Whether you love him or hate him you have to admit that Malcolm X was an extremely critical figure who contributed to shaping American social life as we know it today. This paper will assess the significance of Malcolm X’s leadership role in black people’s fight for power and identity during the twentieth century. It will take the reader from Malcolm’s early years, before his transformation to Islam, to his tragic and untimely death as a national black leader. It will explore Malcolm’s beliefs while in the Nation of Islam as well as his contributions to the civil rights movement and his thoughts on other Negro Leader’s contributions.
Malcolm Little was born on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska.1 His father Earl Little was a preacher. His father’s ideas were not appreciated by the Ku Klux Klan, and they burnt his house down when Malcolm’s mother was pregnant with him. When Malcolm was only six, his father was found dead, with his head bashed in. An incident Malcolm remembered throughout his life is what his teacher once said to him when he was in school in Lansing, Michigan.
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The teacher was going around the room asking kids what they want to be when they get older. When it was Malcolm’s turn he told the teacher that he wanted to be a lawyer. To Malcolm’s surprise, the teacher didn’t encourage him, but told him to be realistic about being a “nigger.” Malcolm only stayed in Michigan to finish eighth grade. Malcolm moved to Roxbury to live with his sister Ella. After living with her for some time, Malcolm moved to Harlem to live on his own.
While there Malcolm turned to sell drugs and living a life of crime. While back in Boston, he was arrested for robbery. He was sentenced to five to ten years in prison. As it ended up, a prison turned Malcolm’s life fight around. Malcolm began to read and educated himself while in prison. His brothers wrote to him about religion for the black man.
They told him to stop smoking and eating pork. His brother Reginald visited him and introduced him to Islam, he told Malcolm that the white man was the devil. The leader of this religion officially called the “Nation of Islam” was Elijah Muhammad. He began preaching in Detroit after getting out of prison, and he was becoming more important in the religion. He changed his last name from Little to X.
The symbol X has a double meaning. It means “ex” because the Muslim is no longer what he was and it stands for the unknown original the last name. of the Muslim. After setting up a temple in Boston, he was asked to do the same in Harlem. He was becoming an important figure in religion. When Malcolm joined the “Nation of Islam” or the “Black Muslims” as the members were commonly called, he adopted all their ideas and beliefs. Malcolm became the articulate spokesman for the Muslims. Up until the late 1940s, the movement was making very slow progress. When Malcolm came into the picture, the movement began to “catch fire. “The Nation of Islam was a unique religion indeed.
The Black Muslims rejected the word “Negro” because it was to them by the whites. Its members rejected Christianity because it failed to give the black man justice. Orthodox Muslims in America rejected the principles of the Nation of Islam. The Black Muslims demanded the racial separation of blacks and whites. They thought, as Malcolm did, that all personal relationships between blacks and whites must be broken immediately.
Economic and political ties would be broken later. As C. Eric Lincoln put it in his book The Black Muslims in America, the Muslims rejected racial intermarriage “as sternly as any southern white.” They were convinced of their superior racial heritage. Malcolm emphasized the fact that integration was bad for both sides. He said it would destroy the white race, and it would also destroy the black race. “The only thing I like integrated is my coffee,” Malcolm stressed that integration with whites wasn’t only undesirable but impossible. He told the public bluntly that without great bloodshed, integration wasn’t going to happen. In his autobiography, Malcolm says that he wasn’t referring to the white man as an individual when he called whites the devil, but to the white man’s historical record collectively.
But it seemed clear when Malcolm was with the Nation of Islam that he was talking about all whites, there were no exceptions. Malcolm believed that the masses of black people didn’t desire integration, only the “so-called Negro leaders” wanted it. The Black Muslims believed that they had the right to land in America for their separation of races. They believed they had the right to land for two reasons. First, whites stole the land from the Indians, and they are brothers of black people. And secondly, blacks worked 300 years as absolute slaves and 100 years as free slaves, thus earning the right to land in America.
Although not much was said about it was clear for the Muslims that if it became necessary, blacks must take up in arms to gain “an eye for an eye.” The Muslims and Malcolm never actually advocated aggressive armed violence but they made the point clear that violence was acceptable as a means of self-defense. In 1959 the Nation of Islam entered a new era. It was in this year that Mike Wallace did a television show called “The Hate that Hate Made.”
This show didn’t expose anything new to blacks living in the ghettoes, but this was the first time many whites found out about a black group that preached hatred towards whites. In months to follow, the Black Muslims and Malcolm X gained more and more publicity, most of it bad. They were called “hate dealers,” “black racists,” “communist-inspired.”
All this recognition created fear in the white community. Malcolm X was always causing an uproar in the white communities by the things he preached. He likened the Jews in WWII to the slaves and said they were no big deal. “Everybody talks about six million Jews, but I was reading a book the other day that showed me one hundred million of us were kidnapped and brought to this country- one hundred million. Now everybody’s wet-eyed over a handful of Jews who brought it on themselves.” The Muslims also had political weight. Fidel Castro invited Malcolm to a private conference in the summer of 1960.
Malcolm was extremely influential in Harlem. He often worked with drug addicts and his work was envied by Harlem’s social service workers. It was said in Harlem, Malcolm X was the only person who could start a riot or order a riot to stop. Malcolm never actually incited any riots, nor did he welcome riots, but he saw them coming and where they were coming from. It was often said in Harlem that Malcolm was all talk and no action.
Malcolm proved his critics wrong when a Black Muslim named Hinton Johnson beat up by police in Harlem. Malcolm called people and he had other Muslims call people, and soon there were 2,600 people protesting. The police then complied with Malcolm’s requests and he settled the ordeal. Then, with a wave of his hand, he made the crowd disappear.
Said one a police officer “this is too much power for one man to have.” Clearly, Malcolm was very powerful. Much of America was beginning to believe that Malcolm was the Black Muslims. Within the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad was like a father to Malcolm. Rumors were going around that people were sick of him taking the spotlight, and they wanted him out of the Nation of Islam.
It all came to a head when Malcolm called President’s Kennedy’s assassination “a simple case of the chickens coming home to roost.” Malcolm was suspended from the Nation for this remark, and he didn’t think they would him back. So he started his organization, Muslim Mosque Inc. At the press conference announcing the break from the Black Muslims, he said blacks should get guns and organize and use them in defense whenever the government failed it’s a duty to protect.
Judging from this statement it doesn’t seem as though the break from the Nation of Islam changed Malcolm much, but many changes would take place in the months to come. He decided to take the “Hajj” or holy pilgrimage to the city of Mecca. Before going he had some verses from the Qur’an translated to him by a friend.
Malcolm was moved when he found that the verses said that Muslims were brothers regardless of race or color, and that Allah judged men solely by their deeds. Of course, Malcolm knew that there were some white Muslims, but he tried to ignore the fact. After he made the “Hajj” some of his attitudes and former beliefs changed. He came back to America with a slightly moderated view of white people, and that didn’t go over too well with some of his followers.
While in Mecca, he realized you can’t judge a man only by his skin color. This didn’t change his conviction that most white Americans and all American institutions were hopelessly racist. He knew if a white man was capable of brotherhood with blacks, then they weren’t as evil as he used to believe, but the American white man remained guilty of a collective historic devilishness.
Until the whites proved otherwise they were still the enemy of the black man. He recognized the fact that there were some sincere white people in the world and some that were capable of brotherhood. He even confessed that racial intermarriage was merely one human being marrying another. The reason for this drastic change in his racial philosophy was that Muslims of every color-treated him as a human being in Mecca.
Some people suspect that Malcolm never hated whites as much as he said in his Black Muslim days, and still, others believe his change was sincere. Another thing Malcolm came to believe after visiting Africa was that there was no longer a Negro problem or American problem, but there was a world problem, a problem for all humanity. He said that when he was in Mecca, he felt like a complete human being for the first time in his life.
He thought the so-called Negro in America should forget civil rights and fight for human rights instead. As speeches he made after his break show, Malcolm was no longer anti-white but pro-black. Along with this change in philosophy came a change in roles. He rose above his position as an American Black Muslim leader to a leader and symbol to blacks around the world.
This change in beliefs did cause problems back home. He lost some of his old following when he changed his views and he had not yet gained a new audience yet. “I’m not a racist and I’m against racism and against segregation. I don’t judge a person according to the color of his skin, I judge a person according to his deeds and intentions.” Where was Malcolm’s place in the civil rights movement? He didn’t really have a place in the movement because the mainstream leadership didn’t accept him. The differences between his ideas and those of the mainstream civil rights leaders were too great. Malcolm was color-conscious while they were colorblind. They submitted willingly to pain whereas Malcolm was nonviolent. Integration was a goal of the civil rights movement, and Malcolm didn’t accept integration in America as the leaders wanted it.
He challenged the leaders and orthodoxes of the civil rights movement. The price of unity between Malcolm and mainstream leadership would have been too high for either party to pay. Malcolm was the first to offer an alternative to the nonviolent path of the civil rights movement, and both militant blacks and nonviolent blacks gained from his presence on the scene. To most of the mainstream leadership, he was someone they could hold up and say “look who is waiting in the wings if you don’t deal with us.” Some mainstream leadership envied Malcolm’s easy access to television and radio.
They also wished Malcolm wouldn’t dwell on the violent self-defense so much, they saw no reason to make white people so nervous. Malcolm saw nonviolence as a way of disarming the blacks. The worst thing he saw with the established black leaders was that they were afraid to be irresponsible. “They have kept you on the plantation.” He also noticed and didn’t like the fact that the leaders were preoccupied with the South, and not at home in the ghetto as Malcolm was. Malcolm owned Harlem. Civil rights leaders rarely strayed on his turf. Once, a day before King was to speak in Harlem Malcolm suggested Harlem might want to show Mr. King what they thought of him. He was pelted with eggs.
Few people would debate him. King wouldn’t, nor would Roy Wilkins or Whitney Young. He was isolated from the front-line struggle, recognized leadership wanted nothing to do with him. He did share some ideas with the civil rights movement, on voting. “Even I prefer ballots to bullets.” The difference is that Malcolm didn’t rule out bullets as an option. Even when advances were made, Malcolm didn’t see them as most people did. He referred to the incident in Little Rock as an example of token integration “to keep these awakening black babies from crying too loud.”
He dismissed the Kennedy -Johnson Civil Rights Bill as a “paycheck he (blacks) couldn’t cash anywhere.” An interesting analogy that compares Malcolm to the mainstream leaders says Malcolm was to “responsible” abolitionists. Malcolm X was hardest on Martin Luther King Jr. The press saw them as adversaries, light vs. dark. Within the black community, before Malcolm split with the Nation of Islam, blacks had to either follow the path of King and work towards integration, or they could follow the Muslims, who preached separation. Martin Luther King was the opposition to Muslim thinking.
Malcolm and Martin stood at opposite poles. One a Christian the other color-conscious. One Forgiving the other incapable of forgiveness. These differences led Malcolm to constantly criticize Martin Luther King. He called King “the best weapon of the white man.” He said the “March and Washington,” led by King was a waste of time. He challenged Martin to come to Harlem and prove that “peaceful suffering” is the answer.
Once, when Malcolm was speaking in Alabama and saying that he didn’t believe in nonviolence, he told King’s wife, Coretta, he wasn’t trying to make it harder for her husband, but easier by showing people the alternative. On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was shot sixteen times as he addressed about 400 people at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. Although the man died, his ideas and contribution lived. His assassination upset a good part of the American public because he was the symbol of resistance.
The black people’s love for Malcolm showed after his death. Kids wore T-shirts and buttons, some black public schools closed on the day of his death, a college in Chicago was named after him, there was a Malcolm X Democrat Club in Harlem, and a Malcolm X association in the military. In 1964 the New York Times reported he was the second most sought after speaker at colleges and universities, second only to Barry Goldwater. He did things no other black man in America had ever done.
He didn’t let the white man speak and defend for him, he wanted blacks to fight their own battle and win back their self-respect. He could convey black rage to a white audience with civility and charm. Instead of lying to himself about the condition of the black man in America, he shouted the painful truth which neither race wanted to hear. He would make blacks angry and proud of his presence. His biggest contribution was that he showed blacks their own beauty, competence, and worth. Black and whites who resented Malcolm X should have resented the society that produced him.
His philosophies made him unacceptable as a participant in peaceful social change. He altered the style and thought of the black revolt even though it denied him a spot in its certified leadership. The black man’s freedom struggle was altered because of Malcolm X. He was a man driven, haunted, and captured by his anger. No matter how much his principles changed, he was always sincere and true to his blackness. “Brother Malcolm’s contribution is tremendous.
What Brother Malcolm contributed to the black man’s struggle in America and throughout the world can not be equaled or surpassed by the life of any man. What attracted people to Malcolm most wasn’t’ necessarily his politics, but the fact that he was black and fighting the way things were. “Ahead of his time, ahead of his people, at the forefront of their struggle was Malcolm.”
By comparing him with other black leaders of his time, and revealing some of his ideas, I have tried to show that Malcolm X was indeed an important figure in the struggle for black power and freedom. His name is often overlooked when speaking of the great black leaders in America, and his efforts often overshadowed by those of Martin Luther King Jr. I hope I have made clear that Malcolm was not a man to be overlooked and his efforts should not be forgotten.
Malcolm X, whose real name is Malcolm Little, was born on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nevada. He was famous for being a leader in the nation of Islam. He wanted the Blacks to accept themselves the way that they were and his other main belief was that Blacks were more superior to the whites. He died on February 21, 1965, in Manhattan, New York.
He and his family moved around a lot, but, he spent most of his childhood in Michigan. His father died when he was six years old. The police said that his father’s death was an accident but a lot of people think that he was murdered since he was one of the main leaders in The UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association).
Since his father was gone, his family was very poor and was often hungry. He went to live with a foster family at the age of 13 and dropped out of school at the age of 15 and moved to Boston. Since he was Black, he felt like he had no opportunities and started stealing.
The Nation of Islam
While in prison for stealing, his brother sent him a letter about the Nation of Islam that he had joined and he wanted Malcolm to come to join him. The Nation of Islam believed that Blacks were superior to whites and that whites were evil. In 1952, Malcolm decided to join that movement and change his last name to “X” because it represented his real African name that was taken away by the whites. After getting released from prison, he became a minister for the Nation of Islam and became the leader for Temple Number 7 in Harlem.
As the Nation of Islam grew, he became more and more famous. Leaving the Nation of Islam In 1964, Malcolm X started to have concerns about his leader Elijah Muhammad. When the president, John F. Kennedy was assassinated, his leader asked him to remain silent but, Malcolm X spoke up anyway. After he was punished for his act of rebellion by his leader, he decided to leave the Nation of Islam.
Malcolm X had many enemies. On February 14, 1965, his house was burned down, then a few days later, on February 15th as he was saying a speech in New York City, he was fatally shot by three members of the Nation of Islam. Malcolm X’s
Malcolm X helped put in place the 14 and 15th amendment since, before that, they had been declared but not actually put in place. He helped the African Americans realized that they should not blend in society but stand out and stand up for themselves to get more rights.
The road to equal rights for African Americans has been a long, hard, and treacherous road and even still similar occurrences plague the American Nation. Several prominent African Americans have historically become strong leaders in the fight to bridge the racial gap. Malcolm X is one of the most celebrated of these, a controversial leader dubbed as either a hero or a racial monster. This report aims to evaluate the impact of Malcolm X by exploring key aspects of his life and character.
A brief biography is included however the examination mainly focuses on his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement in America during the 1950 s and 1960 s concerning the oppression of blacks. Delving in his ideology as a leader and political and public influences will surface the strengths and weaknesses of his leadership and draw out an overall assessment of his own and the movement s success.
Malcolm X was born in Omaha, Nebraska, as Malcolm Little. Malcolm’s father, Earl Little, was a Baptist minister, and an outspoken follower of Marcus Garvey, a Black Nationalist leader of the 1920s. When Malcolm was four, the family moved to Lansing, Michigan, where his father intended to run a store and continue his preaching and organize the black community in Lansing. However, this did not stand well with the white supremacists that called themselves the Black Legion.
Malcolm s family was harassed and forced to move to a farmhouse outside town. Two years later Malcolm s father was found dead on a trolley track in East Lansing. The police claimed it was an accident, however, Malcolm believed he was murdered by the white men.
The death of his father stood out in Malcolm s head through aging and it affected the way he thought of the white race. Malcolm’s mother, unable to cope with loss, suffered a nervous breakdown two years later and the welfare department took the eight children. Malcolm was sent first to a foster home and then to a reform school. After the eighth grade, Malcolm moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where he worked at various jobs and eventually became involved in criminal activity. One of the most important events in Malcolm s life was when his eighth-grade teacher told him to be realistic in life and in effect shattered his dreams of becoming a lawyer. With an unbearable feeling of worthlessness, Malcolm turned to street life.
In 1946, Malcolm was sentenced to prison for burglary. While in prison, Malcolm spent his time educating himself and grew a strong interest in the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Black Muslims, also called the Nation of Islam. Consequently, he joined a Black Muslim temple in Detroit upon his release from prison in 1952 and took the well-known name of Malcolm X, the X representing the name given to Negroes by white slave masters. In 1958 he married Betty Shabazz, and together they had four daughters.
In 1964 Malcolm made a hajj (pilgrimage) to the Islamic holy city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. Based on this trip, and other travels to Africa and Europe, he renounced his previous teaching that all whites are evil, and he began advocating racial solidarity and adopted the Arabic name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. On February 21, 1965, in New York City, men allegedly connected with the Black Muslims sadly assassinated Malcolm.
Despite his bitter and traumatic past, Malcolm X became one of the most influential people of his time and also one of the greatest activists in history. In the beginnings of his chosen path as a Minister of Justice, Malcolm was a supporter of the Garvey Movement. This was a movement led by Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association, which essentially believed in the impossible equality of races and the need for Africans to return to their homeland.
This was of strong influence to Malcolm and in combination with his newfound Muslim faith, he soon progressed through the Nation of Islam and by 1961 became known as the leading spokesman for the Muslims, as well as one of the most prominent speakers of the Civil Rights Movement, alongside the great Martin Luther King Junior.
Although both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Junior were both essentially seeking equal rights for African Americans, they metaphorically stood on two separate platforms as their overall method and ideology of obtaining such rights were mostly divergent. Many didn’t even consider Malcolm X a place in the non-violent Civil Rights movement as he mostly challenged the orthodox leaders. Malcolm was popular for his somewhat violent message of blacks defending themselves and his method of By Any Means Necessary.
For the most part, he believed that non-violence and integration was a trick by the whites to keep the blacks in their places. He was angry at white racism and encouraged his supporters to rise up and protest against the white devils. Malcolm X s despair about life showed in his angry, pessimistic belief that equality is impossible because the white people have no conscience. For most of his life, Malcolm believed that only through revolution and force could blacks attain their rightful place in society and thus promoted nationalist and separatist doctrine.
Malcolm believed that power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression. Power or real power comes from conviction, which produces action. These words were what inspired the black community to assess their situation and fight for their freedom; to be treated as equals. Publicity reached paramountly and as Malcolm fired up the black community, white communities felt the fear and threat of his rising power. However, Malcolm s prevalence became a source of irritation to Muhammed and in 1964 Malcolm left the Muslim organization and embarked on a pilgrimage to Mecca to discover the true Islam.
This was the most significant turning point in Malcolm s life as his attitude underwent an overwhelming transformation. His negative feeling towards the white people was greatly alleviated after experiencing a Muslim environment of such sincere hospitality and [an] overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood [with] people of all colors and races. There he discovered the true meaning of Islam, i.e. Allah is the one God and that it is His will that all people live together as one, regardless of race and color. They made him realize that people, of all races, can co-exist if they choose to do so. This somehow tempered his fiery beliefs and speeches about white racism.
This firsthand encounter of blacks and whites living together in peace and harmony broadened his scope and spurred Malcolm into further pushing equality in his own nation. Many were shocked upon his return by his contradicting yet more appreciable reformation in views. His change in views and methods gained increasing support in his endevour for equality. Malcolm was also able to hold his first rally for his own newly-formed group called the Organisation of Afr0-American Unity (OAAU) , which in its early days looked to be successful. Malcolm gained its further support by traveling and meeting with important international black leaders. However, his move to equality was brought to an early end by his assassination.
This contested leader left a prominent footprint in the sands of 1960-America and even at present much vary in views concerning the degree of his success. While a lot of people looked to Malcolm for guidance and leadership, others regarded him with suspicion. To some people, his angry words ignited the fires that were burning than in a number of American cities. To others, Malcolm has not done enough to support his struggle. Other black leaders have been very active in marches and protests and others are even risking imprisonment or injury, whereas Malcolm, many insisted, stayed safely behind the podium or pulpit. He spoke angry, defiant words but oftentimes he does not do anything to put into practice what he has taught.
Despite the negativity of the majority Malcolm s movement, he can be acknowledged as a stepping stone to the achievement of black rights. It is evident Malcolm has had no direct influence on the political system of America, however, he can be indirectly be accredited with the formation and success of other parties of the late 1950 s and 1960 s.
For example, The Socialist Workers’ Party, a follower of the teachings of Marxist political thinker Leon Trotsky, has long held Malcolm X as an inspirational icon. The militant political group of the Black Panther Party and The Malcolm X Grass Movement are two of many other radical organizations influenced by his philosophy, both the initial and the reformed. Some groups related to his violent tactics, while others identified and dwelled on his support of Black Nationalism. Malcolm also joined the Muslim Mosque Inc. and subsequently founded numerous mosques in Boston, Philadelphia in Harlem, and was credited with the national expansion of a movement that, by 1963, included membership of approximately 30,000.
Malcolm can be viewed as a people s leader rather than a political leader in that he did not achieve the changing of laws but more the changing of views. His contribution to the civil rights movement is not set in concrete, however, the fact remains that Malcolm X was instrumental in arousing the black people s desire to be treated as equals, enjoying the same freedom and preferences that a white man has.
By comparing him with other black leaders of his time, and revealing some of his ideas, Malcolm X is indeed an important figure in the struggle for black power and freedom. Although his name is often overlooked when speaking of the great black leaders in America, and his efforts often overshadowed by those of Martin Luther King Jr., the legacy of Malcolm X is undoubtedly unforgettable.
What Malcolm uniquely contributed to the black man’s struggle in America and throughout the world opened another door for blacks in the land of Life and Liberty by opening the mouths and minds of the public people to feeling, speaking, and acting in support of black unity. His achievements are not necessarily stamped on the body of the Constitution but his influences definitely printed boldly in the minds of many. Never had Malcolm fallen to his criticisms “Ahead of his time, ahead of his people, at the forefront of their struggle was Malcolm.”
Example #4 – Malcolm’s Autobiography: What Stood Behind This Man?
The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a first-hand account of one of history’s lasting figures in the long-standing struggle for racial equality. Throughout the honest and unfiltered autobiography, we are given a chance to peer into the mind and heart of a man who earnestly tried to find his place in a white-dominated world, only to realize that violence was the only way to both life and die for what he believed in as he joined the puritanical movement of the Black Muslims.
This realization, however, is less about an outright rejection of societal norms, and more about the transformation that took place in a man who saw the true root cause of inequality in his country. Ultimately, the autobiography offers readers an opportunity to discover more about their own views on race and mankind through the eyes of a man who gave a voice to forgotten African-Americans, while demonstrating self-respect, hope, and boldness even in the face of mounting liberal hypocrisy and black racialism.
It seems that Malcolm X already knew his fate long before his assassination in 1965. “It has always been my belief that I, too, will die by violence,” he said. “I have done all that I can to be prepared.” This solemn yet hopeful tone courses throughout his autobiography, offering both nobility and humility in his words. It seems that knows from the beginning that he will be a fighter for a cause that he would not see the end of before his own death. What further preserves his place in history is the earnestness with which he thought and attempted to fix the psychological ailments that plagued African-Americans all around him. His aim was never fame or glory, or even raising the black man above the white.
His goal was to honor truth, “no matter who tells it.” It was to honor justice, “no matter who it is for or against.” And it was for serving “whoever or whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” His contributions to the civil rights movements go beyond isolated actions and events and move into the heart of a man who saw injustice as a direct violation of every man’s innate rights as a human being. Rather than trumpet the status of the black man as being above whites, he demonstrated a willingness to integrate the two, if such integration was possible.
It was only after he had tried and failed countless times that he acknowledged the immovable roadblock that prevented him from seamlessly integrating. “I know from personal experience,” he writes, regarding his attempts to commingle peaceably with the white men who shunned him. We see that much of the portrayal of Malcolm X as an angry and militant racist who wanted to bring down whites is propaganda, in and of itself designed to prevent people from understanding that they, too, have the power to make a difference if they are humble, respectful, and earnestly fight for what they believe in.
The unapologetic manner with which Malcolm X dissects the reality of the eurocentrism that still remains until this day garners not the only credibility due to his humility, but allows every reader to deeply look into his or her own hidden notions about race and equality. Only when we realize that there are concealed beliefs within every person that we often too easily ignore, are we able to accurately assess where we stand as a country in terms of racial equality and acceptance?
It is one thing to acknowledge that racism still exists in every corner of the world; it is another to witness what this racism feels like to the person being discriminated against. By the time Malcolm X is in prison, we see that his story is not predominantly about why he is deservedly angry at the rampant racial injustice of the world. We learn more about his inner transformation into a man who understands that white-dominated culture is not a direct result of the white people themselves but rather an offshoot of American culture as a whole.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X remains an important piece of history that tells the truth about a man who is often too quickly dismissed as simply a radical anti-racist. We see that he was a man who simply understood that the deepest fears for African-Americans—namely, the inability to change built-in racism through traditional means—may very well be a reality.
The harshness of this truth is less about direct condemnation and more about an expansion of one’s perspective in order to more effectively lead a life that can begin to subtly but surely alter the course of American racism. The book remains a gift to the world, as it shows a man who was both a thinker and a leader who shifted from blatant condemnation to platforms of acceptance that would raise the dignity of all men.
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