X was a “heckler of the Civil Rights Movement” and a “minor figure,” calling the Nation of Islam a “cult,” and a “cartoon version of Islam.”

Boot-licking House Negro bitches like the “writer” Stanley Crouch can deride Malcolm X from the comfort of the twenty-first century, but in his weak little heart which pumps lemonade, Crouch knows damned well that he would never have had the testicular fortitude to be one tenth of what Malcolm X was to America—a proud Black man unafraid to tell the world what was wrong with this nation and unafraid to face it, sacrificing his life for the people he loved.

Crouch, a revisionist idiot, has no real concept of history, particularly where Black people are concerned. Malcolm and Martin had two different movements, which were moving closer to each other before they were assassinated. To call Malcolm a “heckler of the Civil Rights Movement,” is ignorant and demonstrates self-hatred.

Malcolm’s critical challenge of the foundation and purpose of the Civil Rights Movement is very different from being a “heckler,” which is someone who sits inactively on the sidelines tossing negativity.

Certainly, Martin was and is larger than Malcolm, but that has more to do with who he had following him and the times to come. Malcolm was about hate the way Martin was a racist—both false assumptions made only by idiots.

The reality is that Martin was safer than Malcolm—for whites and for scared Negroes who didn’t want anyone to make too much noise and piss off the white establishment they feared and revered.

But Martin also had detractors, many of whom hated him as they hated Malcolm. Some Negroes were afraid that Martin, too, would upset the apple cart and make it harder for them to kiss white people’s collective asses.

Malcolm X, much like Dr. King, was evolving from fighting a domestic fight on the home front for civil rights into waging a war on the world stage for human rights.

And they were both taking an economic revolution to the bottom of society.

At the end of the day, there is never a reason to choose and no one should be asked to.

But there is a reason to celebrate. To celebrate the birth of a beautiful, strong human being who changed the way Black men thought of themselves and frankly, the way the world thought of Black men.

The late Ossie Davis, who delivered the eulogy for Malcolm X in the Spike Lee film and in life at the funeral, said it best:  “Malcolm was our manhood. Our living Black manhood.”

(Malcolm was) “Our own Black shining prince who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so.”

And those of us who understood him, love him as well.

Happy Birthday Brother Malcolm.

 Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge.”  James’ stage play, “Love In A Day,” opened in Los Angeles in 2001 and will become a feature film in 2012. View previous installments of this column at Reach James at


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