The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley
I wish I read this book when I was younger. Many Americans like to believe that we have eradicated racism. The notion is ridiculous. Reading about the life and vision of Malcolm X highlights where racial divides used to exist and where they still exist today. His time as a hustler in Harlem could have taken place in the 1930’s or today. It is hard to set a time to it because the experience remains unchanged. Malcolm X is still regarded as a divisive figure in America, but reading his autobiography shows how he was able to evolve over time. It’s a shame that his life was cut short. If he had more time he might be remembered as one of the great unifiers in our history.
Malcolm X is vilified by some and revered by others. For years he was an uncompromising voice advocating for the separation of blacks from the White Devil. His ideas transformed when he traveled to Mecca for the Hajj. For the first time he was able to see people from all races unite as one people. Seeing this caused Malcolm X to recalibrate everything he believed. The Hajj showed him how the world could be. He was just beginning to express his reformed views when his life was ended.
The life story of Malcolm X is a story of seeking enlightenment. Throughout the autobiography I felt a strong connection with an earlier book I read: “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. Malcolm X is the embodiment of what it is to follow your Personal Legend. By always trying to be a better person Malcolm X was able to raise his own personal beliefs. I found that this book is a powerful lesson on how to better yourself. It took nearly 40 years for Malcolm X to understand that race alone does not cause racism. Racism is caused by power structures and is imbedded in the cultural zeitgeist. Unfortunately, as far as we have come in the United States, the power structures of racial divisions are thriving.
There is still work to be done to fulfil the dream of the civil rights movement. It will take at least another 3 or 4 generations of activism to eliminate racism. The ideas of Malcolm X will grow stronger as time goes on. The epiphany of togetherness experienced on the Hajj should be remembered as his legacy.
“The Autobiography of Malcolm X” is a study in the oppressive systems and biases we have in our nation. Only through seeking to understand can we become better. America has come a long way in the last 50 years. The next 50 years will be just as important.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X As told to Alex Haley
Published by Ballantine Books; Reissue edition (November 1992)