February is Black History Month and I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to publicly acknowledge my all-time favorite civil rights leader. I really got to know who Malcolm X was from Alex Haley’s biography and later the movie which was based on the book and directed by Spike Lee. Being a younger male testosterone fueled football player, I felt as if I could identify with Malcolm’s more aggressive approach to Civil Rights when compared to the more peaceful Satyagraha methods championed by Dr. Martin Luther King. But what I really came to appreciate was the transformation of Malcolm X. I really enjoy testimonies about the transformation of the human character and that is what you have with Malcolm X. Malcolm’s persona changed significantly over the course of his life. He was a burglar, then a prisoner, then a devout Muslim who preached separatism before finally converting to someone who recognized the beauty in all races while preaching racial reconciliation. Often times we remember the fiery rhetoric of Malcolm X but frequently forget that his message had changed at the time of his tragic assassination.
Malcolm had converted to Islam during his time in prison and when he was released he quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the leaders of the Nation of Islam movement here in the United States. Malcolm’s first transformation was from a burglar to a devout Muslim leader preaching an extreme approach to Civil Rights. His second transformation occurred when he took his pilgrimage to Mecca where he prayed alongside Muslims of many different races. He then realized that racial harmony was in fact possible.
The human character is a fascinating thing. We need to remember that we can grow, change, and become enlightened as we continue to live our lives while interacting with many different people. This is what some psychologists call the “growth mindset.” That is what happened to Malcolm. His story is a powerful testimony to the power of love which can change all of us for the better. So for the month of February, I like to continuously remember Malcolm X not only for his fiery message and outstanding rhetoric, but for the transformation of his spirit, which ultimately led to him to understand that racial reconciliation was possible.