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malcolm X and chanGe(s)…

November 2, 2011

Yesterday, on my way back from my Education Task Force meeting I was listening to an archival interview with Malcolm X. He talked about how the Nation of Islam fundamentally disagreed with the concept of integration because in the opinion of the honorable Elijah Muhammad – true and pure integration was not possible in our nation. He noted that since we are living in a nation where the ancestors of black people in this country were worked seven days a week for 310 years without pay are living side by side by the ancestors of the white people in this country who enslaved them and chose not to pay them – true equality could never be achieved. He went on to add that he believes that for the next 200 years, the so-called black man will never be free and will continue to have to beg the so-called white man for a room at the inn.

As I sat in my car and listened I was struck by how much the world had changed since Malcolm X lived and how much it has actually stayed the same. My meeting was held at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum for Maryland African American History and Culture (Museum), which was built with monies donated by Reginald F. Lewis, America’s first black billionaire. In 1965, a couple of months after Malcolm X was assassinated, Lewis was invited to attend Harvard Law School, becoming the first student in the148-year history of the school to be admitted before applying. While history was being made through the Civil Rights Movement and the Nation of Islam, Lewis was making history as well by entering into the closed boardrooms where very few people of color were allowed to tread and equally participate. And yet, the name of Reginald F. Lewis is not taught in traditional American history classes. During my meeting, I sat at a table with five other PhDs – black men and women who work as deans, chairs, and chancellors at historically white institutions. I left that meeting in that museum excited about the next steps in educating the young boys and girls of Baltimore until I listened to Malcolm X and his version of the current and future state of black and white America. He argued that black people either needed to go and live in another land or be given a state here in America that they could call their own. I am not sure if either of those solutions was viable at that time and I am fairly certain that they are not viable in the current America. Should black people really have to leave America to be free? Do we really need to establish a “black” state so that we can experience true equality?

Hmm…I tend to believe that a better solution is to continue to work through the difficulties and try to come up with solutions. We should continue to force the discussions rather than assuming that since we have a president of color then racial tensions have ended. We must open up the discussions and talk about race and class rather than race or class. I tell you – there is nothing like a little dose of American history and reality to drag down the day.

While driving back up town from the Museum, I passed through neighborhoods where people are struggling just to get from one day to the next; I passed by schools that don’t have heat or new books or computers; and I passed the Occupy Baltimore protest where men and women who are temporarily experiencing homelessness are taking up residence alongside the protestors. These are issues that transcend race that must be discussed alongside discussions about race

We have come so far and at the same time, we have so much farther to go. In a nation where we still struggle to understand, talk about, and transcend race/class&gender, it is hard to be upbeat when you feel like the weight of the world is sitting on your shoulders. We are going to talk about it in my Stereotypes class today…because I believe that talking about is the first step in trying to figure out what to do about it. change/someday/is/possIble…

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