Finally digging into The Autobiography of Malcolm X

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I decided to dive into The Autobiography of Malcolm X after last week’s 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, during which people like Barack Obama and Oprah touted how far our nation has come on civil rights in the last five decades. Said Obama in his speech: “To dismiss the magnitude of progress, or to suggest, as some have, that little has changed, dishonors the courage and sacrifice of those who paid the price to march.”

A week later, having delved into the life and thoughts of one of the country’s most recognizedβ€”and contentiousβ€”civil rights leaders, I find myself wondering whether Malcolm X would entirely agree

TAMX begins in Lansing, Michigan, where Malcolm Little is a generally good kid and upstanding student until the day he visits a relative in Boston and his mind is blown by all the hustle and bustle and black people. That tripβ€”coupled with a teacher’s admonition that Little could never be a lawyerβ€”inspires in him a certain frustration, and Malcolm soon drops out of school and moves to Boston, and later Harlem, where he becomes a small-time hustler: selling weed, shepherding men to prostitutes, robbing apartments, etc.

At 20, back in Michigan, Malcolm is arrested for robbery and sentenced to 8-10 years in prison (a sentence he notes is harsher for his choice of accomplices: white women) where he reads a shit-ton of books and discovers the Nation of Islam, a Muslim offshoot-slash-cult that promotes self-sufficiency, asceticism, surrender to Allah and that “the collective white man had acted like a devil in virtually every contact he had with the world’s collective non-white man.” (Which, true.)

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