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Bebeto Matthews / AP file
Ilyasah Shabazz stands by a mural featuring her father, Malcolm X, last week inside New York City's Audubon Ballroom, the scene of his assassination on Feb. 21, 1965.
In an interview, Ilyasah Shabazz remembered her father, Malcolm X, and speculated on his reaction to hip-hop music and the hip-hop lifestyle, and Americans' views of Islam in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. — Michael E. Ross
Q:  It's perhaps a little unfair to ask what you remember of your father, but what do you remember of him as a family man? So much is made of him as a fire-breathing public figure. What personal dimensions of the man can you share?

Shabazz: Of course I was in love with my father as a child. He was daddy and our house came alive in a special way whenever he walked through the door. He’d romp and play with us; my sisters and I would literally squeal with excitement when daddy came home.

Also, my father and Ihad a special ritual, as my mother often told many times: 

In the evenings I’d wait for him at the front door. He'd come in, pick me up, throw me over his shoulder, get a plate of oatmeal cookies that my mother made from scratch, and we’d go into the den to watch the news and share the delicious cookies.

Q:  What would he have made of the hip-hop lifestyle?

Shabazz:  Well, I think my father would avoid the pitfall of monolithic generalities and simplistic assessments of complex movements or genres. Remember, my father was a complex man and some people wanted to reduce him to, as you suggested earlier, a “fire-breathing public figure” who, as such, had no real credibility. 

I don’t know that there is a, quote, "hip-hop lifestyle." I think the music responds to complex social issues and injustices; I think it also raises complex social questions. To the extent that young people are conscious and aware of human rights issues and the problems of miseducation, I think my father would be pleased. 

To the extent that history and thinking and self-pride are conveyed, he would applaud the artistic efforts. I'm certain he would encourage everyone to live lives of service to God and commitment to family and community, and to learn historical facts.

Q:  The 40th anniversary observance of his passing comes in an America newly, and in some ways angrily, sensitive to Islam, related to the events of 9/11 and a variety of conflicts around the world. How do you think your father would have responded to the American reaction to Islam today?

Shabazz: Again, I think we must be careful of monolithic generalities. I don’t know that there is a quote, "American reaction" to Islam today. There is no “one American” or “one American reaction” to anything. To the extent that there is any reaction that would condemn Islam and Muslims on the basis of the tragedy of 9/11 and the travesties of wars and conflicts in the world ... well, I think my father would respond to such fallacious thinking and faulty premises the way he always did — expose them for what they are and challenge all of us to think more clearly and let our actions always be based in truth.

I think he would point out the absurdity of condemning an entire religion and applauding the trampling of the human rights of its followers ... in response to the zeal of a limited number of practitioners.

It just doesn’t make sense — no more sense than to condemn all Christians and arbitrarily round up Baptists and detain them indefinitely because a few fundamentalists bomb abortion clinics and kill doctors who provide these kinds of services to women, or to lock up all priests and condemn Catholicism because a number of clerics broke the laws of the faith and of man. 

And how would he respond to the way in which the tenets of his faith are being violently corrupted by extremists?

I’m certain my father would welcome any debate about the tenets and practice of Islam.  Throughout his life, he would have continued to study the faith of his choice — seeking to expand his understanding of Islam in its various dimensions. He would be a strong voice of advocacy for Muslim self-determination and freedom from oppression. By the same token, he would distinguish between legitimate liberation struggles and acts of terrorism, because Islam itself makes that distinction.

An interview with Malcolm X’s daughter
Ilyasah Shabazz recalls other dimensions of her late father

FARRAKHAN: "I warn my brother don't you let these wicked demons move you in a direction that will absolutely ruin your future with your people in Africa and throughout the world...Why don't you organize a group of respected Americans and ask for a meeting with Qaddafi, you can't order him to step down and get out, who the hell do you think you are?

Why 'ghetto fab' style will keep you out of work
By Dr. Boyce Watkins

I watched a video the other day about a woman named Jazz Ison Sinkfield and couldn't help but laugh. For some reason, Jazz thought it would be a good idea to start growing her fingernails for almost a quarter of a century without ever cutting them. Now, the woman is stuck with a set of peculiar monstrosities hanging from both of her hands that keep her from typing on a computer, tying her own shoes and perhaps even wiping her own behind. I'm not necessarily one to judge another human being so harshly, but I found it most interesting that Jazz truly believes that other women are jealous of her fingernails.

Jazz is not the only person in our community who has gathered a set of habits that some might consider to be a "ghetto fab." I am not sure where all of these habits come from, and when I see them, I try to process things without becoming a hater. But when I put it all together, I can't help but quote someone whom I disagree with regularly by the name of Bill Cosby, who once made this simple comment: "Come on people."

When one rolls through "the hood," they will usually see a few interesting things. First, we see the pants sagging down below the butt, with a brother who has to use one hand to constantly keep his pants from falling to the ground. You might then see someone else with tattoos up and down both arms, and maybe some additional tattoos on the neck. Actually face tattoos have become all the rage among rappers who don't seem to remember that these things are difficult to remove.

Finally, on my trip through the hood, I might see the woman who somehow thinks that purple and pink hair is attractive, along with the perpetually entertaining gold or platinum grill across the front of one's teeth. This tends to match the Air Jordans, Coach purses and other expensive items that most of us can't afford. Perhaps this has become the high cost of "staying fly."

It's hard to disconnect the influence of hip-hop on some of these odd choices, since everyone seems to want to imitate their favorite rapper or R&B singer. The song "Still Fly" by the group Big Tymers tells it all with the following lyrics: "Gator Boots, with the pimped out Gucci suit; Ain't got no job, but I stay sharp; Can't pay my rent, cause all my money's spent, but thats OK, cause I'm still fly; got a quarter tank gas in my new E-class, But that's alright cause I'm gon' ride; got everything in my momma's name, but I'm hood rich da dada dada da"

Some of these oddities are simply a symptom of changing times. Most old folks think that young people are headed to hell in a hand basket, so this is nothing new. The problem is that many of the people engaging in this strange behavior are women like Ms. Sinkfield, who is actually a grandmother. Additionally, most of us simply cannot afford many of the material items we chase, making us look that much more counter-productive and ridiculous in the process.

When I analyze high black unemployment rates, foreclosure problems, educational issues and the like, I wonder how many of us are voluntarily marginalizing ourselves with neck tattoos, gold grills, sagging pants or a commitment to speaking with Ebonics. While we certainly cannot let good old-fashioned racism off the hook, there is something to be said about doing things that will undermine your ability to compete in the American marketplace. This is not as much a matter of being a conformist as it is about giving your potential client, customer or employer something that they can understand.

Overall, there is a long list of cultural habits that African-Americans may want to reconsider. Eating greasy foods that kill us, cheering for basketball players more than honor roll students, and tattooing ourselves beyond recognition are just a few things we might want to discourage. It's OK to be a little bit different, but there's no excuse for being flat out "trifling."