Malcolm X is regarded as one of the most prominent figures of the civil rights era during the 1950’s and 60’s. His controversial views challenged the mainstream civil rights movement as he opposed integration as championed by MLK and urged his followers to challenge white aggression by any means necessary. His positive impact, however, cannot be ignored as he raised the self-esteem of black Americans, reconnected them with their African heritage and spread Islamic faith throughout black communities.
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In the years prior to his assassination, Malcolm X shared his life story to prominent African American author Alex Haley. His journey from Omaha, Nebraska to Boston, Harlem and eventually Mecca is outlined in Haley’s Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965). In this essay, I will explore Malcolm X’s autobiography as it is applied to other theoretical models regarding race??”namely, W.E.B Dubois’s concept of Double Consciousness from his collection of essays Souls of Black Folks (1903) and Omi and Winant’s theory on Racial Formation from their book Racial Formation in the United States (1986). More specifically, X’s failure to parallel woman’s rights with black Americans rights necessitates a modern extension to incorporate all minority groups in Dubois’s model of Double Consciousness??”thus further understanding Black Americans identity struggle. Additionally, X’s description of black oppression at the hands of white America illuminates the absence of white dominated racial oppression and a racial hierarchy in Omi and Winant’s racial formation theory. In extending Dubois’s model and adding critical discussion to Omi and Winant’s theory, can one to better understand the struggle of minority groups in America.
I will first explore X’s views towards women in my application of his autobiography to Dubois’s double consciousness. Throughout his Autobiography, Malcolm X’s apparent sexist and stereotypical attitude towards women undermines his legitimacy as a civil rights leader as he fails to parallel woman’s rights to black Americans rights. In the beginning of his autobiography, X’s gender confirming stereotypes towards his parents are viewed. When describing, X comments on his masculine traits of bigness, toughness and strength. He goes on to claim he admires his father’s occupation as a preacher and nationalist. Whereas, when describing his mother, Malcolm X states: My mother at this time seemed to be always working cooking, washing, ironing, cleaning, and fussing over us eight children (86) In these descriptions, X’s views are the traditionally binary image of a mother who cooks and an admirable, masculine father. X further solidifies these binary roles by justifying his father’s physical abuse. In response to his mother’s abuse at the hands of his father, X says, An educated woman, I suppose, can’t resist the temptation to correct an uneducated man (82). In X’s eyes, his mother education is a threat to a man’s sense of manhood and her talking-back permits abuse.
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