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The Eagle’s News Nest

by Tania Linscomb, BTW Student

Realizing that Black History Month never ends, I think about 2 of the most prominent figures in the Civil Rights Movement:  Martin Luther King (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) and Malcom X, born Malcom Little and also known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965.)  While the history and contributions of both Civil Rights leaders are well known, their rise to political power took very different paths.  King grew up in a middle class family where education was stressed.  Their family name was well established in Atlanta in spite of being in a time where segregation was prominent.  Malcolm X came from a home where he got little schooling and rose to greatness due to his own determination and intelligence.  Despite their varying backgrounds, they had the best intentions at heart for their people. How have we fared?  Have we fulfilled the dream by any means necessary?  If they had lived, we wonder how the plight of the African American community would be different.  Let’s ponder, if they were with us, would we still…

  • Experience 31% of Black students do not finish high school within four years as opposed to only 14% of white students
  • Have more than twice the incidence of school suspensions as whites
  • Have our twelfth grade students reading at the same level of white eight grade students
  • Have six times the incarceration rate as whites
  • Have 1 in 100 African American women in prison
  • Have Black unemployment at 8.8% while the national average is 4.9%
  • Have 12% of African Americans using illegal drugs compared to a 10.2% national average
  • Have less than 60% of African Americans exercise their right to vote on a regular basis

Both Malcolm and Martin fought that we may experience the freedoms we lacked during the time of their fight; however, how many of the ills that cripple our community are self-inflicted?  It is without a doubt that we as African Americans benefit from the blood, sweat, tears, and death of many before us who fought for freedom and equal rights.  I’m sure the thought of having an African American President of the United States was a distant dream for those who endured the plights of segregation in the 60’s or previous decades.  However, although we have come a long way as a race, we still fail to take full advantage of the opportunities available to us today.  It is difficult for my friends to imagine that back in history it was illegal for someone to teach Blacks how to read.  Surprisingly, they don’t seem to care.

Today’s youth will never know nor understand the intimidation and brutality that African Americans had to endure for us to have voting rights, free public education, and liberties that are of utmost importance in order for us to be productive in society.  It is disappointing, to say the least, that the same liberties and freedoms we fought so much for in the past, are often taken advantage of today.  I often ask myself as I walk the hallways of my school …What if…

What if either, or both, of them lived just a little longer?  Would the values, morals, and overall behavior of African Americans be different?  Did their assassinations stop a movement that could have still been going on today?   And also I ask myself…Would they be pleased?  Pleased with all of the facts listed above that no one wants to acknowledge?  There are countless of African Americans who gave their lives for the some of the equalities that we have today.  It may be true that we may not have all of the equalities that we are entitled to as United States citizens, but isn’t it true that the ones we do have, we do not utilize to their fullest potential.  Have Martin and Malcolm laid their life down for African Americans in vain?  I would like to think not, but I would also love to see the facts mentioned come to a dramatic change.