Middle Village’s Christ the King High School drew media attention last week after it told a 17-year-old student that he could not have the name of a civil rights leader printed on the back of his senior sweater.
Malcolm Xavier Combs asked for his first name and middle initial—Malcolm X—to be emblazoned on the back of the sweater. But he was called to the principal’s office, where he was told that his request was denied and the school did “not want to be associated with that name.”
School leaders told Combs that the sweater could bear his name, his first and middle name or last name, but not his first name and middle initial. The school has defended its decision on the grounds that nicknames are not allowed on school shirts.
While it is understandable that schools have rules that students must obey, Malcolm’s mother—Mychelle Combs—appeared to be on to something when she pointed out that the request might not have been denied had the shirt included Malcolm’s name and a different middle initial.
While civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.’s mantra was to “turn the other cheek,” Malcolm X called for the equality of African Americans “by any means necessary.” Malcolm X was also associated with the Nation of Islam and frequently took white America to task in an approach that vastly differed from King’s nonviolent and passive-resistance protests.
Both men are lauded as icons of the civil rights movement, but Malcolm X is clearly the more controversial. But ultimately, Malcolm X was an advocate for human rights and wanted to improve the lives of African Americans in the United States.
While we don’t disagree with Christ the King’s prerogative to enforce rules regarding a dress code among its students, we hope that Combs’ request will be granted. February is Black History Month. We believe that it is a good thing that a student wants to celebrate a revered civil rights leader.