Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Autobiography of Malcolm X as Told to Alex Haley

The Autobiography of Malcolm X as Told to Alex Haley
Published 1965

I am not going to water this down: this book made me furious.  For sixteen out of nineteen chapters I was raging MAD.  Up through that sixteenth chapter, this was the most hate-filled, racist book I had ever read - even more than Mein Kampf.   This book is burning with hatred for whites, Christians, America, successful blacks, and even women.

Malcolm X was born in Nebraska, 1925, and life for him and his family was clearly unjust from the very start.  However, he was intelligent, sharp, quick-witted, and at the top of his classes; but when a teacher discouraged him from a career in law, he discarded his dream.  After moving to Boston to live with his older half-sister, he quit school (15-years old) and worked numerous jobs, some of which he lost due to his hot temper.  Instead, he invested in his social life, personal appearance, music, drugs, and eventually hustling.  He even had a white girlfriend as a status symbol.

Soon, his hustling and house burglary caught up with him, and he was sentenced to ten years (but served seven), although he said his harsh punishment was really because he had a white girlfriend.  It was in prison that Malcolm X transformed himself.  He copied the dictionary, teaching himself to read and write, and spent the remainder of his prison term self-educating by reading books from the prison library.

During his time in prison, Malcolm became a follower of Elijah Mohammad, "a Messenger of Allah," from the Nation of Islam, a man-made religion and forgery of the Arabic Islamic religion.  I am just going to say this plainly: the Nation of Islam is definitely of Satan.  This hate-filled, racist, rebellious movement against white Christian America was very attractive to broken men like Malcolm X.

The Nation of Islam relieved blacks of any responsible for their lives of poverty, crime, drugs, drunkenness, or prison.  The devil race (white America) designed the system so that black Americans had to depend on them. The devil race made it difficult for black Americans to get out of poverty or the ghetto or into business or worthy careers.  Yet, if a black man or woman was educated and out of the ghetto, they were called Uncle Toms, seeking approval from the devil race.

While in prison, Malcolm maintained correspondence with Elijah Mohammad, and when he was released, they worked together, opening temples all over the nation, reaching black Americans with the message: embrace your black identity, know your black history, stand up for yourself, and stop appeasing the devil race, your enemy.  Because of Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam spread rapidly and grew strong, but Malcolm always gave credit to Mohammad.  He worshipped the Messenger.

Imagine his shock and dismay when he learned that the "innocent, harmless, gentle little infallible lamb," "the Messenger of god," had several adulterous affairs and fathered four children.  Yet, the man who punished other NOI members for their adultery would not be rebuked himself. Furthermore, Malcolm X began receiving rumors that Mohammad was speaking disrespectfully about him, and even threatening his life.

About the same time, three chapters to the end of the story, Malcolm pondered the simplicity of pure Arabic Islam, and he decided to take a pilgrimage to Mecca.  His life changed drastically. Being a black Muslim from America, Malcolm X was treated like royalty.  He met heads of state and world leaders.  Everyone wanted to meet him and talk to him.  He was a novelty.  Meanwhile, he was shocked to find Muslims of every color worshipping together, as race was not a concern or issue.

In Mecca, he began to understand that race was not the problem, but American society made race an issue.  In other words, (and this is what REALLY upset me) Malcolm had wrongly believed that white people were automatically racist, and he could not accept or understand whites who wanted to join the movement to end racism.  He rejected them assuming they were inherently racist. Now he came to see "it isn't the American white man who is a racist, but it's the American political, economic, and social atmosphere that automatically nourishes racist psychology in the white man (and I would add today, in everyone)."  He agreed,
American society makes it next to impossible for humans to meet in America and not be conscious of their color differences.  And [he] agreed that if racism could be removed, America could offer a society where rich and poor could truly live like human beings.
It was because of what he experienced in Mecca that softened his heart and opened it to all people of different colors and different religions and no religion at all.  He found his new mission was "to make the Human Family and the Human Society complete" (which sounds like a hippie utopia to me, but it was a lot better than what he was spewing).

When Malcolm X returned from his very long pilgrimage, he officially left the Nation of Islam and started his own Black Nationalist organization, keeping his Muslim religion.  (Of course, the NOI website claims that Malcolm X separated from NOI over "confusion" of Elijah Mohammad's "private life;" and that the U.S. government played a role in the assassination of Malcolm X.  - They are so full of it! -  The killers were from NOI, sent by the wicked corrupt man who called himself a Messenger of god.)

Malcolm continued to build up and encourage the black community, although he still expected government to deal with some race issues.  He also believed in violence, if other options did not work, even if others were harmed in the process.

At the end of his biography, he talked of his readiness to die, and I suppose that was heavy on his mind because, like I said, he heard the rumors and knew his life was in danger.  So it is eerie that  in 1965 he was assassinated during one of his temple meetings.  He was shot 21 times by three men, and died probably before he arrived at the hospital.

Keeping Racism Alive in America

Racism is big business in America.  Maintaining an emotionally charged, agitated, and divided electorate over race is what garners votes and keeps one major political party in power.

Malcolm X touched on this briefly toward the end of his autobiography.  One political party panders exclusively to black Americans, keeping them dependent on government; yet, they never make their lives better.  This party tells black America that their socio and economic problems are not their fault or responsibility, nor can they help themselves.

If you didn't know better, you would think slavery ended yesterday and America was still segregated. Selfish, greedy self-interest groups, and the aforementioned political party, use hatred and division for political purpose and power.  Racism is conveniently applied to all areas of American culture and society.  It is as if racism has gotten worse; but if you examine it, you will see that it is devised, exaggerated, and unfounded.

Life for black Americans has drastically changed for the better since Malcolm X's time. Unfortunately, racism is still used for political gain, and, by design, has generated resentment and restlessness, further perpetuating hatred and violence, preventing Americans from moving forward and realizing the ideal that Malcolm X imagined for America:
a society where rich and poor could truly live like human beings.
"The Ballot or the Bullet"

On April 3, 1964, Malcolm X gave his famous "The Ballot or the Bullet" speech, on the upcoming election.  Here is a portion of that speech:
The government itself has failed us, and the White Liberals who have been posing as our friends have failed us.  Once we see that all these other sources to which we have turned have failed, we stop turning to them and start turning to ourselves.
Your are the one who sent Kennedy to Washington.  You're the one who put the present Democratic administration in Washington, D.C.  The Whites were evenly divided.  It was the fact that you threw 80% of your votes behind the Democrats that put the Democrats in the White House.  When you see this, you can see that the Negro vote is the key factor.  And despite the fact that you are in a position to be the determining factor, what do you get out of it? 
Democrats have been in Washington, D.C. only because of the Negro vote.  they've been down there four years and all the legislation they wanted to bring up they brought up and got it out of the way, and now they bring up you.  You put them first and they put you last, cause you are a chump.  A political chump. 
The party that you backed, controls two-thirds of the House of Representatives and the Senate and still they can't keep their promise to you, 'cause you're a chump. 
After Malcolm X left NOI, he recommitted to the task of teaching black Americans to work for themselves and help each other in their communities. He believed the race problem in America was not a Civil Rights issue, which the government could fix, but was a human problem that needed black people everywhere to organize and be involved.   Only they could solve their own problems.

Racism is not going to totally disappear anywhere on earth unless it is dealt with at the heart of the problem - in the heart of individuals and families and communities.  And it will never go away so long as political parties continue to use race for gain, and - in America's case - black Americans continue looking to a political party to provide for and lift them up.  Instead, they must believe in and do for themselves.

On a Long Personal, Political Rant Note

The reason I bring this up is because I see the destruction that greedy perpetuation of racism causes. It angers me that the Democrat party in America has gained from its deception about race and the Republican party.

Racism is illegal in America; all discrimination to prevent anyone from education, employment, housing, and other benefits has been removed.  All Americans have access to free public education. Lower economic classes may apply for financial aid to attend community colleges, universities, or trade schools.  One may even work hard in high school and earn a scholarship for higher education.

Every American has a right and obligation to do something.  Don't just sit there and be a victim. Go out and find work or start a business.  Work hard.  Be a leader.  Stop complaining. Stop making excuses.  Maybe it's not someone else's fault; maybe you need an attitude adjustment.  Stay away from drugs and alcohol, don't have sex out of wedlock, finish high school, and contribute to society. For a long time, this was the message of the Republican party - a message that was deemed racist by Democrats and other groups that benefited from crippling black America into another form of slavery.

Black Americans were Republicans since the 1860's because Republicans ended slavery and encouraged black Americans to fit into society.  But blacks switched parties during the Great Depression, even though FDR's policies coaxed peopled into dependency on government. (Once you get on government, it's hard to get off.)  The Democrat party has benefitted from continuing these policies, and much of black America is still dependent on that party to make something happen.  My argument is, black America must stop looking to government, period, and make changes themselves. I believe this is part of the message Malcolm X had, as well.

Honestly, I can't speak for today's Republican party anymore because it has morphed into the Democrat party. By the way, that guy Donald Trump is NOT a Republican, either.  The Republican party is not very conservative now.  All I know is this: if I lived during the Civil War, I would have been a Radical Republican, a proud Abolitionist!!

All men are equal in God's sight, and skin color has nothing to do with race.  We are all one human race.  The most important human traits are your character, how you treat your neighbor, and what is in your heart.

P.S.  And my message to anyone (Hispanics, too) who thinks he is not considered American because he is not white: that is a lie, too.  Dump it, and don't let it define you.  If you are a legal American citizen, that is enough. Your skin color does not determine if you are American.  If you even love this country, you are American, in my book.

P.S.S.  If you are curious how it came to be that we are different skin tones, here is a video (Answers in Genesis) that provides a biblical explanation on how this may have occurred.  It's short and interesting. 


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  3. I don't know why my comment appeared twice. I just wanted to say that your review was so thought provoking. Isn't it interesting how the two men you read about recently are so different. I wonder what Bonhoeffer's reaction would be. He loved working in Harlem and was very successful. I had to read this Autobiography for school years ago and I was supposed to teach it to high school juniors. I wouldn't.

    1. I don't know why the comments are repeating, but it looks like this one worked.

      I'm so glad you brought up Bonhoeffer. I had to remove that part of my post on Christianity b/c it was way too long. However, I noted that Bonhoeffer visited Harlem and found African American churches were the only ones he could hear the gospel and see real results. And the white churches he called charitable or social churches that forgot to talk about the cross, sin, death, life, forgiveness and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

      Bonhoeffer also said that Jews had it better in Germany than African Americans did in America. He was extremely sensitive to the racism that he witnessed in the American South during his visits in the 30s.

      Curious: what did you teach in place of Malcolm X?

  4. Interestingly I was able to choose Gifted Hands the Ben Carson book. A polar opposite to Malcolm X. More accessible and so positive. Ben Carson lived in the county where I taught and I had two students on whom he had performed brain surgery. The parents loved him.

  5. Interestingly I was able to choose Gifted Hands the Ben Carson book. A polar opposite to Malcolm X. More accessible and so positive. Ben Carson lived in the county where I taught and I had two students on whom he had performed brain surgery. The parents loved him.

  6. Your analysis is correct. Racism (white v. black, and black v. white) continues as a pernicious disease in the world. Perhaps Malcolm X would have been better served in his formative years by three of my favorites: Bible, William Blake, and Flannery O'Connor.
    v/r Charles

  7. It is the phenomenal collection of memoirs, It clear a few certainties and give parcel of data. a debt of gratitude is in order for the offer.
    Oswaal Books

  8. Interesting review. I've always wanted to read this. I feel like biography is a weak area for me. History used to be a huge interest of mine, but other than context for some of the literary works I read, I've sort of let it fall by the wayside.

    1. It's an emotionally powerful read.

      I love biographies (and history, too). It was novels (fiction) that tripped me up. But now I enjoy them.

  9. I finally finished my review. Thanks so much for encouraging me to stick it out until the end. Most of this book was so difficult to read. The hatred in it was appalling and in spite of his altered views at the end, I do not see how he could be viewed as a black American icon. I can only believe that he did much more damage than good. He was beginning to see the ignorance of his original views at the end of his life, and I wonder how much he would have come around. I can't help but think there was an instability and perhaps a little paranoia within his character. And perhaps the drugs he admitted taking like food earlier in life affected him mentally. It was all very sad. His views and some of the response to him was a sad commentary on human society.

    1. True. He could trust no one, it seemed. I understand how difficult and unfair his environment was growing up, and I am sure it shaped who he was and how he saw people. Drugs could have affected his mental ability, too.

      I do wonder how his views would have progressed, or if he would have changed, had he been able to live longer on this earth.