A little bit of reflection on Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable

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“But sir, how can a man of your intelligence, a professor of history, who knows the value of thorough research, come here from Harvard and attack the Black Muslims, basing your conclusions on one small article?”

That quote right there, was one of the reasons why I wanted to read this book. Presenting logic and facts in an eloquent manner in his speeches, this guy was a great orator and a most determined individual, fighting for the rights of the black population in the US. I simply wanted to know more about Malcolm X. Another biography is another/a further insight on his thoughts and journey as a Black Muslim leader & human rights activist.

However, the first quarter of the book was a bit difficult for me to read. Marable made it clear that he wanted to challenge the popular and widely accepted notions on Malcolm X, both positive and negative. He wanted to go beyond what other people have done including Alex Haley, whom he thought had his own agenda. The result was a much more comprehensive and explicit work than The Autobiography of Malcolm X As Told to Alex Haley. Marable’s dedication to write this book is no joke. It took him years and despite his illness, he still went on. So I admire that and respect his decision to present certain points and arguments in order to show to people that Malcolm X was indeed amazing, but not without faults. He chronicled Malcolm X’s life from a young age to the day of his assassination and even after that with great detail. He gathered points and evidences to portray the different sides of Malcolm X and the other truths of what have occurred. He was also not afraid to criticise Malcolm, his ways of dealing within his former movement, Nation of Islam (NOI) and his position in trying to solve problems facing the African-Americans in the 1960s.

As someone who looks up to scholars and researchers, there is no doubt that I was impressed, thinking about the great lengths and depths Marable has gone through to do this. Personally though, it was a bit too much sometimes. I don’t think I need to know everything about a person, because you’ll tend to find things that would make you feel uncomfortable and difficult to accept. There were things like that in the book but it wasn’t just this that made me feel uncomfortable. It was how Marable interpreted or suggested based on those details. I started to wonder if I was just too stubborn to admit the possibilities that were drawn by Marable. And then I wondered, ‘What is Marable actually trying to do by saying this stuff? Accusing others like Alex Haley’ Then I also thought, perhaps objectivity and subjectivity could exist together…whatever that means.

After going through the pages through gritted teeth during the first quarter, things got better. I was glad that I reached to the last chapter where I realized that this book was a biography after all, not ‘The Complete Life of Malcom X’. It was Marable’s take (with the help of others) on what he believed to be important factors and events surrounding Malcolm X’s life. It was his perspective, his understanding of what would be the best portrait of the man who was a hero to many, but who also had his merits and flaws. For his efforts of avoiding hearsays and attempting to make a broader and more critical picture, I truly appreciate his work, all in all.

Weird or Just Different? – Reflecting on Stillman’s Autism and the God Connection

“Always presume intellect” – William Stillman

Despite my mixed feelings towards Stillman’s book, Autism and the God Connection, I’m inclined to say his main message is bountiful to share. Being a person with an Asperger’s himself, I feel even more touched and impressed by his brave decision for coming forward and clear some smokes and misunderstandings on autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Regarding spirituality and religion which are also discussed – those are separate issues and beliefs to be discussed, I suppose. There are times where I feel a bit detached reading the book but this is probably (I found out later and there was a similar experience when I read James Baldwin’s Go Tell it to the Mountain) because I’m not familiar with the bible language or bible passages.

Yet, it doesn’t stop me from admiring some of his wisdom. The above quote, in which Stillman claims to be his daily mantra, has definitely left a meaningful impact on me. The idea is basically similar to the Golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. It’s simple, treat others as you would want others to treat you. I’d probably say with respect because I’d want to be treated that way and as I believe, no matter how flawed I am as a person, I’d like to think I’m worth something as a human (dignity etcetc).

In this case, where autism and Asperger’s are discussed, Stillman believes that presuming intellect is the best way to do when it comes to people with ASD. He explained that some who have low-functioning autism, are not able to express verbally (they use other communication aids e.g. communication board). However, just because they’re not able to speak i.e. the common and ‘civilized’ way of communicating with people, this doesn’t mean – to put this in a plain way – they’re dumb.

Sure, they’re different from us ‘neurotypical’ people (In Stillman’s words: To those unfamiliar with autism, it is, from a clinical perspective, a neurological difference in how the brain is “wired.”) but apparently some people can’t stand the word ‘different’. Sigh, people. As if superiority and superiority in which is so highly regarded in a society, means everything to bully and abuse someone in order to claim for it. As if human’s worth and dignity can be totally measured by perceptions and a bunch of stereotypes.

Anyway, (before I could rant further) it seems clear for me that Stillman believes, whoever you are, one has a heart and has the right to be treated properly and justly. Presuming intellect is said to be the best way in dealing with ASD, I think, is because we shouldn’t judge that their ability that also significantly defines them, based on what is usually thought to be the normal methods of claiming someone as intelligent or able. There are other means where they can express themselves and establish themselves as a “person” and I think we tend to forget that and get sucked in the normal way of understanding and judging people.

What I’ve understood about ASD is probably limited. But I know that in the end, we’re all just human beings, no matter what ‘disorders’ and problems we have. The book is a good one to reflect important social issues and how important it is to understand that disability is often flaunted around when we come across something or someone different. I think beyond this, the above quote also lends me some advice on the outlook of life as well. It’s very much more liberating and healthier to think the best of people.


*Posted this before in FB but just thought of sharing here (plus I’m currently having similar feelings that I’ve stated/described here)

Cheers!