In regards to The Autobiography of Malcolm X, do you think that issues of race and equality are central issues in the US today?
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I think that these sorts of issues are no longer the most important issues in the United States today. In the time that Malcolm X was writing, discrimination against black people was much more stark and had much more of an impact than it does today. Because this has decreased, issues of race are much less important today.
This is not to say that we do not have racial problems. However, more of the racial problems are really economic problems. Blacks and other minorities who make it into the middle and upper classes can have lives that would have been hard to imagine for minorities 50 years ago. The most obvious example of this is the fact that we have a president who is half black.
The problems that look racial are really more economic. We do not know how to improve education in poor areas. We do not know how to make good jobs available to poor people in the inner cities. This is not because of race, it is because of our lack of knowledge about how to solve problems.
I would agree that they are important issues today, but not central ones. That is, they are not the center of the public's attention by any means. A number of possible reasons for this may include:
1) Just as in the 1930s when the US was in desperate economic straits, people are much more concerned with personal economics than race relations. Yes, the 30s were a much more racist (and segregated) time, I understand, but my point is that we don't pay much attention to social issues when we are economically struggling.
2) Race fatigue - The vast majority of people do not consider themselves racist or prejudiced, even if some of thier actions or words could be construed that way, and even if they tend to self-segregate in their circles of friends and where they live. But the 2008 election had a lot of racial undertones to it, both in the historical moment of our first African-American President, and in the anti-Obama rhetoric thrown his direction that often looked and sounded like racism. I think Americans are tired of the discussion on race, especially now that the injustices of MLK's time are not so present and glaring.
Whilst I think race and equality issues are still vitally important today, I do not think they should be centre stage - other issues have perhaps rightly taken precedence. I think we need to recognise the very different situation in which America is in nowadays. Having a black president, for example, is just one symbol of how far we have moved on since the time of Malcolm X. This is not to say that his ideas are not important any more, but it is to identify the very different context in which we live today - thanks partly to the work of so many race activists such as Malcolm X.
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