In Berkeley the public schools and libraries are closed on "Malcolm X Day" in celebration of his birthday. In the past I've not questioned it. This is Ber(zer)keley and the city likes to make a statement. But this year I decided to refresh my memory about his life and and words, it's been more than 20 years since college and my "Afro-American History" courses.
My admittedly brief study led me to YouTube - with video and audio of his speeches, interviews, discussions. The first one I listened to talked about loving oneself; celebrating ones skin, hair, features as African and beautiful.
Nice. I AGREE with what he says. AND people NEED to hear what he's saying. It's the beginning of black pride. Is it worth getting the day off? Not in my opinion. So I search on.
I discover an interview in which a bunch of old white guys rudely ask Malcolm X to explain the "X" in his name. He does this beautifully. The first three minutes are gold.
Then I found this:
and I felt a little ill.
I'm not arguing that Malcolm X is an extremely important figure in American history. He was a dynamic speaker who knew what the people needed to hear. Brilliant in his own way. I should, as a friend on facebook pointed out, read his autobiography and put myself in his shoes.
In the meantime, it makes me uncomfortable that the kids got the day off of school in celebration of this guy. Surely there are other African American heroes that can be celebrated with a day off.... Rosa Parks? Markus Garvey?