Yesterday would have been Malcolm X's 80th birthday. The 40 years since the assassination have seen his legacy scrutinized, revised and debated. The latest? The Guardian rehashes poorly-researched old allegations that the slain black nationalist leader may have been bisexual.
Peter Tatchell essays that Malcolm experimented with boys early in life, later became a hustler and may have had numerous same-sex affairs—"as hinted in Spike Lee's 1992 biopic". (Funny, it was on Showtime this morning. I didn't see any of this. But moving on...) The article is short on facts and long on pop psych 101 analyses, such as the pathology of "typical" latent homosexuals to explaining Malcolm's "fear" of women to the usual suspect: a "domineering mother." For the record, Malcolm's mother had several nervous breakdowns after the death of her husband--unemployment, finances, etc--and was later committed. She hardly qualifies as a Lady Macbeth or a Joan 'No Wire Hangars' Crawford. The bottom line: little evidence, lots of theory. It's a quantum leap for Tatchell to suggest that the Nation of Islam knew of Malcolm's supposed lifestyle and needed to cut their exposure.
Many of Tatchell's allegations come from the 1991 revisionist biography, Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America by Bruce Perry. You don't remember the book? Don't feel bad. Kitty Kelley comes across as Susan Sontag compared to Bruce Perry's scholarship. The author was roundly criticized for relying on biased interview subjects and few if any face-to-interviews with any family or intimates. Malcolm's widow Betty Shabazz was not interviewed.
More importantly: When Malcolm was assassinated, he was already out of the NOI and had established his own group, the Organization of African Unity. Why would the NOI try to sustain Malcolm's image? They've been feuding with the Shabazz family for 40 years. If anything, they might welcome the allegations.
You'll recall, one of Martin Luther King's confidantes--Bayard Rustin--was gay and forced out of the SCLC. The Malcolm rumors could be true--he could have been gay or bi, who knows, only the data is suspect. Go ahead and read the Guardian essay, but it will remain what it is ... an essay. | via cd Oldenburg and DIreland
Update 2.0. New York Times covers new Malcolm X exhibit at the Schomburg Center