Malcolm X, and just finished reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X. While I find the beliefs of Malcolm Little, aka Malcolm X, aka el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, both repugnant and risible, he and I share an attitude in common. We both prefer people who openly hate us to our face instead of smiling while stabbing us in the back. If I had met X, he would have hated me and I would have hated him right back but at least we both would be honest with the other.
I will admit, The Autobiography of Malcolm X was not what I expected. Going into the book I was anticipating a thoughtful, intellectual exploration of the mind of a man who has been incredibly influential on American society, not just for blacks but perhaps even more so for self-loathing leftist Whites. What was surprising to me was how pedestrian and tedious it was. There were no major revelations, just a lot of the same thing over and over again.
The autobiography is actually X recounting his story which was then put into book form by Alex Haley, the black author famous for his largely plagiarized novel Roots (see: Their Rage Is Driven By Jealousy). The story can be divided fairly neatly into three parts: his younger days until prison, his time in the Nation Of Islam and then his falling out with Elijah Muhammad.
The early life of Malcolm Little isn't very different from that of a lot of black men. He grew up poor in a dysfunctional house. His father was a follower of Marcus Garvey when he wasn't beating up his wife. Little's father died when he was 6 in a streetcar accident but Little/X believed until the end that his dad had been killed by racist Whites. The truth will never be known but it created the mental foundation for Little's later life. His mother was institutionalized after going insane and Little moved out East where he spent his late teens and early adulthood getting high, chasing White women, going to clubs, wearing zoot suits and eventually becoming a full time criminal. He finally ended up in prison and that is where his life changed.
Little/X became a follower of Elijah Muhammad, a nutjob who thought himself a divine messenger, and became a member of the Nation Of Islam, the black supremacist outfit now run by a clown named Louis Farrakhan. The middle of the book is a dreary, repetitive slog of Malcolm X humble bragging about what a great servant of Elijah Muhammad he was interspersed with his diatribes against the "White devil". He shared some of the backstory of the Nation Of Islam, including their daffy theories of where White people came from that is just hilarious, like L.Ron Hubbard level crazy.
The last part of the book detailed the schism between X and Elijah Muhammad, driven by what I believe was mutual jealousy and at least in part by Elijah Muhammad apparently banging and impregnating every woman who worked for him. Malcolm X then went on a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca and a tour of Africa, which seemed to change him by modifying his hatred of Whites and actually appears to have made him even more egotistical. His views about the love and unity of Islam are laughable to the modern observer who sees Muslims killing each other by the tens of thousands over theological squabbles and most living in abject poverty while a few in the Gulf States live in unimaginable wealth.
Alex Haley provides a lengthy epilogue that talks about the process of writing the book as well as recounting the death of Malcolm X, a black Muslim who ironically enough didn't die at the hands of the "White devil" but rather was murdered by other black Muslims.
As I said, the book didn't portray a very flattering picture of Malcolm X. Far from the towering intellect I was expecting, he came across more as carnival barker who had a gift for speaking.
His greatest intellectual attribute was his ability to turn literally anything around and blame it on White people. No matter the issue, the only reason blacks fail is because of the White man. His blaming of Whites for everything wrong in the black community has stuck around and you can see it daily in the words of black leaders and White liberals. Nothing is the fault of blacks, they bear no responsibility for anything and indeed are completely incapable of even the most basic agency. It is a depressing worldview but it was a powerful tool for X in debates because it allowed him to never have to actually answer a question. No matter what someone asked, he just launched into one of his canned diatribes against Whites and then declared victory.
Let me give just one example I highlighted in the book, one of the most highlighted books I have ever read. Some people in Africa asked Malcolm X about a elderly White shopkeeper and his wife in Harlem who were attacked by a gang of young blacks. The old White lady was stabbed to death. This was X's response:
I told the dinner guests that it was my first word of any of it, but that I was not surprised when violence happened in any of America’s ghettoes where black men had been living packed like animals and treated like lepers. I said that the charge against me was typical white man scapegoat-seeking—that whenever something white men disliked happened in the black community, typically white public attention was directed not at the cause, but at a selected scapegoat.
X, MALCOLM. The Autobiography of Malcolm X (p. 402). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
An old White woman was stabbed to death and Malcolm X basically said she had it coming because of the alleged treatment of black people in America. But like I said, at least Malcolm X was open and honest about his race-based hatred of me and my people.
Honestly I came away disappointed. I expected to gain some great insights but instead I just found the same sort of shallow reasoning I can find on social media, just delivered with more fire and passion. Malcolm X might have been an engaging speaker but he was far from an interesting intellectual.
So that was disappointing but that is likely my fault for expecting too much. I should have known better. Hopefully the next book I have lined up in this series will prove more challenging and interesting.