Discuss the implications of freedom from the following quote in The Autobiography of Malcolm X: "Everyday, I cleared at least fifty or sixty dollars. In those days (or for that matter these days)....
Discuss the implications of freedom from the following quote in The Autobiography of Malcolm X: "Everyday, I cleared at least fifty or sixty dollars. In those days (or for that matter these days). this was a fortune to a 17 year old Negro. I felt, for the first time in my life, that great feeling of free!"
There are a couple of points to make about the quote featured. The first one is that the quote embodies what Malcolm will end up describing as an illusion of freedom for African- Americans. Essentially, this amounts to people of color, specifically African- Americans in the 1940s and 1950s, believing that they have freedom because of the small amount of cash and disposable income they are earning in their jobs and being able to spend it freely on consumable items such as going out "on the town," alcohol, sex, and/ or drugs. Malcolm is arguing that while this appears to be freedom, it is actually fitting into the design that those in the position of power have for people of color, specifically African- Americans. As opposed to taking that money and investing it in the community, or in development of African- American businesses, or using it to generate an economic subculture that can wield economic and political power to advance the cause of African- American equality, Malcolm X's quote hits at the idea that the pursuit of "freedom" actually is one that is more a pursuit of imprisonment because it prevents people of color from fully recognizing what is important in terms of how money is spent. For Malcolm X, such a statement is a depiction of the illusion of freedom and not a real exercise of it.
The second point to make here is that Malcolm X is equating youth and freedom with one another. In Malcolm's mind, a 17 year old views freedom in a narrow manner. Making money, spending it freely, and not planning for the future with it are all parts of this conception of freedom. It is a youthful phase, one in which there must be maturation and a sense of planning for the future should any real and substantive notion of power arise. The quote is a reflection of how Malcolm, himself, has matured in his recollections. It helps to substantiate the idea that his work is not merely a remembrance of his own life, but rather a narrative or a blue print in which one can fully understand their own state of being through recognizing his own. In the quote, Malcolm seeks to forge connection, to bring about a sense of understanding between the life he used to lead and the one being led by a reader of the book who might be living the same kind of life that Malcolm once led.