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In "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," why did the insurance company refuse to pay off...

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dwightgreene | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 30, 2011 at 10:37 AM via web

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In "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," why did the insurance company refuse to pay off the life insurance policy of Malcolm's father?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 30, 2011 at 7:14 PM (Answer #1)

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The insurance company refuses to pay out its policy for Mrs. Little because they believe that Mr. Little killed himself.  They refuse to accept the fact that Malcolm's father's murder was perpetrated by the Klan and White men in the community.  Rather, the argument that is put forth is that Earl Little killed himself.  Despite the gruesome murder and the obvious signs that he was, for all practical purposes, lynched, the insurance company refuses to pay because it is not ruled a homicide, leaving the door open for it being a suicide.  The significance is telling.  The first is that Malcolm's narrative, at an early age, involves violence against people of color at the hands of White America.  This is in stark contrast to the emerging narrative of someone like Dr. King, who experiences racism at an acute level as a child when kids make fun of him.  This is a more pointed and brutal experience of racism, especially when considering how Earl Little was murdered.  Another element that emerges is how White America uses its position of power over people of color to manipulate and deny them basic opportunity and a sense of institutional fairness.  Malcolm X is not afraid of calling out the insurance company's deceit as similar to the physical violence the family endured.  In both conditions, people of color are under siege from White America, and this instant early on in the narrative helps to set the stage for what will be experienced throughout the autobiography.

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