Jul 16, 2019 in Analysis

Malcolm X was a significant figure in the history of the United States. His autobiography provides the reader with an opportunity to learn much information about his life and the way African Americans lived in the middle of the twentieth century. Malcolm’s childhood and youth were full of difficulties. For example, he lost his father early and, short after that, his mother became insane, so he was separated from his brothers and sisters. Even though he was still a child, he managed not to obsess over these troubles. His grades were good enough to choose a decent profession, but at that time, the color of his skin prevented him from making any choice concerning his future career. The lack of possibilities led him to move to another city and become engaged in criminal activities. Considering that he was close to people whose lives were far from being decent, Malcolm became addicted to drugs and eventually, got into prison. His life was extremely tough, but all these events made him stronger, helped him to learn how to regain control over his life and to make a great contribution into fighting against racism.   

 

Malcolm’s childhood was extremely difficult, and it was not surprising that it leaded him to self-destructive behavior in his youth. When he described his childhood, the reader can understand that those times were really awful for the minorities. For example, he wrote that most African American parents tended to love children with light skin more than those with dark one. First, these words make the reader become astonished. It is clear that most people realize that such concept as racism is extremely terrible and its effects are negative. However, probably few people are aware of the deepness of its roots, and the fact that a parent can give more love to a child whose skin is lighter demonstrates its deepness. As the reader can see from the text, at those times, there were many children in African American families. Thus, there was a big chance that one of the children in one family has lighter skin. If parents treat this child better than others, then other children will notice it sooner or later. It will not only make them feel abandoned, but it can also be a huge stress for the rest of their lives. Firstly, they are not mature enough to understand that they are not at fault that their parents do not love them as much as they should. Secondly, even parents may not realize that they do not like children with darker skin due to the years of misery of the whole race. In the case of Malcolm, his parents’ treatment was different; his mother hated his light color of skin while his father loved him more for that. Taking into account that he remembered it, this difference was noticeable even for a small child. Therefore, since a very young age, he found out that the skin color can make people love as well as hate him. 

 

Malcolm’s family influenced him much. When his father died, all children in their family had to grow up very fast. In this situation, it is not easy for the reader to understand the behavior of his mother. He described that their family lacked money. There were two insurances, but one of the firms refused to pay them. He suspected that the reason for the refusal was the fact that they were African Americans and probably he was right. Thus, his mother stayed alone with many small children and without a job. Although she went to work, it is not very clear why she treated social workers in a bad way. As Malcolm explained, “What I later understood was that my mother was making a desperate effort to preserve her pride – and ours”. On the one hand, she made the situation worse eventually: social workers began to visit their family oftener, ask more questions, and try to find a way to make their lives more difficult. On the other hand, she showed her children what the pride was. As a result of this demonstration, Malcolm probably inherited this trait, which helped him in the future. Taking into account that his mother was in a no-win situation, she, a single woman with many children, still managed to fight with the system. It was a bright example for Malcolm. He mentioned these events for a reason; they had a deep impact on him. Thus, he probably realized that if one woman could struggle, then he had no choice but do the same. The first thing that comes to the reader’s mind concerning his mother is judgment for letting down her children. However, if to think about it, eventually, her pride influenced many people’s lives through Malcolm’s deeds. 

 

The necessity to grow up fast sharpened Malcolm’s personality. For example, he began shooting rabbits with a rifle. Afterwards he sold them to the neighbors who bought them only because they felt sorry for this poor family. Shooting is certainly not an appropriate pastime for a child. It is dangerous even for adults, not to mention children. Firstly, he could easily hurt himself. Secondly, he could hurt someone else accidentally. It was great luck that rabbits were the only victims of such entrepreneurship. Still, it had its positive sides. For example, it might help Malcolm to develop certain qualities such as attentiveness, responsibility, and masculinity. Thus, shooting was not that bad, but unfortunately, the situation of their family worsened because of Malcolm’s behavior. They had to take free food from a special depot, and children from their school found out about it. Naturally, it was embarrassing for them. At schools, children can be rather cruel, and it is true for all times. This cruelty exists in today’s schools, as well. Although today this problem remains serious and as a result of the technological progress, there appeared cyber bullying, there is a big difference as nowadays a person may get into huge trouble for any kind of racism while it was a common thing at that time. Therefore, it is easy to imagine what the members of this family felt; people despised them not only for the color of their skin, but also for their social status. People’s cruelty had a negative effect on Malcolm: “The more I began to stay away from home and visit people and steal from the stores, the more aggressive I became in my inclinations”. The poor child probably thought that if people had some right to treat him and his family as if they did something wrong, then he had the right to do something wrong, too. That is why he began stealing, which was the first step towards the criminal life.  

 

The difficult childhood made Malcolm stronger and helped him to learn how to adjust to various situations in life. The reader can observe that he got into many troubles, but there was something positive about it; these troubles were lessons which he remembered. Later in life, these lessons could be very helpful. For example, when he started to work for the first time, he earned little money. However, even being at an early age, Malcolm realized that there were various possibilities to increase the amount of the money that he had. The reader can notice that such way of thinking was rather surprising for a little boy. If he could understand such a thing as the increase of profits, even though he tried to do it via gambling. It meant that he had a huge potential and it was necessary to develop it. At that moment, he failed to get more money, but he learned a very important thing: “This was my first lesson about gambling: if you see somebody winning all the time, he is not gambling, he is cheating”. Later on, Malcolm lived in the world of gamblers, so it was beneficial that he learned that lesson earlier. In childhood, he lost a small sum of money, but if he could not determine whether a person was cheating or not, he could later lose much money and get into a dangerous situation. Probably that quick and painful lesson saved his life more than once, eventually. Moreover, he realized that cheating was necessary to survive, so he started doing it, as well. For example, when he already lived with a foster family, they went hunting rabbits. The grown-ups knew a certain strategy how to shoot a rabbit for sure, and they shared this information with Malcolm. He cheated, changed their strategy a little, and managed to catch the rabbits that the adults were supposed to catch. This move was so smart that the adults did not even realize what he did. Thus, a number of sets of circumstances taught Malcolm how to be more skilful.    

 

Malcolm blamed the authorities for destroying his family, and it had a deep impact on his future ideas. To some extent, he was right. The society of those times was rather cruel towards people who were somehow different from others. Malcolm experienced this at an early age, and that is why he blamed the authorities. Truly, his father was probably murdered because of the hatred towards African Americans. If the authorities were stricter concerning the violence towards the minorities, such situation would not happen. In this case, it is clear that nobody even tried to search for the murderers. Moreover, one of the insurance companies dared to claim that it was a suicide. Naturally, seeing the insanity of the authorities, Malcolm began to hate them, and he could not get rid of this feeling to the rest of his life. There was no possibility for African Americans to find justice, and it was unfair. Probably Malcolm blamed the authorities for making his mother go crazy, as well. On the one hand, the reader might think that the authorities could not influence the woman’s mental health in any way. On the other hand, the woman was already more underprivileged than others only because she was African American. The authorities would treat better a white woman in such a terrible situation, with so many children and without a breadwinner. Malcolm’s family did not receive the second bigger insurance only because of their skin color. Maybe his mother counted on that sum; maybe it would have sufficed for them to live better for a longer period. Malcolm did not mention the sum, but after not receiving it, the state of his mother’s health worsened very fast. Thus, the authorities did contribute to ruining his family, and that is why Malcolm began to be strongly against white people. 

 

In Malcolm’s life, there was a very offensive conversation that probably predetermined his future. His teacher asked which occupation he would like to choose. In each person’s life, such conversations are rather significant. Firstly, people tend to respect their teachers. They are aware that teachers are very intelligent people and they can give good advice. Secondly, teachers know their students well, including their strong and weak points, and their interests. Therefore, a teacher can take into account all the necessary information before giving advice concerning a student’s future occupation. Malcolm was not lucky to receive valuable advice. Of course, the teacher tried to sound friendly, but such words cannot be compared to friendliness: “But you have got to be realistic about being a nigger. A lawyer – that is no realistic goal for a nigger”. These are the most terrible words that a child can hear from someone he or she respects. On the one hand, Malcolm did not consider becoming a lawyer at that time, he said it because he did not expect this question and did not want to seem that he had no plan for the future. On the other hand, these words can hurt a person’s feelings in any case. The boy was already aware that his possibilities are limited only because he was African American. However, the fact was that they were not limited to that extent. He could try to become a lawyer, maybe he would succeed. When Malcolm described this situation, he raised a very serious problem. At that time, there were many similar teachers and many African Americans who received similar pieces of advice. Thus, racism did not only prevent the representatives of the minorities from pursuing their dreams, but it did not even let them at least try. It is difficult to imagine how much goodness the world lost because of this. There could be so many brilliant doctors, scientists, lawyers, and all of them could be useful to the society, but a teacher advised them to become carpenters or something like that. It is frustrating, but similar situations kept occurring for so many years. Surely, if there appeared more white-collar workers of African American origin earlier, then there would be fewer reasons for white people to consider them to be worse, less intelligent, and incapable to succeed. Still, later on in his life, Malcolm managed to prove that his teacher wrong. He became someone significant and influenced people’s lives instead of becoming a carpenter.    

 

When Malcolm was still very young, he saw the things that the boy of his age should not see, and it made him even more mature. He had to start earning money early, and his first job was not decent at all. When the reader finds out that he began to polish shoes, he or she may feel a little relieved that the boy found a way to earn some money. However, it turns out that the boy had to do other things such as providing people with alcohol or helping them to get in touch with a pimp. This environment is far from being normal for a teenager. Moreover, observing all of this can lead to a psychological trauma. To some extent, Malcolm managed to stay out of trouble longer than an average person would do. When the reader notices that a young boy gets into the world of gamblers and prostitutes, he or she may easily predict his future. Thus, it is possible to suppose that the boy would become addicted and die, or that he would lose a big sum of money and have to commit a crime to wipe off a debt. In general, many unpleasant things can happen to a boy who, so to say, has no parents and gets familiar with such things. Eventually, bad things happened to him; he became addicted to drugs and he got into prison. Still, it is surprising that Malcolm managed to somehow avoid these events for a long time. Moreover, he adjusted as he learned how to earn more money, and how to deal with criminals. When he had money, he did not forget to help his siblings at least a little; this deed deserves respect. It is possible to conclude that he turned out more skillful than others, as there existed the whole neighborhoods where African Americans lived even more miserable lives: “I had seen a lot, but never such a dense concentration of stumblebums, pushers, hookers, public crap-shooters, [..] just a few blocks from the White House”. Basically, African Americans had not so many options of how to live their lives at that time. Thus, most of them, like Malcolm’s family when he was a child, lived in a complete poverty; only few of them managed to live a more or less decent life while others had to be engaged in various criminal activities, which rarely leaded to something good. Although during some time Malcolm belonged to the latter group, it had some advantages in the future. He saw the worst things, and he lived among those things. Observing the bottom helped him to realize the extent of poorness of the condition of African Americans as a race at that time. 

 

When Malcolm was in prison, which was one of the most challenging periods in his life, he succeeded to get many benefits out of it, as well. Thus, it was the first time long after school when he remembered about the importance of knowledge. When he was in prison, he began reading many books and practicing in writing letters. It was very significant because before getting in prison, he mentioned that his vocabulary became rather poor. The lowering of the level of his vocabulary was natural considering types of people he dealt with. As Malcolm stated, “All of our experiences fuse into our personality. Everything that ever happened to us is an ingredient”. He was right, his life was full of various experiences and even though they were mostly negative, he succeeded in turning them into positive results. In its essence, getting into prison is far from being positive in any person’s life. Few people manage to reconsider their behavior in life. Moreover, there are many instances when after leaving prison people cannot find their place in life and choose criminal activities again, thus spending most of their life in prison. For Malcolm, this negative experience influenced his personality in a positive way. Instead of turning towards degradation, he turned towards knowledge. If he stayed the way he was before prison, he would probably fail to contribute anything into the American history.

 

To sum up, the whole Malcolm’s life was far from being easy. Since early childhood, he started to experience the consequences of being a representative of the African American race. These consequences destroyed his family and made him become self-dependent quite early. He kept getting into various troubles. Sometimes this happened because he did not try to change anything, but in most cases, it occurred because of the prosperity of many forms of discrimination at that time. As the reader can observe, Malcolm remained strong even in the most challenging situations. As a result of constant fighting with destiny, he learned how to stand up and keep moving towards his goal. If he did not manage to overcome all obstacles, his personality would not become forceful enough to fight against discrimination at that time. Everything negative that happened to him created a leadership capacity which allowed him to influence history.             

 

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