The autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, a postmodern reading

Malcolm X was born in 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. Due to the murder of his father by a group of white extremists and the commitment of his mother into a mental institute Malcolm was forced to drop out of school and venture into a life of crime. For a few years he moved from city to city changing several jobs. He was a shoe polisher, a dish washer, and a train waiter. Later he became a hustler and after that he started robbing rich white people’s houses, but was caught  and sentenced to ten years in prison. There he found a new religion and most important of all, a new way of life, The Nation of Islam.

The novel is postmodern in the sense that it focuses on subjectivism of the author, who sees the world he lives in through the filters of past experiences, and continuously changes his perspectives. This is possible as the novel can be read as a bildungsroman. For instance Malcolm view in racism.

As a young child after seeing he`s parents destroyed by white society, he feels despair about the plight of blacks. But his attitude changes  after he spends a few years in the Boston ghettos. He starts to believe that black people should not accept help from white people as the black community can take care of its own.

However after he joins the ranks of the Nation of Islam, as a minister, he`s rebellious philosophy transforms into hatred towards white people. He`s beliefs go as far as he doesn`t allow nobody outside the Islamic black community interfere or try to help with the problems he is confronted. Later, after he travels to the middle east he breaks from Elija Muhhamad`s religious organization. The reason is seeing the pilgrimage of Mecca. Malcolm now thinks that blacks will be successful in their strugle for equal rights if they identify themselves with opressed people around the world.   Furthermore, he denounces he`s previous statement : “By any means necessary”.

From this point of view we can consider that the entire white/black racial problem is a postmodern one, not only as a literary experience but as a real life approach. The main promoters of black rights, in the 1960`s are Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. They have two different attitudes towards the Civil Rights Movement. While King stresses the unity of society by integration, Malcolm X fights for disunity, for pan-africanism, and for black nationalism. He seeks to develop a subculture which functions separately from the white world.

Another past experiences that changes him are the hustling years in New York.  But the development of his character undergoes slightly different changes. Even though he gives up his vices he retains a set of skills and values that help him later to craft his public image or to distrust the people around him. It`s a means to survive in America`s racist society.

One of the most important aspects of the novel is how white people perceive the black community and how in return how the African Americans tried to integrate but ended up responding hatred with hatred. I think this part emphasizes the role of Malcolm X as a political figure more than spiritual one.

In his autobiography Malcolm X often says that white people view blacks as subhuman. The ones that don`t, and treat him nicely are doing so as though he was a poodle. In turn Malcolm tries in return to dehumanize them as revenge. One example is his girlfriend from Boston, Sophia, although in this case it`s more than a case of vendetta as Sophia becomes a status symbol. It`s a reversed view of the 19th century slave owners, whose wealth was measured in the number of blacks they owned.

But Malcolm`s hatred for white people has even deeper roots.  When he was a child because he was fairly light-skinned, his father treated him differently than he did to his siblings.  This razes the issue of hierarchy in society which he thinks is based on skin colour rather  than personality or achievement.

Later, when he was in school, he was promoted to class president, but he says that this happened because he was a mascot of how blacks should be not because the administration thought that he was worthy.  This shows the degradation to an object that services someone’s goals.

This led Malcolm to hate all the white people. He thought the only way to win against such prejudices is to fight with the same weapons. He became a civil rights promoter, in the revolutionary sense proposing hatred and, if the case, violence. At one point he suggested that the American government create a autonomous black state, where all the African Americans could relocate and run things their own way. Even though later he changed he`s beliefs, at that point he was more of a political figure, than a spiritual guide.

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