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Ossie Davis On Malcolm X

[Mr. Davis wrote the following in response to a magazine editor's question: Why did you eulogizeMalcolm X?] You are not the only person curious to know why I would eulogize a man like MalcolmX. Many who know and respect me have written letters. Of these letters I am proudest of those from asixth-grade class of young white boys and girls who asked me to explain. I appreciate your giving methis chance to do so.

  You may anticipate my defense somewhat by considering the following fact: no Negro has yet askedme that question. (My pastor in Grace Baptist Church where I teach Sunday School preached a sermonabout Malcolm in which he called him a "giant in a sick world.") Every one of the many letters I gotfrom my own people lauded Malcolm as a man, and commended me for having spoken at his funeral.

  At the same time-and this is important-most of them took special pains to disagree with much or all ofwhat Malcolm said and what he stood for. That is, with one singing exception, they all, every last,black, glory-hugging one of them, knew that Malcolm-whatever else he was or was not-_Malcolm wasa man_!

  White folks do not need anybody to remind them that they are men. We do! This was his oneincontrovertible benefit to his people.

  Protocol and common sense require that Negroes stand back and let the white man speak up for us,defend us, and lead us from behind the scene in our fight. This is the essence of Negro politics. ButMalcolm said to hell with that! Get up off your knees and fight your own battles. That's the way to winback your self-respect. That's the way to make the white man respect you. And if he won't let you livelike a man, he certainly can't keep you from dying like one!

  Malcolm, as you can see, was refreshing excitement; he scared hell out of the rest of us, bred as we areto caution, to hypocrisy in the presence of white folks, to the smile that never fades. Malcolm knewthat every white man in America profits directly or indirectly from his position vis-a-vis Negroes,profits from racism even though he does not practice it or believe in it.

  He also knew that every Negro who did not challenge on the spot every instance of racism, overt orcovert, committed against him and his people, who chose instead to swallow his spit and go onsmiling, was an Uncle Tom and a traitor, without balls or guts, or any other commonly accepted aspects of manhood!

  Now, we knew all these things as well as Malcolm did, but we also knew what happened to peoplewho stick their necks out and say them. And if all the lies we tell ourselves by way of extenuationwere put into print, it would constitute one of the great chapters in the history of man's justifiablecowardice in the face of other men.

  But Malcolm kept snatching our lies away. He kept shouting the painful truth we whites and blacksdid not want to hear from all the housetops. And he wouldn't stop for love nor money.

  You can imagine what a howling, shocking nuisance this man was to both Negroes and whites. OnceMalcolm fastened on you, you could not escape. He was one of the most fascinating and charmingmen I have ever met, and never hesitated to take his attractiveness and beat you to death with it. Yethis irritation, though painful to us, was most salutary. He would make you angry as hel............

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