Malcolm Xavier Combs was named for the famous black activist Malcolm X. When Malcolm wanted to put the shortened version of his own name on his senior sweater, school officials denied it because Malcolm X is a banned name.
“I don’t understand it,” Mychelle Combs, Malcolm’s mother, told the New York Daily News after another meeting with Christ the King High School President Michael Michel. “They are supposed to teach the students tolerance and to embrace other cultures.”
She said when she asked white school officials at her son’s high school “if they even knew who Malcolm X was or what he stood for,” they simply stared blankly at her and had no response.
The Rev. Kevin McCall, crisis director at the National Action Network, told the Daily News that school administrators actually had a ranking of different black leaders. Malcolm X and Rev. Al Sharpton are 2 of the forbidden names.
“I asked if my name was Alfred Sharpton and I wanted to use Al Sharpton on my shirt, can I do that?” McCall stated. “And [Michel] said, ‘No. We stand by that.’”
It is unclear why the school hates Malcolm X so much, especially considering there are several schools across the nation named after the civil rights activist, and the U.S. Postal Service even issued a stamp honoring him in 1999.
School spokesperson Bill Cunningham said Malcolm got approval to use either his last name, first name or simply “Malcolm Xavier” on the school sweater.
The family is not only upset and confused that the name rejection happened, but also how it happened.
A school official pulled him out of class to try to convince him that the civil rights activist was a bad guy.
“The assistant principal pulled him out of English class and told him, ‘You don’t wanna be associated with his name,’” McCall told WABC-TV. “He was like, associate with MY name? That’s my name. That’s on my birth certificate.”
McCall said a teacher also came in and pointed at Malcolm, laughing and saying, “This is the new Malcolm X.”
The school claims the assistant principal did not actually do those things.
“They simply don’t like Malcolm X; that’s basically their view,” Mychelle Combs said. “Unfortunately, I’m not surprised they feel like that.”
Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz contacted the school, offering to visit for a 30-minute assembly to help educate students and staff about Malcolm. As expected, School officials rejected the offer, saying that the school already teaches about Malcolm X.
The school did not say what they actually teach about Malcolm, but it is apparently deceptive enough to make school leaders misunderstand and dislike him.
So now the National Action Network, along with Ilyasah Shabazz and the Combs family, have decided to gather at the National Action Network on Malcolm X Boulevard to discuss the incident.
“We are not accepting no,” McCall said. “For them not to be culturally sensitive is a slap in our history’s face.”