The Autobiography of Malcolm X

by Malcolm X, Alex Haley
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What is Malcolm X's view of white women?

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Though it is hard to be perfectly certain of the views Malcolm X held regarding white women, his autobiography provides glimpses of the opinions he held throughout various periods of his life. Of course, like many of his beliefs, these views were subject to change as he aged.

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Though it is hard to be perfectly certain of the views Malcolm X held regarding white women, his autobiography provides glimpses of the opinions he held throughout various periods of his life. Of course, like many of his beliefs, these views were subject to change as he aged.

We can gain deeper insight into his views of white women as a young man by reading about his relationship with "Sophia." Sophia was a young white woman he periodically dated after meeting her on the dance floor of the Roseland.

The following excerpt details Malcolm's initial impressions of Sophia:

Now at that time, in Roxbury, in any black ghetto in America, to have a white woman who wasn't a known, common whore was--for the average black man, at least--a status symbol of the first order. And this one, standing there, eyeing me, was almost too fine to believe. Shoulder-length hair, well built, and her clothes had cost somebody plenty. (Page 70)

It can be assumed from his favorable description of Sophia's appearance that he did find white women physically attractive. Later in the book (and quite some time later), Malcolm goes on to describe another white woman as "beautiful," so we can safely assume that his attraction to white women was not an isolated event with Sophia.

This particular excerpt also reveals Malcolm's acknowledgement of the role white women played in the lives of black men at that time. According to him, a "respectable" white woman who was romantically interested in a black man was seen as a status symbol and something to aspire to. Malcolm echoes this same sentiment many times throughout the book, so he was very well aware of how black men, if not even himself, viewed white women.

As Malcolm proceeds to date Sophia (even after she gets married), we can read how his friends and associates almost admired him for having achieved what many of them merely dreamed of. Though it is not explicitly noted by Malcolm, it can be assumed that his relationship with Sophia was a source of pride. He was quite aware of the positive buzz he created when he brought Sophia around his friends, and it seemed to be something he was greatly entertained by:

I paraded her. The Negro men loved her.(Page 71)

Outside of Malcolm's reflections of Sophia, it is not always clear which opinions of white women are his own opposed to the opinions of others. The book has a habit of blurring the lines between personal ideology and social observations, so it is often difficult to be sure of how Malcolm felt. All the same, it can be assumed that Malcolm adopted or at least reflected upon the opinions of others. For instance, the following excerpt details Malcolm's recollection of conversations he'd had with Sammy about white women and their alleged motivations for dating black men:

And Sammy and I had thoroughly discussed the black man and white woman psychology. I had Sammy to thank that I was entirely prepared for Sophia's marriage.

Sammy said that white women were very practical; he had heard so many of them express how they felt. They knew that the black man had all the strikes against him, that the white man kept the black man down, under his heel, unable to get anywhere, really. The white woman wanted to be comfortable, she wanted to be looked upon with favor by her own kind, but also she wanted to have her pleasure. So some of them just married a white man for convenience and security, and kept right on with the Negro, but they were in love with lust--particularly "taboo" lust. (Page 99)

This is one instance when Malcolm agrees with someone else's view of white women. Malcolm likely believed what Sammy had told him, or else he wouldn't have taken Sophia's marriage nearly as well.

Here we can also see that white women are being portrayed as individuals who are capable of acknowledging social injustice, yet are uninterested in trading their social status or reputation in order to put an actual stop to it. Additionally, Malcolm suggests that white women are primarily motivated by lust as opposed to actual love.

Neither of these opinions are particularly positive, so this could be considered a point in Malcolm's life when his "relationship" with Sophia no longer brings him joy. It could cause us to wonder why Malcolm would continue to see Sophia when he was aware of the fact that he was being used.

Malcolm's view of Sophia (and white women in general) noticeably sours as time goes on, which can be evidenced by this particular excerpt:

The irony is that those white women had no more respect for those Negroes than white men have had for the Negro women they have been "using" since slavery times. And, in turn, Negroes have no respect for the whites they get into bed with. I know the way I felt about Sophia, who still came to New York whenever I called her. (Page 124)

Malcolm's relationship with Sophia goes from being exciting and pride-inspiring to being an association of mere convenience. This excerpt seems to confirm the notion that Malcolm did not respect Sophia, even though he had continued to associate with her. He then goes on to make many disparaging remarks about the white race as a whole, claiming that they have the "world's lowest morals."

Malcolm's decision to continue seeing Sophia may reflect that he'd accepted his opinion that he was only being used to satisfy Sophia's "lust." However, it could also be argued that he had then resolved to use her as well. His decision to involve Sophia in the robberies that would later take place are good evidence of this. At one point, Malcolm actually admits that Sophia and her sister were like "keys" to the city; granting him access to places he could never go on his own. This solidifies the idea that Malcolm did not love or respect Sophia anymore than she did him. Instead, he only viewed her as a convenient trophy that could help him get what he wanted.

There are many other instances in the autobiography that shed light on Malcolm's opinion of white women and men, many of which change as he ages. By the end of his life, Malcolm had amended many of his previously extreme views of the white race and racial relations in America.

On pages 436–437, Malcolm reflects upon instances of regret. He expresses sorrow over his harsh treatment and low opinion of some of the white individuals he'd encountered during his life, and he acknowledged that some of them genuinely wanted to help improve racial tensions. Malcolm had also changed his views on interracial marriage, noting that it was a "personal matter" that each individual person should determine for themselves. This may suggest that he no longer vilified white women the way he once had.

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