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Clear the air

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It’s hard to believe in this day and age in Queens that two top city officials failed to persuade Christ the King High School to allow one of its students to have the name “Malcolm X” printed on his senior sweater.

The honor student’s name also happens to be Malcolm Xavier Combs, which would seem to strengthen his case.

But the Middle Village school, which has educated generations of students from the borough, apparently has refused to drop its opposition to the use of the controversial civil rights leader’s name or agreed to meet with Public Advocate Letitia James and City Comptroller Scott Stringer on the issue.

Both public officials rallied in front of the school last week to support the 17-year-old senior, who had ordered the sweater through the school and was called out of AP English class to the assistant principal’s officer. She told him to avoid the name Malcolm X, who had been labeled a terrorist by his critics.

The rally took place on the 53rd anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination and Combs vowed to keep his memory alive.

Both James and Stringer praised the teen for standing his ground with little public support from the school. His father said he went to the school but was unable to schedule an appointment with the assistant principal.

Former state Sen. Serphin Maltese, who is chairman of Christ the King, said the order form for sweaters only allowed for first and last names, which had been misunderstood by the family and the media.

He said the school had agreed to meet with the Combs family, but then Rev. Al Sharpton held a rally in Harlem with his National Action Network Feb. 10 and the story went viral.

There is a lot of room for misunderstanding and misinterpretation in an emotionally charged issue involving race like this, but the bottom line is nothing seems to have changed since the controversy broke. Keep in mind that the debate over Malcolm X, his legacy and the right of a student to choose his own name for a school sweater was taking place during Black History Month. What better teachable moment.

James said she came out to Queens prepared to meet with the school administration to discuss “an inconclusive curriculum.” As far as we know, this meeting has never taken place and several weeks have passed since Combs was called into the administration offices.

This is the time to clear the air. Bring in James to oversee a meeting between school officials, Combs and his parents and student leaders. Christ the King should also hold a school assembly and let the students discuss the issue, which will haunt the highly regarded school until it is flushed out into the open and fully explored.

Posted 12:00 am, March 2, 2018
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