Malcom X at the nature center. Malcom X at a National Park. These don’t seem to go together, do they? Well, why not? There isn’t a way to answer without including some aspect of racism. The cultural forces of the past 50, 100, even 200 years have shaped “nature” in the US to be catered to a culturally white space. Where there is land ownership, decision making, and wealth, there is power. In the US today, that power rests predominately in the networks of white folks. To understand how this power works, let’s look to Malcom X’s autobiography. Although Malcom X is a common historical figure to look to in the topic of race, let’s look a little deeper for an insight to the land. After all, he did say that “to understand that of any person, his whole life, from birth, must be reviewed. All of our experiences fuse into our personality. Everything that ever happened to us is an ingredient” (p.153).
There are four situations, or “ingredients” in Malcom X’s autobiography that I’ll highlight which pertain to the natural world and his relationship with it. After that though, we’ll be better able to re-frame our sense of place -both in the US and beyond- towards a reflection of a diverse, democratic humanity.
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