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5 Things I Learned From Malcolm X

A man to Emulate

Courtesy of Getty Images

Malcolm X is one of the inspirational figures in my life. The firebrand African-American human rights activist of the 1950s and 60s will forever be remembered. By the time he was assassinated in 1965 ( at just the age of forty), he had achieved a lot more than men who had lived more years.

It’s a pity I wasn’t born during Malcolm X’s time.

It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t part of the crowd that would listen to his thought provoking views. Thanks to technology, I can learn a lot about this great man through hundreds of articles, journals and videos online.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley details the life of Malcolm X from birth to date. The book lets you into the life of Malcolm X; the pain, anguish,joys, wins, uncertainties and all that created the man. I’m no book reviewer, but I just couldn’t resist sharing with the world the lessons I learnt from this great individual.

  1. The power of books

While reading the book, I marveled at how much books can change the course of life of a person. Malcolm never stepped in high school or college, yet he is considered one the most learned men of the 20th century. Awed by his knowledge, one European reporter asked in an interview;

“So Malcolm, what’s your alma mater?

Malcolm responded, amid a chuckle, “My alma mater is books!”

“People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book”

-Malcolm X

Malcolm X was arrested in 1946 for engaging in criminal activities. It was while in prison that he became a voracious reader. Don’t wait till you’re imprisoned to start reading. Start now.

2. Speaking out against evil

At a time when racism and discrimination was rife in America, black men who spoke against it put their lives in grave danger. Malcolm was one of the people who weren’t afraid of speaking the truth as it was.He knew he was in danger, but he soldiered on. Some of his fellow African-Americans were stunned by his courage.

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it’s for or against.”

-Malcolm X

Some much was his passion for justice that some journalists branded him, the angriest black man in America’. When someone isn’t doing the right thing, for instance oppressing another, we need to speak out against them. Some evil deeds aren’t eliminated by remaining tight-lipped.

3. Unlearn in order to learn

Studies show that human beings LOVE to stay in comfort zones. This applies to every head on this planet. Extraordinary people are those who are willing to constantly get out of their comfort zones. Do you belief in the same things you used to believe a decade ago? Does prejudice blind your judgement?

Sometimes we have to shad our attitudes and beliefs no matter how difficult it may seem. No matter how much it will contradict the beliefs of the society. If it’s the right, moral thing to do, then do it. Malcolm X wen’t on a pilgrimage to Mecca and traveled to many countries across the globe. He gained valuable insights.

He realized the version of Islam he was taught in America wasn’t right. He came to realize not all white men were evil. He envisioned better ways to solve the race problems in America. And as was expected, most of the ignorant African-Americans didn’t accept the new Malcolm.

“Always keep and open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search of truth.”

-Malcolm X

4. We’re stronger together

Malcolm X’s main objective was to unite the coloured people so they could fight against the oppressive system at that time. This proved to be an arduous task. The coloured people were divided on the basis or religion and organizations. The Muslims and the Christians hardly agreed on a thing.

His efforts weren’t completely futile though. He had converted to Islam, so it wasn’t easy to convince the Christians and other religions to join the band wagon. He believed Christianity was one of the tools used to keep the black man down.

(Most of the Christian teaching promoted oppression during that time, for instance, a verse that advises to turn the other cheek when an enemy strikes you. Or separate churches for the blacks and whites)

All in all, he was seen as a leader for all. Having spent most of his teenage life in the streets doing odd jobs, he was able to connect with the lowly people.

He always advised black people to vote as a bloc if they really wanted to be heard (there were 10 million black voters at the time). Some white people were in a mission to split black votes and keep them on the ground forever.

“You don’t have to be a man to fight. All you have to do is be an intelligent being.”

-Malcolm X

5. Self-esteem

What do you think about yourself? Do you consider yourself inferior to others? I struggle with self esteem issues sometimes. Times when I feel that I’m a waste of space in this planet. When I feel like I don’t contribute anything at all. In one of his speeches, Malcolm X poses the questions:

“Why do you hate the colour of your skin?”

“Why do you hate the texture of your hair?”

He was speaking to African Americans, who were suffering under the weight of inferiority complex. He went as far as telling them that black people descended from the kings and queens of the ancient times who rule the world.

If there is something you’ll learn through Malcolm’s life; it is the power of having a high self-esteem. Never look down upon yourself. You are great.

“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything”

-Malcolm X

Malcolm X’s charm, courage and intelligence made him one of the most sought after speakers in America at that time. He became popular not only in America but all over the world. He may have departed, but his words will stay with us forever.

I could have gone on and on about the lessons I have learned from Malcolm X, but I do not wish to tire you.

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