In 1963, Malcolm X came to speak at the University of Sheffield. To commemorate the 50 year anniversary of this event, coinciding with the University’s ‘Black History Month’, the Student’s Union decided to put up a painting of Malcolm X within the Union. I found this very troubling and wrote this letter to the President of the Student’s Union to express my view that we should not be celebrating this man, nor what he stood for:
“To whom it may concern,
I was very disappointed to see that a portrait of Malcolm X has been unveiled in the Students’ Union recently. In case you are not aware, I wanted to highlight some of the positions this man held, and the positions that it now seems our Union endorses.
During his early years Malcolm spent much of his time drug-dealing, racketeering, robbing and pimping, which by the way, are all crimes.
He was declared unfit for military service after he said he was eager to ‘steal some guns and kill crackers’.
He went to prison after being found guilty of breaking and entering, and larceny.
So, are you happy with the man that you are associating our University with?
Whilst in prison, Malcolm changed his last name to ‘X’, explaining that ‘Little’ was a named imposed on him by the ‘blue-eyed devil’.
Might I add that Malcolm continued to insist that every white man was ‘the Devil’ for most of his life.
Would you consider putting up a portrait in the Union of a white man who taught that every black man is ‘the Devil’? Just wondering.
Shortly after being released from prison, Malcolm declared himself a communist, and warmly welcomed Fidel Castro on his 1960 visit to New York. Now, this might be not as worrying in itself but he is racking up quite a list of achievements.
It now becomes apparent that we have a communist criminal racist exalted on the walls of our University Headquarters.
Malcolm expanded on his beliefs as he grew older. He talked frequently of how blacks are superior to whites, talking of how blacks were the ‘original man’. He favored the complete separation of race, and rejected integration. Perhaps if you think so highly of him you might want to institute a similar policy at our University! He also advocated violence as part of his ‘any means necessary’ approach. An approach shared by other ‘greats’ like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao; do they get a spot on our walls?
If you stand by this man and his place in our University, I ask you, on what possible basis?
I am deeply ashamed of my University for this action and demand that the decision be reversed. We should not be celebrating one part of this man’s ideology.
I would suggest, if the intent was to celebrate black history, we replace the portrait with a more appropriate figure.
Perhaps someone who promoted integration rather than segregation, cooperation rather than destruction, equality rather than racism, diplomacy rather than war, and peace rather than violence. Might I suggest Martin Luther King Jr?
I hope you consider my opinion, I assure you there are others that share it.”