T-shirt test proves students could learn from Malcolm X

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T-shirt test proves students could learn from Malcolm X

Depending on who wore the Malcom X shirt, people had mixed reactions.

Depending on who wore the Malcom X shirt, people had mixed reactions.

Jordan Janis

Depending on who wore the Malcom X shirt, people had mixed reactions.

Jordan Janis

Jordan Janis

Depending on who wore the Malcom X shirt, people had mixed reactions.

By Greer Smith, Staff Writer

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For my birthday, my friend gave me a Malcolm X t-shirt covered with images of and quotes from Malcolm X. My dad did not want me to wear it to school for fear that there would be negative reactions to it. I did not share his fear.

I believed CHS students and teachers understand the historical significance of Malcolm X. I had faith that my display of support for him would be well received, but there was only way to find out their true reactions. I had to wear the shirt to school and prepare for whatever reaction I might get.

It turned out that my dad was wrong. I received only positive feedback on the shirt, and more feedback on it than on any other clothing item I had worn before. My Chemistry teacher Wesley Russ even stopped class to comment on how much he liked the shirt.

According to Russ, he liked the shirt because his father had taught him from a young age to support the cause of civil rights and that it was an important part of history. When he saw the shirt, he felt happy to see a student who “appreciates history.”

In addition to Russ, numerous students took the time to compliment the shirt. Interestingly, none of the students who complimented the shirt were black, but instead were either Asian or white students.

The overall reaction to me wearing the shirt was positive, but I wondered if it would be so positive if a student who was not black wore it. So I gave it to a white student, sophomore cheerleader and fellow Observer writer Jordan Janis.

According to Janis, she was scared to wear the shirt, fearing that others would not respond well to it. She did not get any compliments, but numerous people did question her for wearing it. One person asked if she knew the shirt was supporting “black power.”

If I wear the shirt, being recognized as a black student, it shows knowledge of history, but if Jordan wears it, it is socially odd or unacceptable. This shows a lack of knowledge of Malcolm X as a historical figure.

Malcolm X rose to fame due to his involvement with the Black Muslims, but he was more than that. He was an intelligent figure constantly fighting for civil rights and stressing the significance of education. Originally supporting blacks alone, he eventually learned that race did not make someone evil, and he began fighting for equality.

Malcolm X is not just a black figure. He is an American figure because he learned and grew into a better leader as he expanded his role in the public spectrum.  He grew to understand that from all races there can be good and bad people, and inner character and intelligence are what define a human being. People of all races would benefit from learning about Malcolm X. Then maybe they would understand the desire to a wear a shirt depicting and honoring him and grow comfortable enough to do it themselves.

In one sense, my dad was wrong. People did not judge me for wearing the shirt but rather complimented my boldness in expressing my love of a historical figure. On the other hand, he was right. People have yet to understand who Malcolm X was and how he grew in life to be a hero and influence for all.

Malcolm X is a respected historical figure. In some MCPS schools, like Poolesville, his autobiography is assigned reading to many students. We should be at a point in America where any student of any race may wear Malcolm’s face on a shirt proudly as a symbol of education and growth in America.