Masterplots II: African American Literature The Autobiography of Malcolm X Analysis - Essay

Malcolm X, Alex Haley

Masterplots II: African American Literature The Autobiography of Malcolm X Analysis

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Malcolm X’s main theme was that racism was an inescapable fact of American life. He pointed out that white European immigrants had no trouble becoming integrated into the American population upon arrival, but African Americans were still treated like outsiders even after their ancestors had lived in the country for hundreds of years. He regarded white men as inherently evil and wanted African Americans to give up hopes of becoming integrated into the American mainstream. Instead, he believed that African Americans should establish their own autonomous enclaves and possibly their own independent nation on the North American continent.

Malcolm X fervently wanted separation from white society and white culture. He advised African Americans to refuse to participate in what he called “white man’s wars,” such as the wars in Korea and Vietnam. He believed that African American sympathies should be with nonwhite nations that were resisting white imperialism.

The Christian religion based on humility and brotherly love had been a source of survival for African Americans during slavery and after emancipation. Malcolm X called on African Americans to repudiate Christianity as a “slave religion” foisted on subject peoples to keep them subservient. This aspect of his teaching was in diametrical opposition to that of many black Christian ministers throughout the land, including Martin Luther King, Jr., who preached patience, tolerance, understanding, and passive rather than active resistance.

In one of his speeches, Malcolm told his audience:You can’t hate Africa and not hate yourself. This is what the white man knows. So they make you and me hate our African identity. . . . We hated our heads, we hated the shape of our nose, we wanted one of those long dove-like noses, you know; we hated the color of our skin, hated the blood of Africa that was in our veins. And in hating our features and our skin and our blood, we had to end up hating ourselves.

His message seemed calculated to put white Americans on the defensive, which was exactly what it did. Some white Americans began to feel guilty about feelings of superiority and hostility they had always taken for granted. They began trying to justify themselves and found that their position was not only unjustifiable but also ridiculous. They had to acknowledge the truth reiterated by Malcolm X, that African Americans were not lazy and shiftless but the victims of blatant discrimination.

In some of his speeches, Malcolm expressed his anger with even greater bitterness and made it clear that he advocated nothing less than interracial warfare. At the time of his death, he seemed to be groping his way toward a vision of African Americans as leaders of a worldwide revolution based on Marxist-Leninist principles. Many believed that he was being used by Soviet-directed Communists as a tool to undermine American prestige and morale, and it has often been suggested that he was assassinated for that reason.