The Ambiguous Legacy of Malcolm X

The Ambiguous Legacy of Malcolm X

Now that he is dead, we must resist the temptation to idealize Malcolm X, to elevate charisma to greatness.

His voice and words were cathartic, channeling into militant verbiage emotions that might otherwise have run a violently self-destructive course. But having described the evil, he had no program for uprooting it. With skill and feeling he articulated angry subterranean moods more widespread than any of us like to admit. But having blown the trumpet, he could summon, even at the very end, only a handful of followers.

His death is deeply felt among Negroes because Malcolm was a child of the ghetto. The ambivalent, the ironic and the tragic—all of which he symbolized—are the governing elements in our common experience here. So much of the debate underway in the Negro movement today reflects not merely conflicting group philosophies but the internal crisis of identity, which takes its toll of every black man in America.

From the depravity of his early year...

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