Wes Moore and Malcolm X: Taking A Radical Approach to Change

On Wednesday, October 16, 2013, I attended an event at my university (University of Missouri-Kansas City) and found myself being inspired to radicalize my thoughts on social-justice. The keynote-speaker for the night was Wes Moore. Wes Moore is the author of “The Other Wes Moore” which details the story of two boys with the same name living in the same city with two different outcomes in life.

Wes Moore, the author of the novel, is a social-activist, businessman and veteran. In listening to his presentation I found myself writing down a few quotes that really stood out to me. One of the first questions he asked the audience was “what are you doing to make humanity better?”. I sat in a daze for a moment. I didn’t quite know how to even approach such a question. It was quite simple, but startling because it was quite shameful to answer in the affirmative that I wasn’t do anything for social-change. The only thing that I do is write and post a few statuses about social-justice, but nothing drastic. So, he further said that “we cant have a future if only a slither of society is apart of having success,” so I sat thinking again. In many cases, we see many portions of our societies being excluded from the picture. We sometimes find success being achieved due to privilege, but “potential is university not opportunity”. Yes, there are individuals that can pull themselves up by the boot-strap and reach success, but this is not the case for everyone. There’s only a small percentage that usually enjoys this success, so what about the others? Where are we at in combating this epidemic that is rummaging its way through so many neighborhoods, cities, and homes? Many individuals are struck with poverty, homelessness, and hunger, thus creating obstacles to this success that I speak about.

I grew up in a working-class family, so I will not say that every working-class family is the same. However, I can say that I went through many things that I wouldn’t say was easily to get through. So, I understand the difficulty in achieving success when there is so much you’re struggling with on a daily-basis. In saying all of this, I find myself being attracted to social-justice due to my own personal experiences in life.

Moore pushed towards radicalizing the way we look at higher-education, but education in general. He was persistent in stating how important education is and its value. He stated that “the point of higher-education is exploration and to know about other people,” which I find interesting. In many of the dialogues that we have about higher-education, it is always centered around getting a degree to get a good-paying job after graduation. However, Moore took it to the next level and concluded that we should find ourselves seeking to know about the world around us. I found this really heart-wrenching because I know I will probably not know many of the other graduates on graduation-day. And it is very true that “there are kids that are one decision away from going this or that direction” because we are all undergoing something in our personal lives. So, the purpose of going to school shouldn’t be solely about getting a piece of paper. Additionally, Moore beautifully noted how he’s
met many educated people that aren’t aware of the world around them. And this harsh-reality is true. I’ve found myself meeting people from educated-backgrounds, but they were ignorant about the ‘other’ and the world around them. This is extremely pathetic, in the least. The purpose of higher-education isn’t just to receive a degree, but to expand your thinking critically.

In talking about the book “The Other Wes Moore,” he went over the story of the other Wes Moore and his choice(s) in life. The other Wes Moore was young was young when he made a life-changing choice that would forever change his life. So, Wes Moore wanted to know what made the other Wes Moore resort to the decision that he had made in life. In looking at the factors surrounding the other Wes Moore, he allowed the audience-members to understand how important it is to think critically. Moore stated that “the world is much more bigger than what is in front of us”. How true is this? We are sometimes very focused on our own lives that we end up ignoring the injustices within the world. So, we have to look beyond what is in front of us. We have to have vision that goes beyond what is under our noses. Unfortunately, we have forgotten that “being educated means teaching freedom, opening up the world to not just ourselves, but others”. In a world that is screaming out for help, we can be that helping hand. We can put ourselves to work in something that we are passion about and break a sweat…or two. We can set on fire the world, but we have to be radical. We have to quit thinking the same way. We have to quit believing that a problem will change without getting to the root of the issue.

Moore stated that “whenever someone gets shot, dies, we pull out the candles, hold hands, offer prayers, wait until the perpetrator is arrested and then put away our candles. The next time that it happens, we go to he drawer, pull-out the candles and do it all over again. Why is this our set default reaction,” and he’s right. We hold vigils for victims without thinking twice and find ourselves confronting these same issues day-in and day-out. Why aren’t we thinking critically? We have to radicalize the way we think about social-justice.

In thinking about radical-thought, I found myself running across a quote I read in Malcolm X’s “By No Means Necessary”. In an interview, Malcolm X was asked if he believed that a revolution was underway in America. So, Malcolm X answered in the negative that “revolution is like a forest fire. It burns everything in its path. The people who are involved in a revolution don’t become a part of the system- they destroy the system, they change the system. The genuine word for revolution is Umwaelzung which means a complete overturning and a complete change, and the Negro revolution is no revolution because it condemns the system and then asks the system that is has condemned to accept them into their system. That’s not a revolution- a revolution changes the system, it destroys the system and replaces it with a better one. It’s like a forest fire, like I said- it burns everything in its path.” In reading this definition of revolution, it was radical in thought and a precise definition of what it means to start a revolution. In viewing Malcolm X’s definition on revolution, I firmly believe that social-justice must be one that is radically-approached. It means to totally turn a system on top of its head. Moore stated that we must be radical in how we deal with social-justice. In trying to change educational-systems and injustices we must think differently, formulate different plans and tactics instead of using the same game-play that has landed us with the same repeated results.

So, today we must take a radical approach to change. We must stand firm upon social-justice and set the world on fire. Be radical and make a change that will spark revolutions!

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