Fired for teaching Malcolm X

A high school teacher in Los Angeles got fired for encouraging her students to be, well, socially engaged. Karen Salazar was accused of teaching a curriculum that was too “Afro-centric”. You see, teaching texts like the Autobiography of Malcolm X is dangerous. Students organizing and mobilizing on the high school campus was apparently too much for stuffed up administrators (and most definitely, their higher ups) to see and deal with, so they do what they usually do in such circumstances: Scapegoat a teacher, because, of course, students themselves are too stupid to do anything on their own, and press down on her. In this case, they’ve decided to fire Ms. Salazar.

No, wait, it wasn’t that the curriculum was too “Afro-centric” after all — the materials, apparently, were appropriate. It’s just that her teaching style crossed the line into advocacy. You see, when someone encourages you to change the conditions in society that produce inequality and injustice, that’s inappropriate. Ms. Salazar quotes Paulo Freire, she says one should practice “education as the practice of freedom.” In a democratic country, where education is supposed to be a pillar of freedom, that would be all right. But in countries which pass themselves as democracies but practice so many dispersed forms of tyranny, education needs to be the brainwashing of students to toe the line.

And by firing Karen Salazar, that’s precisely what these administrators are trying to enforce. It’s not that she teaches Malcolm X and Tupac, or that she quotes Freire. It’s that students are organizing and mobilizing, learning to work together in cooperative and collective frameworks to challenge authority and change things for the better. And that’s too much.

Learn more about the struggle of the students to have Ms. Salazar reinstated — including videos of their mass actions — here: this!

13 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    alisha said,

    June 23, 2008 @ 9:29 am

    i think this video is good for young kids like me and it help me alot

  2. 2

    Andrea Hamer said,

    August 2, 2008 @ 7:08 pm

    I also work in the (public) school system;(state of Wisconsin). Our children are living in the wilderness of a system created for them to fail. We need more educators to exercise their freedom of expression. I applaud you for thinking & living “outside the box”!!!! . Please believe that your sacrifice of your “title” will reap many benefits for the students you exposed to real historic martyrs such as Malcolm and Shakur. Perhaps it will inspire young men to pull up their pants that are sagging from low/no self esteem and our young sisters will become women of virtue before becoming inexperienced mothers in their precious teen years . More power ,every hour, to your endeavors. PEACE

    Milwaukee, WI.

  3. 3

    Michael O. Ogedengbe said,

    August 19, 2008 @ 5:32 am

    I leave in Africa, Nigeria precisely. I go about my daily life based on the legacy of Malcolm X. You have no doubt channeled a good cause for the kids which will imprint an indellible mark on their hearts and minds and according to MalcolmX himself ” A man who doesn’t stand for something will fall for everything”. Do not let what you believe in be frustrated out of you. God bless brother Malcolm in death!

  4. 4

    massimo said,

    September 3, 2008 @ 4:14 am

    I’am Italian and I live in Italy. I read the malcom x autobiography adn i think evreybody should Know malcom’s thougth

  5. 5

    haha said,

    December 17, 2008 @ 8:14 am

    Malcolm X is a racist!

  6. 6

    demandedbymany said,

    January 22, 2009 @ 3:54 pm


  7. 7

    Ms. Byrd said,

    February 2, 2009 @ 11:52 pm

    I admired Malcolm X because he was such an intelligent person. He was at the top of his class when he was in school but he was discouraged about achieving his dreams so he dropped out. I was so impressed with the fact that he memorized the dictionary in prison and studied a page each day. He never finished high school but he was so intelligent. He was self taught. He started out in life (because of the way his father was killed by klu klux klan) as a racist but after going to mecca and being exposed to white, indian and other races he realized that there were nice people of all races. He was agreeing with Martin Luther King’s belief near the end. He had a lot of power as a leader.

    Malcolm X reminds me of Les Brown (motivational speaker) who was also self taught. Les Brown was in special education classes in school until one of his teachers told him he was intelligent and that changed his life. Les practiced public speaking and mastered it by starting off speaking in airports to people who would give him donations to pay for his plane ticket. He is one of the most dynamic public speakers I have ever heard. I listened to Les over 10 years ago and I can still remember his speech and how he got a standing ovation from the audience from a church in suburban detroit that consisted of mainly professional people who had college degees and professional jobs.
    Les, like Malcolm X was self educated and never went to college. Les Brown did public speaking at all the ivy league colleges and when he spoke at Harvard university the students asked him what ivy league college he attended and was he valedictorian of his class. He said you will not believe I have never attended college a day in my life. He said the entire class was totally speechless.

  8. 8

    johnashkenaz said,

    February 9, 2009 @ 1:42 am


  9. 9

    Baloyi Matlharhi Martin said,

    June 1, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

    I am an proudly African born in South Africa.I love malcolm X as my father,role model & motivational speaker.He spoke & stood for the oppressed & the exploited,he gave black people pride,dignity & respect and mostly taught them that being black is not a badge of shame, but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness.He motives was not a racist but a struggle towards equality,justice & freedom so hes legacy should be taught even at international platform so that black people can know about him,he’s ideologies
    & philosophy.He needed black people to be treated as humans as quoted “”We declare our right on this earth…to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.”

    The world current & future generation sholud not be denied pure knowlegde about their black heroes & martyrs.he love to be black also represent the legacy of Nelson Mandela,Steve Biko,Patrice Lumumba,Julius Nyerere,Dr Martin Luther King,jr,Kwameh krumah,Dr WEB Dubois,Che Guevara,etc.

    People who think Father Malcolm was Racist are nothing but the enemies of World Black Revolution, Culture,Knowledge & heritage. Father Malcolm was a proudly African who was denied time & chance to be a Black Lawyer.


    Lastly,President Obama must not turn a BLIND EYE AGAINST BLACK REVOLUTION.History & our Culture as Black people sholud be taught & known…right from slavery to the first BLACK US PRESIDENT.

  10. 10

    omary kawaya said,

    October 19, 2009 @ 8:27 am

    thank you for having this site now we will know much more about brother malcol-x. i need to know where to get malcolm story.

  11. 11

    SidT said,

    December 28, 2009 @ 10:24 pm


    “I am not racist in any form whatsoever. I don’t believe in any form of discrimination or segregation. I believe in Islam” -Malcolm X

    Malcolm X was not racist. It was only the press that made him seem like he was. He is probably the most understood man in history, so get your facts straight.

  12. 12

    Christian who Converted/Reverted to Islam said,

    May 20, 2010 @ 8:13 pm

    Asalaam Alaikum Brothers and Sisters
    I do not like Malcolm Little, for he was a youth subjected to ignorance and racism leading to a sexual lifestyle. I believe that Malcolm X was militant and extremist, with radical ideas that the white man was inherently evil and the devil–ideas the NOI and Elijah Muhammad put in his mind.

    But when he became El-Hajj Malik El-Shabbaz, he spoke my mind. His philosophy is so similar to my own today, it’s frightening. I love this man, the man who believes in the beautiful religion of Islam.

    After first reading about him in high school, I was curious about him and read his autobiography. Then I thought “What is Islam?” So I went and got the Holy Qur’an and Muslim books on Prophet Muhammad [SAW]. After reading them all, I said La ilahha il Allah Muhammad ur Rasool-Allah. Now I am a devout Shia Muslim, giving lectures at masjids. I thank El-Hajj Malik El-Shabbaz, better known as Malcolm X, for showing me the truth.

    When 9/11 happened, I fought for the rights of Islam and realized the West is the problem not Islam, so I moved to Bahrain and I live a happy life.


  13. 13

    David Srulevitch said,

    July 6, 2011 @ 11:41 am

    I´m a high school English teacher from Buenos AIres, Argentina. This semester my pre intermediate english level group will acquire the use of past verb tenses. One of the functions that I will teach has to do with presentations in the english language. Malcom X´s story will be learned and taught in the classroom for english language acquirement but also to show children who Malcom was, what he was about. Unfortunately, mass media has the whole world in the dark of things, so it´s time that we the teachers of the world commit to real and sincere teaching of real history, of real men who stood up against the minority who virtually control the majority so that our demise as a species be averted. To those teachers in America who still believe in a free and responsible society it´s time to wake up and smeel the coffee. Students have to know what is really going on, that there is a whole planet beyond the borders of Mexico and Canada. As Gore Vidal would put it, “the U.S. is the laughing stock of the world when it comes tu education” “We have no knowledge of languages, geograpgy, history, etc.”. Malcom X warned us the same way. So i plead the teachers in the U.S. and the world to support a change, transform, so that our trade becomes one of love and true intelligence
    Understanding this, teachers would also comprehend that teaching Malcom X in schools is necesary.

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