Malcolm X versus Martin Luther King
Having grown up in South Africa, I'm no stranger to racial issues. We lived under apartheid and even as Indians, it was a struggle. However, moving to Canada and seeing race relations from a modern Western perspective is interesting. I think the core ways of gaining one's freedom are exemplified by two great leaders of the American civil rights movement.
Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.In the modern day, I often get the feeling that MLK is celebrated more. He was the path of peace. The path of political change. Malcolm X branded with the path of violence and then eventual peace. I think history has given MLK the credit he is due on the political front. His ideology has become dominant in the various equality struggles in life.
I'd like to just touch on a key ideological differences that Malcolm X had and why I think it is sad history and our political psyche has abandoned it.
To keep it simple, MLK wanted to change things politically so that blacks would be welcome in every white institution. Malcolm X wanted blacks to build their own institutions.
In truth, I think the best political change would involve both ideologies being pushed. If only MLK could have pushed for integration, while Malcolm X had lived to push for blacks to build their own institutions. But history has kind of blocked out this Malcolm X brand of building yourself up. I think that is tremendously sad.
Build Yourself UpThe idea of building yourself up is a very successful model that can be seen in so many successful immigrant groups in the West. From the Chinese to the Indians to the Italians, they arrive and have built their own institutions. From little China Towns, to Little India, to restaurants, grocery stores, religious institutions; they came and they built their own little section of life. That is the strength of their community. Travel around the GTA and you will see sections of community strength. Markham is known as a Chinese hotbed; even hosting it's own Asian mall. Brampton brings a lot of Punjabi institutions.
The question that I often ask is how do these communities get built with their own institutions; often with people with even less money? Yet some groups like African Americans do not; despite having the obvious advantage of being born here and often times having overall enough collective wealth. This can be symbolized by the reality that it is often the Indians or the Asians who set up shop in African American neighborhoods. It's the same pattern I saw in South Africa and I ask myself this very simple question.
How is there even room in an African American neighborhood for an Indian or Asian to come in and build a grocery store? Should there not already be someone in the African American community who decides to build a grocery store for their people? That is the question.
It is this question that I think history has done a disservice to African Americans by muting the message of Malcolm X. The message of building yourself up. The message of realizing we are not all one people yet and you still need to build your own community. That message that white liberals will not be your salvation. That message that you don't go begging to your overlords for every thing you need. That message of pride and dignity.
Social Justice Warriors
To see the extent to which the path of MLK has become dominant and the path of Malcolm X has been wiped from history, just look at the notion of the modern day Social Justice Warrior. Micro-aggression, safe spaces, political correctness, cultural appropriation, always nagging others to include them, one upping each other on who can be the greater victim. This can probably be most exemplified by the recent case of Black Lives Matter demanding that a gay pride parade ban the police from participating because the police offend them.
I don't know too many people who looked at that and thought positively of BLM. It was just sad seeing BLM trying to out victimize LGBT people who are celebrating their liberation. Did they think twice about the LGBT police officer who might be proud to be LGBT, but also a police officer? It's just sad and I said, I think it has to do with erasing the path of Malcolm X from the psyche of Western people.
Why not host a separate Black Gay Pride Parade to bring attention to the issue? Did this thought even occur to the organizers? I would say no, because the very idea of doing your own thing and building yourself up has been erased from their psyche.
Here's another example I saw recently on the idea of cultual appropriation.
Fast forward to around 12:30, the Muslim author (Rukshana Khan) and she is talking about cultural appropriation as it relates to authors. For example, a Christian White author writing about a Lebanese child. Paraphrased, she says this
Just watch that over and over again and see how pathetic, and simply false it sounds. This is in Canada with a fairly sizeable Muslim population with a fair amount of money. There is not lack of money in the Muslim community to not support itself. Imagine if this argument was made about food. Rather than Muslims opening up their own restaurants and butchers, they'd sit around protesting Loblaws to make Halal meat available. Yet, here she is whining about the sad state of writing that people in her community won't support her.Mainstream audiences have the money and it puts us minority writers at a disadvantage. It's not like our own people are going to buy our books.
African PrideI'll end it off on a positive note. The idea of doing your own thing and building yourself up to solve a problem is something I've always admired.
In this case, some women in Kenya were so tired of sexual violence other problems, they packed up shop and set out to create their own woman's only village where men are not allowed. To that I say kudos. That to me is solving a problem with strength and liberation.
Now, is it the end all solution. Of course not. Life is rarely about permanent solution, but it is a process. I do think that first you stand on your own feet by building yourself up and then as equals, the process of integration proceeds. I have no doubt that as the woman in the tribe build themselves up, they will find men who can fit in. Probably some women might follow this model and take it too far and even begin their own oppression. Such is life. But it is all a process and in my view, it always begins with strength in yourself.
This is not in anyway to take away from MLK which is very needed part of any path of liberation. Here's hoping we get a little more Malcolm X in the world.