AJ Valliant Arbitrarily ranks: The greatest men that ever lived , Martyrs part 2

March 21, 2007

Continued from Jesus


Malcolm X

Breakdown :

By any means Necessary. By all means necessary. You do, what you got to do…what you got to do. Race baiter, instigator, emancipator, and militant Muslim before it was cool; Mr X was a radical with teeth who refused to share a bed with his oppressor. He was also a drug dealer, robber, honour student, and hustler; a man who lived every drop of his world and regularly found it wanting. He stepped up from the gutter and became the symbol and engine for the edgier side of the civil rights movement. Then he died.

Style: 7

Malcolm woke up into a world where he was a nigger and criminal before he’d taken his first step, yet somehow it made him stronger. Ever boot straightened his back; every slur made him surer of his worth. As a young man his life was defined by pride and anger; with time it moved towards dignity and sadness. He railed and exhorted in slick suits and bowties; serious and confident the dude never lost his cool even when he became The Man( albeit restricted to certain settings). Their was a brittle charisma to him that’s difficult to articulate, as if the edge and hardness he had inoculated splintered out into his words and deeds. He wasn’t likeable, exactly, but his presence commanded careful attention.

Short Term Impact/ Lasting Impact: 7/5

In the short term he catalyzed and gave an edge to a movement that needed pride and craved righteous anger. By the same token the politics, dirty dealing, and inflammatory rhetoric of the Nation of Islam may have caused as much harm to theCivil rights movement as it gave benefit. Malcolm was by nature a polarizer and malcontent… something few men had the courage be.

In the long term his legacy became somewhat tainted. While the spiritual heirs of Martin Luther King became enfranchised religious and political leaders, men of occasional conscience and dignity: the nation of Islam continued down a path of corruption, fractiousness, and an unconscionable mixing of obnoxious bow ties and dashikis.

Could I do the same thing, in the same situation, if sufficiently motivated: 8

Regardless of the temporal adjustment there would still be a melanin barrier to pass in order to have really been in the same situation. I’ve been poor and white and disrespected, but I was always considered a person. Remove my zombie Irish pallor and I don’t know that I could recover from it. Even with my Euro-descendant social bonus points I would still likely be digging ditches if born in the 20’s; without it I doubt I’d make it past the third grade before my mouth got me lynched.

The real question is how much of my decency would survive if I was the white me living in that environment. I’d like to think that my fairness and compassion are an indivisible part of my being, but I suspect it’s largely the benefit of the positive influences in my life. Surround me with bigots, cowards, and systematic dehumanization on a daily basis, and it would likely have shaped a vastly different conception of the world. There is enough ethnocentrism in my nature to begin with, that I can see that reflexive perceptual bias warp into a very ugly intolerance. Maybe I’d find a way to be kind and brave; likely on a individual basis and discretely applied, but I don’t know that I would develop the character required to stand beside my fellow man and cry out against oppression. Depressing thought.

Did they ever kill a man: 3

Yeah, probably. Not a lot of guys…but you just get feeling there was a pool hall shanking or two in his past at some point. He ran with a bad crowd in a violent world; these things tend to happen.

Quality pop culture homage to them : 8

Aside from Che Guevara, few political figures have had their images sexed up and merchandized like X. Spike Lee joints, Hip hop collabo’s, tell all books, documentaries…the dude has been memorialized, sanctified, and demonized by pop culture to an absurd degree. I swear on my children’s lives I saw a Malcolm X. beanie baby at a swap meet last week; second angriest plush toy in the bin[1].

Wildcard : 4

I dig the fact he had a name befitting a masked vigilante of some type. I can’t help but picture him caped and booted, leaping from roof top to roof top in metropolitan Alabama… maybe dropping down to deliver two fisted justice to a nefarious Klansmen intent on poisoning the towns water supply.

End score and assessment: 42

Easy guy to respect, hard guy to like. While I can understand and appreciate his struggle, it’s hard to fully connect with someone who would consider me a white devil, pasty oppressor, and source of all the suffering in the world. It’s hard to get past the antagonistic duality of his message; the inherent, if fairly justified, racism in his conception of the world. I suspect if he lived a little longer he would have moved towards a more united approach to equality. Either way the dude had huge balls and was likely a better man than I would have been in the same setting.

[1] There was an Elijah Mohammed lobster one shelf up that I’m pretty sure spat on me when I walked by.

First Part JESUS
Next part SPIDERMAN 


5 Responses to “AJ Valliant Arbitrarily ranks: The greatest men that ever lived , Martyrs part 2”

  1. damewigginsoflee Says:

    ‘Malcolm woke up into a world where he was a nigger and criminal before he’d taken his first step, yet somehow it made him stronger.’

    Wow, powerful statement. I like this series, by the way — and can’t stop referring to Jesus as the ‘rock star’.

    Good stuff.

  2. w0rmwood Says:

    really nice post sir.


  3. Ryan Says:

    Hot damn I love your analysis of both Jesus and Malcolm X, and I can’t wait till Spiderman.

  4. “Wow, powerful statement. I like this series, by the way”

    It’s a fun one to write.

    — “and can’t stop referring to Jesus as the ‘rock star’”

    Nor should you.

  5. “Hot damn I love your analysis of both Jesus and Malcolm X, and I can’t wait till Spiderman.”

    I hope he made it through ok.

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