Recent Forum Posts
From categories:
page »

Today in class we discussed a wiki debate between Jolon & Charlotte about whether or not the negative media response to Malcolm X was a result of White Envy, hatred or jealousy. To start class we defined each term as such: Envy occurs when an individual aspires for what another has, but resents the fact they do not have it while Jealousy was defined as the longing for what others have ultimately making you work harder. With assumptions out of the way we began to question whether whites ultimately resent X because he threatens whiteness or if it is because he is being unfair to the white population by not allowing them to be present at his speeches. Some in our class questioned whether whites felt physically threatened by the idea of a black rebellion, but Jeff lead us to believe that the prospect of such an idea was highly unlikely. The class ultimately decided that blacks breaking from the hegemonic ideals placed over them would be an extremely scary idea to any elite or self aware white person at the time.

In class we then discussed the process X & Haley undertook when writing the book. Not surprisingly, the text was initially a piece of Muslim propaganda that X wanted to use in order to further the agenda of the Nation. This fact produced a discussion about the transformation of the text and how it went from sweeping generalizations about white and black cultures towards one that was extremely specific and could be formed into a coherent literary work. Jeff brought up an interesting point bout realize the struggles X has had in his life dealing directly with the monoculture for example media. After awhile the class stumbled upon a major theme that difficult to grasp at first, but essentially it is that: the writing process of the text and his relationship with media both represent X's desire for people to have a more complicated understanding of himself. The discussion eventually ended on another topic related to thematic structure of the text, and Jeff posed a mind blowing question. He asked us what would become of X's life if he survives because the way the narrative is written it could either end up as a Shakespearean comedy or tragedy. Afterwards class ended and we pondered the idea for our next class.

Class Notes by JordanGJordanG, 05 Nov 2013 15:58

Malcolm X is a contradictory individual, who's life philosophy cannot be explained easily. However, it does seem to be true that whatever X participates in he throws his entire being into it. For example, the meteoric of X into popularity everywhere he goes in Lansing, is an amazing one (X chapter 28). That rise happens over and over again throughout the text because whatever philosophy he believes at the time he lives it completely. Eventually he does shift views because he eventually runs into a hegemonic force pushing him away after reaching the top. When he converted, X believed he had found the holy grail, but after learning Elijah Muhammed was an adulterer and defecting a series of thoughts brewed in my head. Many scholars say that X's views would have aligned more closely with Dr. King's if both had not been assassinated. However, I question that sentiment because X consistently questions the authenticity of the people around him when he attempts to reach the top. When younger instead of taking Ostrowski's advice in stride he shuts down emotionally. When moving forward he finds different means other than completely shutting down, but he still struggles with those around him being authentic. Hence my final thought being, X would have hated Dr. King knowing he was an adulterer.

X, Malcolm and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 1964. Print.

X and Dr. King? by JordanGJordanG, 05 Nov 2013 15:58

Throughout the text X goes through many transformations, but his most authentic manifestations occur when he changes through natural motion as opposed to forced motion. In order to prove that his final identity: El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz is his most authentic, X attempts to prove that all of the other transformations were forced by hegemonic pressure. When he is young and living in Boston, the society that surrounds him expects him to act and look a certain way, which he willingly fulfills. He succumbs to the expectations of his appearance by straightening his hair and wearing the popular clothes. He describes himself as having “joined that multitude of Negro men and women in America who are brainwashed into believing that the black people are ‘inferior’ – and the white people are ‘superior’ – that they will violate their God-created bodies to try and look ‘pretty’ by white standards’’ (64). The hegemonic pressure to look white forces X into this identity. At the same time, X is also fulfilling racial stereotypes. He describes himself as one of “those ‘dancing jibagoo’ toys that you wind up”(67). These toys were based on very racist ideas, yet X takes pride in being “like a live one”(67). The society that forces X to want to look white, also forces him into an identity that fulfills the stereotypes of his race. X attempts to prove that his conversion to the nation of Islam is also a forced transformation, as opposed to natural motion. While X is still in prison, his family begins to encourage him to convert to the nation of Islam: “All of them urged me to ‘accept the teachings of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad”(187). This time, the pressure to forge yet another new identity is placed on him by his family. Again, this pressure forces him to transform through encouragement from the people around him. He becomes entirely entrenched in his new identity, without being able to see the flaws of his new self until he has gone through yet another transformation. X observes that while he was still a part of the nation of Islam it was unfathomable that “the day would come when Elijah Muhammad would be accused by his own sons as being guilty of the same acts of immorality that he judged Reginald and so many others for”(215). X insists that his final identity as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz is his most authentic identity however, by showing that this transformation was through natural motion. He refers to the new church he hopes to run as “the organization I was creating in my mind”(363). The fact that the organization is created entirely in X’s mind suggests that it is purely and authentically X, with no outside influences. It is entirely X’s choice to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at that point in his life, and it is in Mecca that X claims he “had been blessed by Allah with a new insight into the true religion of Islam, and a better understanding of America’s entire racial dilemma”(389). By claiming that his new self came from Allah, and not societal pressure like his other manifestations, X claims this identity has his most authentic self.

X, Malcolm and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Ballantine books, 1992. Print

While Malcolm X shifts through many different polarized phases of his life, he expresses authentic devotion to each phase. Throughout the story, X works tirelessly to excel in the things that he values. In school, he “had grades among the highest in the school” (38). At the lindy-hopping dances, he instantly picked up the skill to “whirl girls so fast their skirts were snapping” (69). During his hustler phase, he “sold reefers like a mad man,” and after picking up robbery, he eventually “got it down to an exact science” (,166) In prison, when he “was unable to express what [he] wanted to convey in the letters [he] wrote, he read books almost obsessively “feigning sleep… until three or four in the morning,” teaching himself knowledge and literacy (200). He took his devotion to Islam extremely seriously, once even saying “no one ever prayed more sincerely to Allah” (215). Finally, as a public speaker, he “received more publicity than many world personages” (337). All of these examples are a testament to how vigorously X worked in not one, but all phases of his life. It is difficult therefore to argue that any one of his identities was inauthentic since he devoted so much effort into every single one of them.

Not only does X remain authentic in each phase of his life, he keeps bits of each phase in his identity, never abandoning his history. Evidence of his past self lies in every chapter with actions that utilize skills from his past. One of the earliest traits he describes is the cleverness he uses to catch everyone else’s rabbits as a kid. In chapter 9, he employs the same cleverness to trick the police into thinking he was an innocent confused man after one of his robberies. Furthermore, although he renounced his dishonest, sinful hustling practices, he uses his experiences from ghetto often for his preaching. With his experience in both ghetto and suburban society, he “could speak and understand the ghetto language” and “talk with the so-called middle class Negro and with the ghetto blacks (whom the others just talked about” (358). If he had completely forgotten his past, X never would have been able to fully understand some of his most crucial audience. Finally, X shows periodic love for the pursuit of knowledge. As mentioned before, he excels in school and reads literature voraciously in prison. Finally in the very end, he claims, “my greatest lack has been, I believe, that I don’t have the kind of academic education I wish I had been able to get” (437). All of these examples show that when X enters a new phase, be it from dancing to hustling, from jail to Islam or anything in between, he keeps parts of his old life. Just because he changes lifestyle never means that he loses his old character. Therefore, it would be inaccurate to declare him an indecisive flip-flopper, since he never completely changes his identity, but instead it evolves and carries bits and pieces of the past.

Just as X’s previous identities carry authenticity between his strong devotion and historical identity synthesis, his final resting identity as a Muslim human rights activist is equally, if not the most genuine. The Islamic part of his identity easily remains strong throughout every single chapter of the story from its beginnings in prison. As mentioned before, Malcolm is an extremely devout Muslim throughout the entire story, once claiming “no one ever prayed more sincerely to Allah.” Even after his hero Muhammad is ousted as a scandalous, hypocritical leader, Malcolm persists as a strong Muslim leader, establishing a new Mosque to regain those that left the nation of Islam. His belief in human rights spans even further, taking different forms throughout the book. X finds inequality almost immediately in Lansing, where blacks do the “menial jobs” and Malcolm, as one of the highest performers in his class, is told that he should simply become a carpenter (45). From this point on, X defies the cultural hegemony laid upon him, first by leaving Lansing, then by leaving prison and the ghettos, and finally preaching about the injustices towards blacks. Yet during his speeches, whether he preaches about how white men are the devil, or calls for voluntary separation, X’s underlying message is that blacks are being suppressed. X even proceeds one of his calls for separation by exclaiming, “Human rights! Respect as human beings! That’s what America’s black masses want” (313). In the end, X shows that these goals are authentic not just because he fights just as hard as usual for them, but because they remain consistent throughout the story. In the final chapter, he collects his various different calls for black rights under the conclusion that “we had to approach the black man’s struggle against the white man’s racism as a human problem” (432). Therefore, through its consistency in belief of human rights as a whole, the title “Malcolm X,” the man who “doesn’t mind shaking hands with human beings” perfectly, authentically epitomizes the book’s mysterious protagonist.

Settling for an identity by Max SigermanMax Sigerman, 05 Nov 2013 08:53

Malcolm X’s recounts of his past experiences can be read as fact or as designed memories aimed at proving a larger claim. Interestingly, the moments that read as the most convincing are not the ones in which X holds complete power or control, but rather the times when X seems most vulnerable and naïve. When X describes his discipline and self-control in educating himself, his experience strikes the reader as a moment of design rather than truth. X claims that he “started copying what eventually became the whole dictionary” and professes that he soon “progressed to really serious reading” (199, 200). X’s declaration that he copied the entire dictionary, while impressive, is not relatable for his reader. By elevating himself in an effort to prove the capability of blacks, X distances himself from the reader and reduces the believability of his action. When X describes the police brutality against Brother Hinton, he claims that he told the police that Brother Hinton “belongs in a hospital” and the police immediately “called an ambulance” (269). When a policeman told X to disperse a crowd of blacks that had gathered, X retorted that the blacks “were his problem” (269). X places himself in a position of power and suggests that the police were at his mercy; although X’s recount of the event gives him control over the situation, the reader questions the feasibility of a black holding power over a white policeman and therefore suspects the veracity of the incident.

The text is most believable when X reveals moments when he spontaneously feels emotions such as helplessness and wonderment. Although he does not actively try to convince his readers to agree with him, X’s raw emotions make these experiences seem honest. When X tries to pray for the first time, he admits that whenever he kneeled down, “waves of shame and embarrassment would force [him] back up” (196). Although X does not try to convince his reader to side with him, the reader can relate to the emotions of “shame” and “embarrassment” and instinctively believes X’s description. In Mecca, X embraces the multicultural society, the devotion to Islam, and the kindness shown by everyone. When a white man “gives up his suite” for X, X declares that he was “so awed that [he] was totally without resistance” (383). Unable to predict foreign customs, X reacts naturally to whatever happens. Although he has much less control, his experiences come across as genuine and authentic.

X, Malcolm and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Ballantine books, 1992. Print.

Authenticity vs. Design by Elise FergusonElise Ferguson, 05 Nov 2013 08:21

Throughout the book, X's interests shift, and therefore, so does his identity. Although it may be argued that X is inauthentic in some or all of his identities, he is actually very true to himself with every new identity he accepts. X acknowledges at the end of the book that his "life has been a chronology of changes", which tells the reader that he understands that changes have occurred in his life and why they have occurred. (pg. 390) Throughout the five sections of the book, from Lansing to X's pilgrimage, X is always aware of the hegemony he is living within and always has a goal within that hegemony. However, the transition of these goals show how X's identity changes and how with every identity shift, he becomes more aware of who he is based off of his past experiences and identities. As he becomes more aware, X is also able to formulate clearer and more precise goals of what he is trying to achieve with each identity, and how the hegemony he is facing can be defeated or fulfilled. So X puts 110% of his efforts into doing exactly that, completely immersing himself in every new identity as if he had been that person for years. All in all, through the five stages of X's identities. the changes in X's identity lead him to different experiences with hegemony. At first he accepts white hegemony in Lansing, fulfills white hegemony as a hustler, but in prison a shift occurs where he begins to be a subject of white hegemony until his final identity El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, in which he is free of any hegemony. The book shows a transition of X's identity under hegemony to his actual identity in which he is free of any hegemony.

X, Malcolm and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 1964. Print.

Indentity by FeddyFeddy, 05 Nov 2013 06:52

X’s design of the Sophia moments give the reader a lens through which to view the entirety of the text. Her presence in the text begins and augments the crucial themes that help define X’s authenticity throughout the text.

When X first introduces Sophia to the readers, he states that he is “going to call her Sophia” (78). Rather than viewing her as an individual, Sophia immediately becomes a symbol for whiteness and American society. Moreover, the name Sophia means wisdom in Greek. This deliberate construction of the narrative around an American symbol of wisdom sets up the text to be one with multiple layers of understanding.

Because Sophia’s name means wisdom, X introduces a complication into the text. If Sophia is in fact a metaphor for both American society and wisdom, then her indictment validates X’s “hatred” of whiteness in society (274). The “girls got low bail,” but they were still imprisoned; the fact that Sophia—wisdom—is put in jail suggests that American ‘wisdom’ is secluded and stripped from society, unable to connect with others (173). Although X hasn’t had his “first serious thoughts” before jail, when writing the novel, he extensively uses foreshadowing to suggest that his story mirrors the necessity to disassociate from whites (186). Moreover, the fact that X blames the girls for “getting sentenced,” mirrors his later desire to completely disassociate from white culture and ‘wisdom’ regardless to his strong desires to embrace it in the past (173).

The usage of the name Sophia also epitomizes X’s reoccurring theme of the ‘I’ passing judgment on the former ‘I’. The choice to name her Sophia is a DuBoisian moment of double-consciousness—“call[ing] her Sophia” is clearly a design moment, created as he looked back on his story (78). While the decision represents his inability to recognize the humanity of his peers in his “hustling” phase, X realizes that she epitomizes his struggle to reconcile racial coexistence with his own individual identity (125).

The fact that X associates whiteness with wisdom represents the fundamental contradictions scattered throughout the text. By exposing the corrupt nature of white society early on via a human character, X shows how contradictions dominate society. The fact that X has an authentic moment of Transcendence, learning about “Thoreau” and the aability to “command total respect… with his words,” after rejecting white so called wisdom suggests that it was in the moment of contradiction that his eyes opened to the world – he experienced a ‘Satan see’s’ moment (in the chapter titled ‘Satan’) when he recognizes that “integration” is a “big lie” (J.B., 281).

The Sophia moment touches on most every theme X emphasizes in his text. It is clearly a design moment in which he recognizes the opportunity to suggest a common thread of authenticity that binds his individual phases together. While readers struggle to decide which voice/name/identity is X’s authentic self, moments and characters like Sophia suggest that his reflective, ‘I’ passing judgment on the ‘I’ self is authentic—it is after he has analyzed the events of his life that he can make design choices, like the one to name Sophia after wisdom; his active mind transcends the individual identities he temporarily embodies and defines his authentic understanding of himself.

If I’m right in suggesting that Sophia is a metaphor for the text and the thematic discoveries in X’s life, then the name ‘wisdom’ becomes more significant. Because the underlying meaning is not apparent to every reader, X further veils his message. X’s text mirrors that of DuBois’ as he not only ‘veils’ aspects of his experience with blank spaces, but also adds in a moments in which he questions the intellect of his audience (like DuBois’ Macbeth moment). X suggests to the reader that she has to be aware of the themes that surface in the Sophia moment; the layers of consciousness he reveals, moreover, mirror, once again, the tension between the construction of the novel by two distinct individuals. The Sophia moment serves to warn and remind the readers of both the thematic approaches of the text and the necessity to wade through layers of meaning to understand X’s authentic self—while on the surface he may appear to be an inauthentic individual, attempting to connect to every identity he comes into contact with, after stripping away the veil, one recognizes that X neatly ties together individual moments with common themes so as to suggest his authentic transition to becoming an individual.

X, Malcolm and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 1964. Print.

I am extremely curious to know what could have potentially come about had X's life not been ended so prematurely. It is clear throughout both history and X's own autobiography that he is an enigmatic yet controversial figure. His view towards white society is venomous. During his time in Mecca, he claims he would "never miss a single opportunity to tell the truth about the crimes, the evils, and the indignities that are suffered by the black man in America," his hatred of the whitewashed society ever ready to be expressed(396). He believes that whites have utterly destroyed the black mans sense of self. Whether or not there is a true black identity, after centuries of having their ancestry stripped away, X considers white America at fault. "I reflected many, many times to myself upon how the American Negro has been entirely brainwashed from ever seeing or thinking of himself, as he should, as a part of the nonwhite peoples of the world" (398). Instead, the black man most often considers himself as one under those whites whom X hates. It must have been an infuriating trend to witness, especially for someone more enlightened to the truth of the matter. In time, however, I wonder how his opinions might change. We can already see by the close of the text moments in which X does not viciously revile whites, and even accepts their company at times. This may be a continuation of his constantly changing self. X's identity morphs numerously over the course of the text, finally landing, before his death, on the guise of El Hajj-Malik El-Shabazz. This identity is the one he establishes after his trip to the holy Islamic city of Mecca. What I am curious of, is whether this is truly his final "real" identity, or just another mask along the way. Had X lived, would his beliefs have changed once again? Would he have become less radical, even reconsider his stance on segregation? Before he died, he believed that "no sane black man really wants integration" (250). Whether or not he would continue to hold that belief, considering the success integration has had after his death, is an interesting question. I suppose what I'm wondering is, are X's beliefs so core to his identity that he would maintain them even in the face of absolute proof, or could his ideas change just as drastically as his identity?

X, Malcolm and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 1964. Print.

Malcolm X and the Future by PeterSwisherPeterSwisher, 05 Nov 2013 01:46

Throughout the text, names play an important role in defining an identity and the relationship with Malcolm X, whether its X’s multitude of nicknames or Elijah Muhammad always being called “The Honorable Elijah Muhammad.” The two names that reveal the most about X in this text however are Laura versus Sophia. There are three interesting topics to focus on when talking about these two women in this book. The first being how Laura’s real name is used, how Sophia is given a pseudonym, and how Laura gets an apology paragraph from X and Sophia gets nothing even though X trashes her life on a much larger scale, and how race is involved with each of these two women.
The significance of a pseudonym with these two women reveals a lot about X’s character in this book. To begin with, X says that a white women in a black ghetto was “a status symbol of the first order” (78). X subsequently giving Sophia a false points towards this matter being a race issue, and how X doesn’t really want to associate himself to the real world name that this woman had been given, in order to distance himself even further from the white race. Also along these lines Laura isn’t given a pseudonym because he is not afraid to associate himself with Laura because X takes credit for Laura saying “one of the shames I have carried for years is that I blame myself for all of this”(80). X’s assumption of the blame for this unfortunate situation, in such a casual way reveals how he sees the black race. He sees that there are certain paths that many black folks are destined to take, however bad that it may be. X recognizes that it is bad, however does not give the situation more thought because it is not something that is too out of the norm that it deserves more time, in comparison to Sophia who is given multiple chapters because of the radicalism of the situation. With these two women, X’s attitude towards women and their role in race a revealed.

X, Malcolm, and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcom X. New York: Ballantine, 1992. Print.

Women and Race by Alex CampoAlex Campo, 05 Nov 2013 00:48

X, Malcolm, and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcom X. New York: Ballantine, 1992. Print.

Whoops, sorry.

Before Malcolm X's marriage, he views man as "strong" and women as "weak" (260). He designs the text based on this idea in order to discount the role of women and emphasize his own significance and power.

X sees women as insignificant because he sees them as inferior to men. He sees wives as "so disagreeable and had made their men so tense that they were robbed of the satisfaction of being men" (107). Men use prostitution in order to regain pride as a man and "escape (the) tension and the chance of being ridiculed by his own wife" (107). Similar to his perception of wives, he scolds Sophia for bringing money, since women will "exploit the man" if the woman will not exploit themselves (156). X relies on Sophia for money, but gives "her a hard time, just to keep her in line" (156). Although he values her over Laura, he also slaps her for trying to rise in authority and make use of the man.

X degrades Laura's significance from the text, viewing her as a "wreck of a woman" (80). Although he "blame(s) himself" for her actions and expresses sympathy for her, he also dismisses her, concluding the brief paragraph with a change in idea, "In any case" (80). Laura reappears later in the plot to satisfy the reader about her insignificance, and to show her as a "good-time girl," but X explains that she "gave up the college idea" and smokes reefers, followed by a page break, representing a change in idea (260). Because X does not believe that women are a major influence to mens' lives, he uses the story of Laura to show who women will become on their own compared to men.

Before his marriage, he shows he "felt no women" (259). He sees that men are "messed up by women," who are "only tricky, deceitful, untrustworthy flesh" (260). When X is arrested by the police, the "nice white girls" are released with low bail (173). Because they are white, the women as not perceived as a significant crime similar to the "goddam niggers" (173). Although there is racial inequality between the Blacks and the Whites, there is also a sexual barrier as well that prevents women from facing severe crimes similar to X. Because he does not view women prior to his marriage as inferior to man, he designs the text so that the narrative looks down on the women and explains why they cannot rise above the man.

Men First, Ladies Last by kuni_migimatsukuni_migimatsu, 04 Nov 2013 19:03

At the end of this text, X has cast off the perfunctory understandings of himself as a “so-called ‘violent’” person, and as an angry, hateful, revolutionist who is “trying to overturn the system, or to destroy it”, and presents himself in a different way (435, 423). By the end, despite his frequent, and seemingly fickle, adoptions of different identities, X has overwhelmingly championed DuBoisian ideology.
X is similar to DuBois in that he actively fights to preserve the thought, and dismisses the after thought. Despite a myriad of surface-level changes in identity, at the core, X has always maintained a firm belief in the thought, whatever that thought might be. As a child, X wants to be a lawyer, and is told by Mr. Ostrowski that being a lawyer is “no realistic goal for a nigger” (43). However, despite external hegemonic pressures, Malcolm firmly believes that “I do believe that I might have made a good lawyer. I have always loved verbal battle, and challenge” (437). This is one of many times throughout the text where Malcolm enumerates this long-standing belief. Similarly, as a minister of the Nation of Islam, X never lets external forces cause him to loose faith in his belief that “the white man is the devil” (184). It is only through his own experiences that he discards this beliefs; “in the Muslim World, I saw, I felt, and I wrote home how my thinking was broadened!” (416). X emphasizes that he was the one who made the decision to alter his ideology, based upon his own beliefs, and did not simply “let someone else do [his] thinking”, which is directly in accordance with DuBois’s transcendental beliefs (428).
Furthermore, the recurring theme of X’s pursuit of authenticity, is also DuBoisian in it’s nature because authenticity is the thought in and of itself, free from the corruption of hegemonic double consciousness. X begins the narrative by describing his dislike for the Hill characters “like the sleep-in maid…. who used to come in with her ‘ooh, my deah’ manners…Or the cafeteria-line serving woman sitting there on her day off with cat fur around her neck, telling the proprietor she was a ‘dietarian’….Even the young ones…. with their accents so phonied up that if you just heard them and didn’t see them, you wouldn’t even know they were Negroes,” and their appalling lack of authenticity (70). In chapter nineteen, the theme of authenticity again resurfaces. He compares the two candidates for the presidency, Goldwater, a southern racist republican, to a wolf, and Johnson, a northern liberal, to a fox, saying that “in a wolf’s den, I’d always known exactly where I stood…whereas I might be lulled and fooled by the tricky fox” (430). He then goes on to say that “Goldwater as a man, I respected for speaking out his true convictions,” emphasizing X’s belief in the importance of authenticity (430). X’s pursuit of authenticity is also inherently DuBoisian, since authenticity is the manifestation of the thought. X actively aligns himself with DuBois throughout this narrative, despite many changes in identity.

X, Malcolm and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 1964. Print.

Accepting or Rejecting the Hegemony
Throughout his autobiography X constantly combats the hegemonies that white and black society tries to place on him. As a child, X watches his mother combat the hegemonic ideas that the government agents try to place on her and their family. After watching how that hegemonic pressure destroyed his mother, X makes sure to never be defeated by a hegemonic idea placed on him by any institution or society. Throughout his life, X tries his best to escape the cultural hegemonies that get forced onto him. His move from Lansing to Boston he recognizes as escape from cultural hegemony, " All praise is due to Allah that I went to Boston when I did. If I hadn't, I'd probably still be a brainwashed black Christian"(46). X refuses to be confined or determined by the hegemony of his environment. X recognizes the group of "'successful' Negro(s)" that he believes to be "breaking their backs trying to imitate white people"(48). This group of people he sees accepting and confirming the cultural hegemony that whites have up out for them. He does not see anything wrong with being successful, but these African Americans he sees as just trying to be white. X rejects all cultural hegemonies that society tries to place on him throughout his life.

So that's why X's title choice for his autobiography is conflicting. Even though personally X has moved on from his violent previous identity as Malcolm X, he names his personal autobiography Malcolm X rather than El Hajj-Malik El-Shabazz. In the final chapters of his life, X changes his name from Malcolm X to El Hajj-Malik El-Shabazz, transforming into his final identity. He becomes less violent and "anti-white", a complete change from his Malcolm X identity that preached white hate and thought that violence and anger was the only way that African Americans could achieve any form of equality in the United States. After visiting Mecca, X was able to realize that racism is the disease and problem in America, not all whites in America; "With racism plaguing America like an incurable cancer, the so-called 'Christian' American should be more receptive to a proven solution to such a destructive problem. Perhaps it could be in time to save America from imminent disaster"(392). So the fact that he would choose that identity over his most recent one to represent himself in his autobiography may make some people claim that he is submitting to a cultural hegemony. But I think that rather than if his acceptance of hegemony being viewed as a defeat, that by accepting this hegemony X is rejecting it. X chooses to accept the hegemony that Malcolm X represents in order to accurately portray himself. I see this as a rejection instead of an acceptance because he is choosing the hegemony rather than letting the hegemony choose him.

X, Malcolm and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 1964. Print.

Before his journey to Mecca, X had always fallen victim to the societal hegemonies he lived in. Whether in Lansing or Harlem, X was “deaf, dumb, and blind” to the pressures that controlled him and “so many of [his] black brothers” (80). “Whatever he undertakes, he commits himself to it fully, absolutely,” which in turn forces him to lose sight of the realities outside of his narrow world (359). In Mecca, where he no longer has a hegemony to submit to or mission to fully invest himself into, X expands his world and creates a new identity—one separate from his past and the Americanized Islam.

The discovery of Elijah Muhammad’s violation of the Islamic faith inspires X’s journey to Mecca. Prior to the scandal, X “remained as faithful and as selfless a servant to [Elijah Muhammad], claiming, “anything credible that I do is due to Mr. Elijah Muhammad” (336). “…After twelve years of never thinking for as much as five minutes about [himself]”, however, “[X] became finally able to think for [himself]” and not for his followers or Elijah (353). His first exposure to a world outside of the one Elijah constructs for him feels “as though [he] had just stepped out of prison” (370). Though X attacks the “integration-mad Negroes” in America, he realizes it is possible that “black men and white men truly could be brothers” (322, 419). His pilgrimage to Mecca “forced [him] to re-arrange much of [his] thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of [his] previous conclusions (391). As a result, X admits, “my pilgrimage broadened my scope. It blessed me with a new insight” (416). He rejects his notion of “hypocritical integration,” now understanding “that…true brotherhood existed among colors, where no one felt segregated, where there was no superiority complex, no inferiority complex” (395). “[He] saw all races, all colors, — blue eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans” living in complete harmony (416).
Prior to Mecca, X is guilty of not following his own teachings to his fellow black Muslims. He insists that the black race rejects subservience, however X himself struggles to do so. In Harlem, X succumbs to the “hungry, restless” hustler lifestyle with drugs and theft (126). Once converted to Islam, X submits to another hegemony, in this case to Elijah Muhammad. Only until X frees himself from such hegemonies can he fulfill his original teachings and establish his personal identity.

X, Malcolm and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 1964. Print.

Malcolm X is not truly his own person until his journey to Mecca. X is easily persuaded by his surroundings at any given time throughout the book. As a young boy in school, X gets top grades and yet is easily persuaded by his teacher, Mr. Ostrowski. When X says that he would like to become a lawyer, Mr. Ostrowski says, “you've got to be realistic about being a nigger. A lawyer - that’s no realistic goal… You need to think about something you can be” and without a fight, X moves to Boston and then Harlem and becomes a hustler (43). In Harlem, X does everything he can in order to become more white because that is what is popular in culture.

Once X is arrested and put into jail, he fully educates himself by reading a variety of books. The books he chooses to read all seem to have a common theme in that they are all books that educate people about the history of African Americans and the oppression that they went through as a result of whites. The reading list persuades X to realize that all whites are devils, an idea quite different from what he had been previously expressing. As a result of his new opinion X turns to the Nation of Islam. This sudden and dramatic change in X’s opinion makes me wonder: If X had chosen different books to read, would he have changed his opinion so dramatically and converted to the Nation of Islam? I would argue that X’s dramatic change is simply replacing one blind faith in hegemony for another as a result of being persuaded by those around him.

It is not until his journey to Mecca that X realizes that he must listen to his own experiences in order to form opinions instead of just listening to others. In Mecca, Malcolm meets unprejudiced white Muslims and reconsiders the idea that all white people are devils. X finally realizes that white racism is a product of America rather than just a genetic given that all white people are inherently evil. When he comes to Mecca he is shocked because, “true brotherhood existed among all colors” and he intends to “tell Americans this observation” (395). It is surprising to him that in countries outside of America, different races are intermingling. Had X never gained wisdom on his own, he would have never realized that maybe Elijah Muhammad or the authors from his reading list, had made a bit of an exaggeration by saying that all white people were evil. X can finally say, “In the past, yes, I have made sweeping indictments of all white people. I never will be guilty of that again - as I know that some white people are truly sincere, that some are truly capable of being brotherly toward a black man” (416). X is finally realizing that he has been easily persuaded throughout his past and it isn’t until now that he is truly authentic.

X, Malcolm and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 1964. Print.

The text allows the reader to organize X's life into distinct chapters. Laying the book out in such a way highlights X's two distinct changes through out the book; becoming a Muslim and traveling to Mecca. Mirroring the two changes allows the reader to draw similarities and consistency with X's thought processes; thus legitimize the text. During X's prison sentence he uses education to transform his life and become "truly free"(199). X's previous idea of the Black race being "covered in one paragraph" is changed by learning the Black mans "true" history through the teachings of Elijah Muhammad(201). At the beginning of the text, X accepts cruel white behavior as something that is just in their nature. When called harsh names by white children in grade school, X explained that, "in their own minds, they meant no harm; in fact they probably meant well"(32). Clearly X's early opinion of white faults is that it is usually accidental, and that they probably mean well even if it comes out foul. However, after time spent reading and learning about the Nation of Islam, X accepts a different view of white cruelty. X transforms to believing that the "white man is the devil"(185). No white person is absolved of sin, every one is guilty and evil. Mentally, X fully accepts the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, thus broadening his perspective of his own culture and heritage. By accepting the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, X also physically changes his life by no longer being a hustler, and taking a less physically active approach to life.
During X's Hajj to the holy city, X faces a mental and physical challenge yet again. First X is faced with the task of inaction. X becomes nervous while driving to the airport because he "was going to be watching others" and learning from them instead of taking action for him self. X's ability to watch and learn from others show is commitment to education and developing a mindset based on truth and first hand accounts instead of the bitter preacher that was begging to emerge. X then experiences something that was the direct opposite of what he wanted for Black people in America; assimilation. Earlier in the text, X believes that "Freedom, independence and self respect could never be achieved in America"(4). X was certain that White and Black mixing would always have the White man some how degrading the Black man; separation was the only way to thrive. However, on his trip, X sees a mingling of class and race that he had never experienced in America. X explains that "you could be a king or a peasant and no one would know"(371). The inability to see or make distinctions among people allowed them to function peacefully in society. Instead of being upset by this as the reader would assume, X shares a feeling of "love, humility, and true brotherhood"(374). X comes to the realization that different people of different backgrounds living and working together might actually have a positive effect, and that the struggle in America is due to the society and not white people as a whole. X's ability to come to this realization and try and implement it into American civilization again shows X's ability to change a stance that he once felt firmly about. Because X's opinion has been changed because of first hand experience it is clear to the reader that X is making an educated and positive change. In both changes, X has the ability to look past his previous notion of what was true, and broaden his understanding. The mirroring effect of both changes provides the reader with consistency in X's thought process, thus legitimizing both experiences.

X, Malcolm and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 1964. Print.

Final Thought by rfriedmanrfriedman, 04 Nov 2013 06:14

Jolon, I appreciate your perspective, but I’m not sure I agree. I do think that I could have used a word other than reason, but I stand by my idea that there is something to be said about the physical inability to connect with the individuals he is speaking with. Regardless to if he is using ‘reason’ when he speaks with them, X’s inability to rationalize the fact that there is this apparent technological veil separating the two parties suggests to me a sense of single-mindedness.

You brought up the moment in which X speaks about “Uncle Tom,” as one that epitomizes X’s intelligence (279). It is interesting, however, that in that moment, X fails to recognize anything beyond the fact that Uncle Tom is a “well-dressed and well-educated… professional Negro” (279, 280). To compare it to our religions class, it seems as if the conversations he has with the reporters swell his ego (perhaps because he is so angry) to the point where he cannot see past the veil he has placed between himself and the "professional negro[s]" (280). He explains "Uncle Tom's" reputation as "well-dressed and well-educated”; X discounts, or simply leaves out, Tom’s individuality and his role as a symbol for something more than "refinement and culture" (279).

Now that being said, I have a lot of respect for X. I do think that he has an ability to analyze multiple facets of a situation as shown by his extensive use of contradictions in order to set himself up for individual transformation and the moments of the ‘I passing judgment on the I’; X clearly has the ability to rationalize the events he witnesses and experiences in order to formulate his individual perspective of the world. However, I think it is interesting that in these technologically-stained moments, X’s analytical, rational (in the sense of presenting both sides of a situation and carefully explaining his opinion) side disappears, perhaps because of the supposed veil between himself and the other person.

As troubling as it is for me to support anything Daly says, I agree with him on this one. Throughout the text we've seen X throw away identity after identity, constantly changing his beliefs, his personality, his physical appearance; everything. To me it seems a core part of Malcolm X is the act of searching. It is the one thing about him that never changes. All his life he is searching for something, some truth, and every time he thinks he's found it he completely remodels himself into an image that fits with that truth. From reading the linear progression of X's life, we as the readers are more able to see the impermanence and inauthenticity of these changes. To X, each identity has been the true one, each one has been undoubtedly real. That is, until the next great truth rolls along, and now this is his true identity. I agree with Matt, that given time, X would begin to be dissatisfied with the guise of El Hajj-Malik El-Shabazz, and would shortly find himself in another "true" identity.

X attacks integration, claiming that those blacks who are "passing in white society" are "living a lie" and asking his reader to "imagine their torture"(318). While X does not try to pass as white, his descriptions of his attempts to access elements of whiteness are similar to passing as white and support his claim that passing is torment. For instance, when he gets his first conk, Shorty tells him that "it burns bad. But the longer you can stand it, the straighter the hair" (63). In order to attain straight hair, a white feature, X must endure intense pain. After he gets his conk, he describes his hair as "this thick, smooth sheen of shining red hair…as straight as any white man's" (64). Looking back on the pride that his first conk brought him, X claims that "this was my first really big step to self-degradation: when I endured all of the pain, literally burning my flesh to have it look like a white man's hair" (64). Only years later does X identify the conk as a symbol of striving for whiteness and realize that he himself was "living a lie" (318).

Pierce, I agree with your point that X dislikes pro-integration blacks as well as whites who "maintain a double-identity" and try to relate to blacks. However, I would contend that X has had several identities ("Harlemite, Detroit Red, Hustler, Minister" just to name a few), some of which denigrate his own race and many of which conflict with each other. Is X setting a higher bar for whites by delegitimizing their ability to change their attitudes towards blacks while claiming that his multiple identity shifts are completely legitimate? It seems to me that he discredits whites' efforts to educate themselves on race as dishonest, whereas he presents his own identity shifts as authentic and honorable.

In his autobiography, Malcolm X gives a truthful account of his life as an African American that he classifies as "a chronology of changes" (390). Throughout the text, X attaches himself to different identities: Malcolm Little, Detroit Red, a bibliophilic convict, and a leader of the Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam teaches him that his "enemy is the white man… the Caucasian devil slave-masters" who exist to oppress and harm all other races (289). However, after being rejected by his religious community, X makes the Hajj to Mecca and realizes a new identity as a Black Muslim of the world. Seeing that "the seeds of racism are so deeply rooted in… the [American] white subconscious" (and not the whole of the white race), he believes that this "truth" he discovers on his pilgrimage "condemns America" (409,417). He then claims a new name, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. In the final words of chapter 19, X hopes that he may die "having exposed any meaningful truth that will help to destroy the racist cancer that is malignant in the body of America," crediting Allah if he succeeds (440).

Despite his castigation of what America has become, X's autobiography embodies the fundamental American principle of self-reinvention. In the authentic pursuit of his identity, X enacts the quintessentially American process of self-discovery and starting over. He even admits to "doing some American-type thinking and reflection" to shape his final identity before his assassination (396). Perhaps if X were alive for twenty more years, he would have experienced another genuine shift in his identity. Nevertheless, his identity as a Muslim was as authentic as every other identity he took on. In the beginning, he maintains grades that “were among the highest in the school” and “was trying so hard in every way [he] could” to belong (38). While in prison, he says that after discovering his passion for reading, “in every free moment [he] has” he is reading to further his education (199). His whole-hearted commitment to each identity he adopted reflected an attachment, conscious or not, to America; He aimed to stop the "racist cancer" from killing his nation (440).

X, Malcolm, and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: The Random House Publishing Group, 1999. Print.

page »
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License