As we prepare for the unveiling of the Washington memorial for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is important that we take a second to contextualize this extraordinary event. Dr. King deserves to be celebrated next to other great heroes of American history, and it is a proud testament to the growth and maturity of our nation that Dr. King has been honored in this way.

Most of us also know that an equally extraordinary American, Malcolm X, has not been given the same respect as Dr. King. Malcolm’s grave site doesn’t look like it holds one of the greatest men in American history; it looks as common and anonymous as the one next to it. There is very little mention of Malcolm in public school history classes, and Malcolm’s contributions are not considered essential to the social evolution of America. Millions of African Americans who attend cushy (and excessively commercialized) dinners and galas for Dr. King every year don’t even know Malcolm X’s birthday.

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