What’s in a name?
Christ the King High School student Malcolm Xavier Combs says he found out when a tone-deaf assistant principal spiked his request to get the name “Malcolm X” on the back of his senior sweater.
School official Veronica Arbitello “told me … that’s someone I don’t want to be associated with,” the National Honor Society member said in reference to the slain ’60s black activist.
“All I wanted was the ‘X.’ My name is Malcolm Xavier Combs.”
The student’s parents were outraged by the decision, noting the school appeared unfamiliar with Malcolm X or what he represents.
“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,” Combs’ livid mother, Mychelle Combs, said, paraphrasing Malcolm X.
The original Malcolm X remains a revered and controversial figure, a fiery orator who called for the freedom and equality of blacks “by any means necessary” mere months before his Feb. 21, 1965, murder inside the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights.
Arbitello, a white alumna of the $11,350-a-year Queens school, allegedly summoned young Malcolm, 17, from his advanced placement English class to veto the student’s request.
The teen said he became more irate when Arbitello joked about his name with her white husband, school basketball coach Joe Arbitello, introducing the senior as “the new Malcolm X.”
“I felt insulted. They just laughed at me … that’s my name, Malcolm X., not a nickname,” said the offended student.
He soon canceled his order for the $40 sweater adorned with the name the two Malcolms share.
Christ the King is no stranger to controversy. Former basketball coach Bob Oliva was convicted of sexual abuse in 2011, while another hoops coach, Joe DeLuca, was arrested on drug and weapons charges a year later.
A disappointed Malcolm reached out to his mother and father about the school’s decision. His father immediately went to the school and was advised to make an appointment with Arbitello.
Neither Arbitello nor any other administrators at the Middle Village school contacted the parents about the name conflict, the teen’s mom told the Daily News.
Christ the King declined to comment on the matter, citing privacy concerns. Combs’ parents scheduled a Thursday meeting, and reached out to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network to accompany them.
“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.”
Mychelle Combs, 47, doesn’t plan to file a lawsuit against the school. She’s instead asking for the faculty to get culture-sensitivity training, increase 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.”