The Autobiography of Malcolm X Essay

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

1. This movie is almost twenty years old. Why is this still relevant to race relations in America?

            This movie is still relevant today for a variety of important reasons.  Some people believe now that Barack Obama is President that the problems of race relations no longer exist.  This is a troubling attitude because it ignores generations of racial tensions and discrimination of blacks by white America.  Furthermore, this movie demonstrates that ‘blackness’ is not a monolithic entity.  Malcolm X was first Malcolm Little and the life of Malcolm X shows that people embody different identities as they mature.  For this reason we need to see that black people come from all over the world and have a variety of beliefs, ethnicities and politics that change over time, as evidenced by Malcolm X’s changing attitude toward race relations as he took his pilgrimage to Mecca.

2. What was the mood of Malcolm X when he shared food with a white man in Mecca?
While in Mecca, Malcolm X realized how his views of race relations had been limited by his blind hatred for ‘The White Man.’  When he was sharing food with a white man in Mecca, Malcolm realized that the power structure in America was not necessarily a global phenomenon and that white people were capable of being generous and kindhearted with black people in a different environment than segregated America.  His mood turned from hatred toward an attitude aimed at understanding.

3. Malcolm X is a great American for many reasons. He fought the pervasive trend of applied bigotry with the power of words and right living. He is also a stellar example of the fact that you cannot defeat prejudice and hypocrisy with prejudice and hypocrisy. He loved and was, by all accounts, faithful to his wife. Tell me why you think that Malcolm X is important to a study of twentieth century history. Note: If you think that Malcolm X is important to study because he is an example of how not to live or you want to take an opposite approach, this is completely acceptable as well.

            Malcolm X is both an example of how to live and how not to live.  He is an example of how to live because he stood up for what he believed in, he fought racial bigotry in the name of justice, and he was a loving and devoted human being, both to his family and to his race, and eventually to his country.  He is a shining example of how not to live because he initially fought hatred and racism with hatred and racism.  As his life proves, hate breeds hate and this was the cause of his ultimate demise.  The fact that we are still talking about him and learning about his life shows how diabolical a figure he was.

4. Taking class identity (chapter 3) into account, what did this movie represent for you?

            This movie represents how much class identity is intertwined with racial identity.  As the book demonstrates, both race and class are social constructs, they are not natural facts of life.  Malcolm X came from a poor neighborhood ghetto where life was tough and unfair and where life expectancy was very short.  He fought to escape his social condition and was quite successful, even though he ultimately was assassinated for his beliefs.  This represents that although we are born into a certain class and we can adopt a particular class identity, we are still able to cross these boundaries in our lives because they are social constructs that take acceptance to function; if we refuse to accept the definitions that people place on us, we can create a new identity based on our own personal convictions and aspirations.

5. Chapter 4 talks about power and racism. Racism is classified as overt, institutional, and Jim Crow. All were present in the movie `Malcolm X` (pg. 165). Is there a different kind of racism that permeates today’s multicultural experience? If so what might it be?

            This is a difficult question to give a definite answer to.  As Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, institutionalized power still had a tendency to be racist, despite the public relations effort to show otherwise.  We can also see a different kind of power discrimination that affects not only blacks, but also other minorities such as Hispanics, Muslims, and GLBT communities.  We can still see economic inequality and segregation going on in our cities and we can also witness that the majority of the wealthy Americans are white.  Of course there are rich minorities, but there is a severe difference between the rich and the wealthy, and between the poor and the middle class.  Racism and discrimination are less overt as the days of Jim Crow, but our country still suffers from bigotry and ignorance.