The Autobiography of Malcolm X

by Malcolm X, Alex Haley

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Why is Malcolm X considered a role model?

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First, many people look up to Malcolm X as a role model because he was able to raise himself up from a life of poverty and criminality, transcending his beginnings. Born Malcolm Little, he was sentenced to ten years in prison for stealing and breaking and entering. In prison, he remade himself from the ground up through hard work and determination. He taught himself to read by copying out the entire dictionary. He became a member of the Nation of Islam, a religious group that rejected whites as the devil, and renamed himself Malcolm X. Through the dint of what was largely his own will and effort, he became an upright, law-abiding individual and a national leader in the Nation of Islam movement.

Malcolm X is also role model because he had the courage of his convictions. He called life as he saw it and wasn't afraid to change his beliefs if his experience challenged what he thought he knew. For example, near the end of his life, he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. There, for the first time ever, he saw whites and blacks coexisting in harmony. This profoundly moving experience caused him to begin to reevaluate his ideas that all whites were evil.

One may disagree with some of Malcolm X's ideas or utterances, but it is hard not to admire a person who so wholly turned his life around and was true to what he believed.

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Malcolm X a Role Model?

Why do people look up to Malcolm X as being a role model, when he shows the total opposite of a role model in his autobiography?

I'm not sure there can be an opposite of a role model. What I might consider to be the perfect role model might be considered a horrible choice for someone else. For instance, a lot of young people look to Marilyn Manson as a role model of the iconoclast, who bends all the accepted societal norms. I, however, think he is a lunatic who gets too much attention.

Malcolm X spoke to a generation of people who were tired of being treated as nonpersons and who were willing to fight for their human rights. As such, he was and still is a role model for many.

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I agree with Jamie.  Malcolm X and MLKJ wanted the same things, they just didn't agree on the method or the swiftness of the action.

People may look up to Malcolm X because he didn't sit too long and brood, he acted.  He believed in actions and that they speak louder than words.  He is right, but unfortunately the consequences of his actions and the methods he used did more to harm his cause than help it.

Still, some people subscribe to the the adage:  DO SOMETHING, EVEN IF IT'S WRONG. LEAD, FOLLOW, OR GET OUT OF THE WAY.

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A role model is a person who follows rhetoric with action; one who is able to lead others to institute change; one whose actions we can understand if not applaud.  While the Civil Rights movement had two strong leaders with disparate approaches, the mix eventually became a palatable one for social change. 

For many people, especially African Americans in the 1960s, Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little) represented a way to actively eradicate oppression.  While Dr. King was preaching passive resistance, Malcolm X advocated active, even violent, overthrow.  Dr. King, in Malcolm's opinion, was correct in his powerful argument, "Justice delayed is justice denied."  But unlike King, Malcolm X was not willing to wait any longer for equality, for he believed that whites would never give up their supremacy.  "Power never takes a back step - only in the face of more power," he insisted.  Anger, real, burning anger, would be necesary to ignite social change.  Sitting still in diners and boycotting bus routes did not, in Malcolm's opinion, strike the flint of anger strongly enough. 

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