Malcolm X’s Legacy Lives : His Teachings Still Offer Hope to Young African-Americans

<i> The Rev. M. Andrew Robinson-Gaither is pastor of Faith United Methodist Church in South Los Angeles and founder of the Malcolm X Institute</i>

The political ideology of Malcolm X is alive and well as urban American finishes commemorating the 68th anniversary of Malcolm X’s birth this month.

For young people in the African-American community, Malcolm X’s teachings provide hope in the midst of continued social, economic and political injustices perpetuated by America’s greatest sin: racism.

Malcolm X challenged America about that racism.

His most famous quote, “When you hear me say, ‘By any means necessary,’ I mean exactly that: political, economic, social, physical, anything that’s necessary as long as it’s intelligently directed and designed to get results.”


Young people have interpreted it to mean, “We’re not going to be nice about it. Pacifists we’re not,” or, “No more accommodation politics, America. Let’s deal face-to-face.”

These approaches frighten America, for America has never sincerely, apologetically or openly challenged the question of its racism. It can no longer be business as usual. The urban needs of employment, food, education, health care and housing--once adequately responded to--produce self-esteem. Self-esteem produces self-determination and enhances human rights. In contrast, racism produces degradation and alienation.

Some say if doesn’t matter who is in Washington (because) American racism lives on. Change never begins from the top down; it starts from the bottom up.

The recent gang summit in Kansas City, Mo., is one example. The rebellion in our city after the initial Rodney King trial is another.

The status quo of the economics, the church and the political machinery of the African-American community are part of the problem. The disenfranchised need to challenge these institutions.

Who writes off young people as if there is no hope? The judicial and penal systems of America, the pillars of the democracy. Yet, we see the most pervasive form of racism in sentencing and incarceration from these “pillars of democracy” dominated by white males.


Malcolm X lives today because his most outstanding contribution to the human-rights movement has been the ideology of “self-determination.”

Self-determination is a human right. Racism denies this human right.

Thus, the struggle continues.