A Queens, New York student was shocked and insulted to discover that his school rejected his wish to have his name on his senior sweater. The 17-year-old student’s name is Malcolm Xavier Combs, and he requested to have “Malcolm X.” embroidered on the back on his sweater. Christ the King High School official Veronica Arbitello pulled him out of class to tell him that Malcolm X, the murdered black activist from the 1960s, is “someone I don’t want to be associated with.”
“All I wanted was the ‘X.’ My name is Malcolm Xavier Combs,” the boy told the New York Daily News.
“They pulled him out of class to tell him that a man who said, ‘A man without an education, you have nothing,’ is someone he shouldn’t be associated with,” the boy’s mother, Mychelle Combs, said. Combs is a National Honor Society member and was pulled out of his advanced placement English class to let him know his simple request was denied.
To make matters worse, Combs says that Arbitello joked about his name to her husband, who is also the school basketball coach, calling him “the new Malcolm X.”
“I felt insulted. They just laughed at me… that’s my name, Malcolm X., not a nickname,” Combs told the Daily News. He has since canceled his order for the $40 sweater.
Combs told his parents about the situation at school; no one from the school contacted the parents about the conflict, according to Mychelle. Combs’s father has made an appointment with the school for Thursday. The parents have also contacted Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network to attend the meeting at the school.
“This is absurd that in 2018 we have to teach school administration how to be culturally sensitive,” said the Rev. Kevin McCall, crisis director for the group. “In the spirit of Malcolm X, we are calling cultural inclusion events with this school administration so that they can understand what it means to be black in America.”
Despite all the outrage, Mychelle says she does not plan to sue the school. Instead, she wishes the faculty would get culture-sensitivity training as well as that the school would hire more minority staffers and embrace different cultures.
“I’m asking for a legacy for the African-American students who come in after my son, so they won’t be ridiculed for their culture,” she said. “Malcolm X not only represented African-Americans, he also represented Muslims. I wonder if she has a problem with them as well.”
The high school has declined to comment and cited privacy concerns.