The LA Times let me go long for this review of a new book on the relationship between Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali called Blood Brothers. I have to say, Im pretty pleased with the first sentence: Time elides the complexity of icons. Almost 51 years after his death, Malcolm X has become a T-shirt superhero of African American militancy: Malcolm carrying a rifle, Malcolm By any means necessary, one hand raised above his bespectacled face.
When I first read The Autobiography of Malcolm X as a teenager, he immediately became a hero, despite the bizarre theories of race that he espouses in the book. As I learned about his political development away from the Nation of Islam and his embrace of the oppressed people of the world, he became an even bigger hero. He was a man who always challenged himself morally and intellectually, no matter the cost. Ultimately, he paid with his life. His death was one of the real tragedies of the 1960s: African-American communities would not have suffered as badly in the following decades if hed been there to provide leadership.