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Black Americans must continue to explore their own heritage while breaking down the barriers of misunderstanding with other ethnic groups, the daughter of Malcolm X said in a speech last night in the Law School's Ames Courtroom.
Attalah Shabazz, the oldest of Malcolm X's six children, delivered her remarks before a crowd of 350 as part of Black History Month. She began her presentation by noting that February 21 was the 25th anniversary of her father's assassination.
Shabazz said that society had labeled her father a "revolutionary," a word which carried a highly negative connotation in the 1960s, to portray him in an unfavorable light.
In reality, Shabazz said, "The word revolution just means change, a way to attain our goals in society."
Shabazz then asked members of the audience to give their impressions of Malcolm X. In response to the favorable characterizations of her father from several members of the crowd, she said that "the adjectives used to describe my father were much more vicious."
"He was called a hate teacher and a separatist," Shabazz said.
When she was a young child, Shabazz said, her parents taught her about history and culture. "I was being made aware of my heritage, my lineage."
But when she started school, Shabazz said that her teachers failed to teach their students about the contributions of blacks to American society.
"We are in a society that claims to be a melting pot but we do not have tolerance for a second language, an accent, hues, tones... we need to expand and learn about our neighbors around us," Shabazz said.
Recounting several anecdotes illustrating what she called the "ignorance" of Americans, especially those traveling abroad, Shabazz pointed out that most people in this country make no effort to learn a foreign language and that Americans treat foreigners with condescension.
Lack of tolerance for different customs and an unwillingness to communicate with other people is the primary cause of cross-cultural misunderstandings, Shabazz asserted.
Along with Yolanda King, Martin Luther King Jr's oldest daughter, Shabazz now spends much of her time working with a theater group whose aim is to teach minority children about their heritage.
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