Writer and cultural critic Toure has spoken on just about every aspect of black culture in recent months as he’s made the promotional rounds for his latest book Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness. Toure is a difficult person to agree with on every single thing (and has often straight up made me annoyed) he raises some interesting points in his latest post for Time Magazine, “We Need a Malcolm X Day.” It’s tempting to presume that Toure’s stance will be one of intentional controversy and contrarianism, but the way he explains the merits of a Malcolm X Day is hard to dismiss.
Malcolm ended his life rejecting anti-whiteness and nationalism in favor of a bold multiculturalism that was and is still willing to welcome anyone into his international interfaith anti-oppression movement: to judge by creed and not by race. He grew to understand it took all types to make the human family complete and explicitly rejected racial hatred and espoused a universal law of justice. He was a man who challenged the status quo in necessary ways, who was a public intellectual activist and a proponent of voting rights who believed in using the electoral system to achieve meaningful change. And more, Malcolm was someone who saw himself as a global citizen, traveling and taking his critique of America to the rest of the world and treating America like the global citizen it is. This country is special in part because we are composed of people who relatively recently came from somewhere else and Malcolm fully embraced the diasporic nature of Americanness and thought of himself as a member of the world community. All of this would be celebrated on Malcolm X Day.
I’m sure that even the headline to this post made you say “maybe, but America is never going to give us one,” but let’s think about things a bit further because even using the idea of a Malcolm X Day as a straw-man for addressing all that ails this country is helpful.
Toure’s idea that Americans need a symbol of global citizenship that represents the “diasporic nature of Americanness,” is intriguing. I often think that one of the largest problems with race relations in America is our failure to recognize what a young, experimental country we are and how — regardless of ethnicity — we all ultimately have a disconnect from a motherland (yes, even Native Americans have also had their homelands taken away by “America.”). Whether our inclusion in this experiment was by ancestral force or choice, the American identity is built around the idea that we’re all different and here to build a “melting pot.” Doesn’t refusing to honor that concept in a meaningful, uniquely American way expose how readily some forms of Americanness are accepted as truly American while others are not?
The idea of a Malcolm X Day is probably too far-fetched; perhaps there will be another American holiday honoring a black person, but I doubt it. More than anything, so many people still see Malcolm as a dangerous racist whose religion and tactics are the antithesis of racial harmony. Until that image changes there is no hope for a national movement to honor him, but the idea of it is still interesting.