An Islamic Black Radical — a hero


Edit: things have changed since I first wrote this, and as such I’ve had to make some changes. My respect for and awe of the legacy of Malcolm X have not changed.


I don’t mind shaking hands with human beings. Are you one? — Malcom X

51 years ago, Malcom X aka el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz was murdered by members of the Nation of Islam. He was a black revolutionary, a warrior, and at the end of his life a Sunni Muslim. He preached radical philosophy and for most of his life preached black nationalism. He was angered by the inequality, violence, and bullshit he saw inflicted upon his fellow black Americans by their supposed fellow citizens, white Americans. He was hated by whites, many blacks, the CIA, the government, the list goes on. He advocated self defense, revolution, and socialism.

He is one of my heroes.

Clearly, I am white. I was raised in privilege. I have never been a victim for my skin color. I am everything that our society says should cause me to hate Malcom X, yet here we are. If given the choice in whatever awaits me after death, I want to meet Malcom X. I want to talk with him, hear his thoughts and take in his fiery passion for the struggle.

There is a story that Malcom X himself relates in his autobiography. After his conversion to Sunni Islam, a white man in America approached him and asked if Malcom X shook hands with white people. Malcom X responded: “I don’t mind shaking hands with human beings. Are you one? ” Human beings. Through this simple statement, Malcom X declared, without abandoning at all his black pride and power, that he sees all as human beings. All are children of God. All are equal in the sight of God.

But where does that have to do with us? Too many people I know look at those who protest, those who fight for equality and fair treatment and say “well they could have a point but I don’t like the manner in which they protest. They may really be prejudiced against, but they do not speak English in the way I have deemed proper. Their music is too [insert bad sounding adjective], they love the wrong person, they don’t work hard enough which is why they are poor, they are [insert whatever you want] and because of this: I will not shake hands with them and call them equal.”

They might as well be saying “I don’t see them as human beings.”

Malcom X near the end of his entirely too short life said “I don’t mind shaking hands with human beings. Are you one? ”

It was chiefly the example of Malcolm X (among many other things) that lead me to saying the Shahadah and personally embracing Islam. His encounter with God on his pilgrimage changed him. He looked inwards and began to excise the hate he saw in himself, and began anew to fight for what was right. I wanted that same spiritual change and peace, and followed in the footsteps of Malcolm to find it.

As we remember the warrior el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, Malcom X, let us imitate this black man, with all the reasons in the world to hate whites, who never gave up the struggle, his blackness or his pride, reached out his hand to shake hands with a human being.