04/07/2011 – by Cynthia S. Wright
With the recent passing of acclaimed Professor Manning Marable, so close to the release of his new book about slain black civil rights leader, Malcolm X, which has been lauded as one of the top authoritative books about the leader, notable websites have come out addressing not only Marable’s book but the civil rights leader’s sexual orientation.
In Marable’s book, the author discusses how the slain leader wrestled with plenty of demons like any other human being during various stages of life. His book discusses Malcolm X’s relationships with Elijah Mohammad and the Nation of Islam, his struggles about being a black nationalist leader and his doubts about theology and politics. In other words, it shows Malcolm X as human battling his own demons and convictions, in some instances relying on sensationalism in order to keep readers engaged and interested.
In Marable’s biography, “Making Malcolm” The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X”, which has been praised as the most thorough and exhausting job that has ever been done pertaining to the life and evolution of Malcolm X, he tries his best to shed new light upon the activists image, at the same, disputing some well known facts about the leader. Not even Alex Haley, whose biography has been paraded around college campuses for decades like gospel, has been cited by scholars as exhibiting many flaws in the storytelling of Malcolm’s life.
Through the course of the book, Marable attempts at fleshing out a lot of the gaps in Malcolm X’s history, while also discrediting a lot of the work done by the authors Haley and Bill Perry. Even though in Haley’s case, Malcolm did intentionally gloss over some facts while exaggerating others, which suited Haley because he wanted to showcase the Malcolm that would uphold the black race, so blurring the facts assisted his cause. At the same time, the same can’t be said regarding the facts that Perry weaves in his biography.
In one of the recent articles from The Grio, the author discusses that the notion of Malcolm X’s bisexuality is often blown out of proportion and can be rarely misconstrued on something he battled with during the bulk of his adult life.
“It should be said outright that this area of Malcolm’s life is neither new nor novel. Speculation about his sexuality soared after the publication of a 1992 book, ‘Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America.’ The novel’s author, Bruce Perry, alleges Malcolm had sporadic same-sex encounters throughout his hustling years, claims that have yet to be independently verified. However, Marable’s scholarly research in A Life of Reinvention discounts the idea that Malcolm was a practicing bisexual. The rather amorphous claim, based exclusively on Malcolm’s employment by Lennon as his personal butler, barely takes up one full page of the 600-plus behemoth. The professor even goes out of his way to explain that there was “no evidence from his prison record in Massachusetts or from his personal life after 1952 that he was actively homosexual.”
So one must question whether Manning was trying to show the real historical relevance surrounding one of the most secretive civil rights leaders or is this a ploy to garner more press for his book? Compared to others, Marable might have more sources to back up his claims but even with his findings, some can be seen as a stretch.
There is no secret that Malcolm X’s life is shrouded in mystery, perhaps in an attempt to show the strides he made towards African-American civil rights. At the same time, why is his sexuality being continuously brought up for discussion?
Today, the popular (often, white, gay male leaning) blog, Queerty decided to throw their two cents into the ring concerning the recent resurgence of Malcolm X. Instead of discussing Marable’s new book – which is the most relevant, whether you agree with the content or not, they instead decided to quote Perry’s 1991 “biography” concerning what they deem the most pertinent part of Malcolm X’s “legacy”. In doing so, they denigrated one of the most pertinent civil rights activists to escort status, showing how much respect they give towards the assassinated leaders legacy. In a direct excerpt from the news site, they quote some of the “facts” from Perry’s, in order to prove their case:
“…Perry’s book documents Malcolm X’s many gay experiences. A schoolmate, Bob Bebee, recalls the day they stumbled on a local boy jerking off. Malcolm, Bebee recalled, ordered the youth to masturbate him, and subsequently boasted he had given him oral sex. Later, from the age of 20, Malcolm had sex with men for money – as hinted at in Spike Lee’s 1992 biopic – and he had at least one sustained sexual liaison with a man. While living in Flint, Michigan, his roommate noticed that instead of sleeping in the room they were sharing, Malcolm sneaked down the hall to spend the night with a gay transvestite named Willie Mae.
In New York, two of Malcolm’s friends from Michigan remember bumping into him at the YMCA, where Malcolm bragged he earned money servicing ‘queers’. Later, Malcolm worked as a butler to a wealthy Boston bachelor, William Paul Lennon. According to Malcolm’s sidekick Malcolm Jarvis, he was paid to sprinkle Lennon with talcum powder and bring him to orgasm. Perry suggests that Malcolm’s gay encounters may not have been entirely financially motivated. His masculine insecurities and ambivalence towards women fit the archetype of a repressed gay man and point to latent homosexuality.”
Also, the book seems to focus more on Malcolm’s supposed dalliances over the strides he made within the civil rights movement. After all, I guess how he helped shape the black movement is irrelevant if we aren’t privy to his alleged sex life.
Yet, what Queerty fails to mention regarding the biography and its supposed “accounts” that tend to read more like a Jackie Collins novel, instead of non-fiction is that Perry later came to admit that the book contained several blatant exaggerations and outright falsehoods. In some cases, he admitted that a lot of his “stories and facts” remained unsupportable. So, how can any portion of this book be taken as a reliable source concerning Malcolm X’s personal story and history?
Simply put, it can’t – unless you want to be taken as a gossip mag and with some of the folks Queerty has recruited within their ranks, the site already isn’t too far off.
Queerty’s post is showing – yet again – that perhaps some of the privileged white, gay, usually male liberals (in Queerty’s case, anyway) want take satisfaction in slandering black, historical figures, even if sexuality has nothing to do with the case overall. Sloppily, trying to show (again) that there is nothing but hypocrisy spewing from the black population, no matter the time period or accomplishment.
Letting it be know that, when a blog quotes a source from an author that has come out admitting their own exaggeration, while at the same time, equating the historical figure at hand to an escort who deserves a Hookie Award (with an Africa comment to boot!) has not only lost their credibility but a sense of class as well.