Did you know that the guy who played Elijah Muhammad in Spike Lee’s Malcom X is the one who plays Malcom X in Roots: The Next Generation? His name is Al Freeman, Jr.!

As you can probably tell, I’m watching Malcom X right now. I’ve always enjoyed the first part of the movie because it’s about Malcom getting his life back together. It’s a conversion narrative, as Malcom is transformed from a beaten-down hustler who is ashamed of his race into a bold and confident leader, who has faith in God, pride in his people, and a mission to help other African-Americans gain self-respect, dignity, and independence. While he views white people as “devils,” many of us can understand why after we see the events leading up to his conversion.

The second part is good too, since that’s where he learns about the misdeeds of his hero, Elijah Muhammad, and comes to value people of all races. He was a fair-minded man who went where the truth led him, meaning that he did not allow himself to be blinded by unquestioned loyalty to a leader. And he moved from an agenda of helping only his own people, to one of assisting everyone in society. He continued to oppose white racism, but he ceased to view all whites as his enemy. It’s the second part of the movie that opens me up to the possibility that Spike Lee is not an angry black man, but someone with hope in his country.

Although I’m white, I loved this movie the first time I saw it. I wasn’t exactly a Malcom X fan in those days, for I usually pointed to him whenever I argued that blacks could be prejudiced, too. But I found the movie to be quite powerful! I think part of the attraction was my own feeling of alienation, which led me to enjoy Malcom’s confident challenge to a status quo that looked down on people of his race.

There’s something that puzzles me, though. If the Nation of Islam views white people as “devils,” then why do they come up to me and offer to sell me their newspaper? Many of them ignore me, but there have been some who have approached me, believe it or not. Have they become more moderate over the years? Do they see a need to influence whites rather than opposing them? Is their motivation financial, since their newspaper is a source of income?

ADDITION: Here’s something else that’s cool. The guy who plays the tough police officer on X (“That’s too much power for one man to have”) is Ray’s dad on Everybody Loves Raymond. Wikipedia says that he played Joe McCarthy in the 1970’s, in a movie called Tail Gunner Joe. I’d like to see that some day!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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