The Autobiography of Malcolm X

by Malcolm X, Alex Haley
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Why did Shorty pass out in court? 

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Shorty passes out in court because he does not know what the term "concurrently" means.  As the counts and sentences are read aloud, Shorty hears them and becomes overwhelmed:  "Shorty,sweating so hard that his black face looked as though it had been greased, and not understanding the word "concurrently," had counted in his head to probably over a hundred years; he cried out, he began slumping. The bailiffs had to catch and support him."  It is in this acknowledgement where Shorty passes out in court.

Malcolm details this episode to depict the level of harshness that is displayed towards he and Shorty.  Their crime was not perceived as burglary as much as being with "White women."  Another reason he relays this episode is to depict how intense sentences are so easily issued to men of color, a disproportionate reality that is present in the criminal justice system.  Malcolm also uses this episode to show how challenged many men of color find themselves in the legal system.  Shorty does not know what the term "concurrently" means and yet he is on trial.  Shorty's lack of understanding causes him to pass out.  In the process, the small episode demonstrates many of Malcolm's point in terms of what is wrong with American society in relation to people of color.

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