Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What Malcolm taught me

I'm a little late...but for those who are unaware, this past Monday, May 19th, was Malcolm X's birthday. He would've been 83. I am not about to write one of those "what if..." posts because, at this time, it is not inconceivable that he would not have lived to 83 naturally. I think the discussion should focus more on what can we still take away from his message and from his life. He remains one of the most misunderstood figures in American history. Because of our own intellectual laziness and cultural prejudices, it is very hard to really get close to a holistic view of any major historical figures. This remains doubly true for prominent African-Americans in history. The most illustrative example involves the figures of Dr. King and Malcolm X. They are often, and inaccurately, portrayed as the lover and the hater. The all forgiving teacher of non-violence vs. the white-hating militant. This duality serves neither man as both were much more complex.

Malcolm, in particular, has had a great influence on my life. I was required the "Autobiography of Malcolm X" the summer before my freshman year of high school and it changed my life. I have written before about my issues with self-hatred and it was the Autobiography that helped to recognize this self-hatred and place me on a path to combatting it and learning to love myself and my people. And what made the messages within the work so powerful was because you travel along with Malcolm through all of the stages of his life. My confusion and despair mirrored his own and I took strength from his life. In addition, I don't know if there is a better work that will help anyone come close to understanding the deep rooted despair, anger, nihilism, and hopelessness that many American blacks deal with in their everyday life. Malcolm X eloquently illustrates how poisonous America has been for some of its people, but there is also a fierce strength and hope to combat all of the negativity that tries to overtake us. It is not only the will to survive, but to demand that all be treated as humans.

After his treck to Mecca on the hajj, Macolm returned to the US preaching a gospel of unity, peace, and common humanity. But this message did not blunt his belief in defense and preservation of the self. While all men are our brothers, I will not allow a man to lay a hand on me. It was that uncompromising stance that alienated and still alienates those that hear of Malcolm. His earlier incendiary statements scared and infuriated white America. He fearlessly called white people devils, liars, and hypocrites. Never before had black anger, rightceous indignation, and moral force been so eloquently expressed than when Malcolm would speak on the evils of America's racist history. It was a message that many feared and hated because it called everyone to account. It called white people, not only those who actively beat and degraded blacks but also those who stood by and did nothing but profit off of being white in a racist country, charlatans and hypocrites, the inheritors of a country with a rotten and ugly history. In the same breath, Malcolm would chastise blacks for falling into moral degeneracy. But he would temper that message by explaining to them that he knew how easy it was to get by on the white man's scraps and to discount yourself and your value when from the first time you draw breath, the primary message you absorb is that because you're black you're nothing. He exhorted blacks to take responsibility for their lives, to help each other collectively, and move forward in spite of white people. It was loud, brash, angry, collective and terrifying for the majority. It was beautiful and inspiring to me.

And later, his message is modified, but his core truths remain the same. He was unforgiving of American history. He was still unimpressed with the actions of the federal government because too often in the past the federal government tried to act and made only half measures, and blacks were still left destitute and exploited. But his message now contained the essential truth of common humanity. But, in order to fully participate in this common humanity, blacks had to demand that they be seen and treated as human. That was something Malcolm changed. He demanded to be looked at as a man and treated as such. He would not bow his head for another man because he was black. He would embrace anyone who came to openly and with love and he would kill any man that would mean to do him or his family harm.

It is that strength, that conviction to defend one's own humanity, coupled with openness and a true love of humanity that I have tried to use to guide my life. I am not perfect. I am by no means a morally strict or ascetic person. I try to do right by the people I meet and I try not to break any laws. In that sense, I am wanting. But everyday of my life, I try to wake up and remember that I am not just an individual, but I am a man in a vast world and everyone around me should be treated with openness and warmth. But if anyone were to ever come to me with the intent of doing harm, then I cannot hesitate to protect my own humanity. I am a man. That was what Malcolm taught me.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Passing ideas

I've been remiss in updating...failed miserably really, so now this blog should be used more often now. But more so as a means of musing on some random ideas in head. No real attempt at quality or depth, just a schizophrenic sounding board that'll hold my random thoughts.

To Look Deeper Into:

Solar cell efficiency- It is becoming more and more obvious to anyone with a smattering of gray matter that we have to start looking more seriously at renewable sources of energy. Biodiesel, it turns out, is fairly wasteful, environmentally and financially, and has turned into yet another source of easy subsidies for the massive agricultural industry. Solar energy is one way. There's a massive amount of energy being unused, the question is how to effectively gather and store it. There have been some pretty amazing advances in material and chemical engineering the past couple of years that promise to increase solar cell efficiency by over 100%. How can we profit from this? Where can we lay solar cells? Once the technology makes efficiency less of an issue, there will (or should) be a greater demand for these cells.

Wind Turbine- Wind energy is growing and demand for turbines has well outstripped supply. The custom nature and backroom shop nature of some of these smaller turbine manufacturers means orders take a lot of time. There should be potential not only in design but in the manufacture of these newer designs Flowind Design.

With a long backlog of manufacturing orders and continued design improvements, there is room for massive growth in the industry. Design is important, but actually getting the product built and to market is where the money and results will be. NC has a strong machining history and good machinists. This a potential area for people to move into, not to mention an area the state should look investing into.

Note: Check and see if there are any wind turbine manufacturing or design firms in NC.

Monday, January 7, 2008

When did you discover you were black?

I ran into an interesting and heartbreaking article at aunt jemima's revenge, a blog I read sometimes. The post can be found here.

It reminded me of some of the more traumatic events in my life that reminded me I was black and that wasn't ok. The one that most stands out to me, though, is from the 8th grade. For background, I was the only black male in a relatively small class in a predominately white private school. Most of the black males that were in my class had moved on to other schools by the 8th grade, and I was getting ready to transfer to another school for high school, it was just the way it was, my school's high school program wasn't that good. But this did isolate me, in a way, and I developed some pretty low opinions of black people and, by extension, myself. I suffered from some classic symptoms of self-hatred and shame at my skin color. It's almost amusing looking back on it now at how much I couldn't stand myself, but it was a very real and emotionally trying time for me.

Anyways, it was the spring of my 8th grade year and my class was outside for gym class. We were all playing basketball and dodgeball on the blacktops behind the school. As class was winding down one of my classmates, James, came up to me and we started talking. In the midst of our conversation, talking about next year, summer plans and the like, James stopped and complimented me on how I wasn't like the "other" black kids at the school. Unbeknownst to him, I went out of my way to not associate with the other black kids and tried to make myself invisible to most everybody around me. But it was at that moment when everything kind of broke apart for me. I just silently nodded and walked away from James, went inside the locker room, and bawled like a baby. All of the shame and embarassment that I had held for the past couple of years came pouring out of me as I wept, snotty nosed and all, on a cold bench in a dark locker room.

I look back on it now, and if I could, I might even thank James for his prejudice and his racist remarks, because he showed me how foolish I was. But it does always make me wonder how many other kids who are classified as "other" battle with self-hatred and low self-esteem, and how many of them ever get out of it?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Finally Back...

It has been more than five months since I have even looked at this blog...Unsurprisingly, a lot has happened since then.

The details aren't important just yet but I will be using this space as an exercise in discipline. I am trying to rededicate myself to a few things for this upcoming year. It is fortuitous, I guess, that this desire corresponds with the new year, but these are not just new year's resolutions that are easily forgotten or ignored.

So, my simplest goal will be to faithfully post to this blog and work more on my writing. It is frustrating to see my writing get worse since leaving high school so I will be using this blog as a means of stretching out and practicing writing again. This means that there will be a lot of random stuff that will be thrown up here, but I hope that anyone who happens to stumble upon this space will be able to take something from it. That's it for now. Should have something up later today, I hope.