“Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.” – Malcolm X
SEL Connection: Freedom is something students care deeply about, especially when it’s taken away. Consider the student told he can’t sit at the lunchroom table because he isn’t ‘cool enough’, or the one told by another student to be quiet during a classroom discussion, or the one feeling caged by the bully who won’t stop the intimidation tactics. All of these experiences create within students feelings of powerless frustration which can lead to a range of emotional outbursts, silent consent or anything in between.
At every point when our students have freedom taken away, they have the opportunity to decide how to act in a way that best serves their interests. Sometimes the action might be calling on an adult to help or sometimes it’s relying on other peers. Or it’s just ignoring the offender with the hope that it will stop. Doing nothing is also an option. Knowing what to do and when is a herculean task.
(1) Claim: Malcolm X shares some heart stopping advice here. Freedom is something you must fight for. To think that it will be given automatically is naive. Life is an epic battle to take the things that you want and deserve.
(2) Counterclaim: This is one of those quotes where we have to be sensitive to the perspective from which it came. From the perspective of Malcolm X, it makes perfect sense and speaks to the experience of oppression all to familiar to African-Americans. To others, freedom is something you don’t have to fight for. It is simply given at birth and sustained throughout a lifetime–taken for granted. In that way there is a segment of the population who just wouldn’t be able to relate to the advice Malcolm X is giving.
And then there are the pacifists who think that no matter what you suffer at the hands of others, you should never respond with violence of any kind. The wisdom seems to run like this: accept your fate and realize what you can’t control.
(3) Essential Question: Is freedom worth fighting for?