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Race, Identity, & Social Order The Autobiography of Malcolm X It has always been my belief that I, too, will die by violence. I have done all that I can.

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Presentation on theme: "Race, Identity, & Social Order The Autobiography of Malcolm X It has always been my belief that I, too, will die by violence. I have done all that I can."— Presentation transcript:

1 Race, Identity, & Social Order The Autobiography of Malcolm X It has always been my belief that I, too, will die by violence. I have done all that I can to be prepared.

2 The Autobiography of Malcolm X Read this text as an argument in the first person, not a personal affirmation – The claim is not that Malcolm Xs experience is remarkable, but that it is not Malcolm Little Detroit Red Satan Malcolm X El- Hajj Malik El-Shabazz Atheist Nation of Islam Sunni Islam 2

3 Themes Racism – Individual, institutional, systemic Degradation & dehumanization Pervasive violence and domination Self-loathing – False consciousness – Complicity in own oppression Oppression of ideas Liberating power of truth Race consciousness Dignity, honesty & order – Masculinity Fear & resistance 3

4 Systemic Violence When my mother was pregnant with me, she told me later, a party of hooded Ku Klux Klan riders galloped up to our home in Omaha, Nebraska, one night. (3) – From even before the beginning 4

5 Systemic Violence Sundown Towns – No blacks allowed on streets after dark Mother the product of rape by a white man Father murdered by white supremacist Black Legion – Four of fathers six brothers killed by whites Home burned to the ground by Black Legion – The white police and firemen cam and stood around watching as the house burned down to the ground. (6) 5

6 Systemic Violence Example of systemic racism: Fathers skull crushed, laid across streetcar tracks and cut almost in half – Ruled a suicide How could my father bash himself in the head, then get down across the streetcar tracks to be run over? (14) – Insurance wont pay off – Family sinks into poverty 6

7 Systemic Racism Mother must raise eight children alone – Life of constant insult: living on charity and passing as white – Fired whenever it is discovered that she is black Constant humiliation & degradation – Stress & shame causes mental illness – Family broken up by welfare agency The monthly welfare check was their pass. They acted as if they owned us, as if we were their private property. (16) 7

8 The oppressive power of names Soon, nearly everywhere my father went, Black Legionnaires were reviling him as an uppity nigger for wanting to own a store, for living outside the Lansing Negro district, for spreading unrest and dissention among the good niggers. (5) – Good = subservient – To want to live as a free & independent man is uppity, i.e. not to be permitted of black men. 8

9 The oppressive power of names The white kids didnt make any great thing abut us, either. They called us nigger and darkie and Rastus so much that we thought those were our natural names. But they didnt think of it as an insult; it was just the way they thought about us. (12) – Internalizing the contempt of the oppressor – The contempt is casual, unthinking. So habitual that it isnt even thought of as an insult. – Demonstrates the unquestioned systematization of white power – Part of Malcolm Xs goal is to reveal this power & strip it of its legitimacy 9

10 The oppressive power of names From his favorite teacher: Malcolm, one of lifes first needs is for us to be realistic. Dont misunderstand me, now. We all here like you, you know that. But youve got to be realistic about being a nigger. – Systematic racial oppression seen as just the way it is. – As part of the racist system of oppression, things are A lawyerthats no realistic goal for a nigger. You need to think about something you can be. Youre good with your handsmaking things. Everybody admires your carpentry shop work. Why dont you plan on carpentry? (43) – Dont be what you are or what you can be, be what the system of racist oppression wants to make of you. 10

11 The oppressive power of names Where nigger had slipped off my back before, wherever I heard it now, I stopped and looked at whoever said it. And they looked surprised that I did. I quit hearing so much nigger and Whats wrong?which was the way I wanted it. (44) 11

12 Internalizing Contempt I was among the millions of Negroes who were insane enough to feel that it was some kind of status symbol to be born light-complexionedthat one was actually fortunate to be born thus. (5) How ridiculous I was! Stupid enough to stand there lost in admiration of my hair now looking white,… I vowed that Id never again be without a conk, and I never was for many years. This was my first really big step toward self-degradation: when I endured all that pain, literally burning my flesh to have it look like a white mans hair. (64) In any black ghetto in America, to have a white woman who wasnt a known, common whore wasfor the average black man, at leasta status symbol of the first order. (78) 12

13 Internalized Contempt They prided themselves on being incomparably more cultured, cultivated, dignified, and better off than their black brethren down in the ghetto, which was no further away than you could throw a rock. Under the pitiful misapprehension that it would make them better, these Hill Negroes were breaking their backs trying to imitate white people. (48) So many of those so-called upper class Negroes are so busy trying to impress on the white man that they are different from those others that they cant see they are only helping the white man to keep his low opinion of all Negroes. (123) – Division of the black community against itself – Identification with the oppressor – White understood to mean better, black to mean worse 13

14 Dehumanization In the ghettoes the white man has built for us, he has forced us not to aspire to greater things, but to view everyday living as survivaland in that kind of community, survival is what is respected. (105) – A life of oppression and brutality leaves the individual brutalized – In the absence of even the possibility of better things, Malcolm X at this point in his life embraces a form of nihilism. He sees his life of self-loathing, drugs, sex, and crime as self-degradation. – This is due in part to a lack of self-knowledge and self- respect 14

15 The color line We laughed about the scared little Chinese whose restaurant didnt have a hand laid on it, because the rioters just about convulsed laughing when they saw the sign the Chinese had hastily stuck on his door: Me Colored Too. (131) Hymie really liked me, and I liked him. He loved to talk. Half his talk was about Jews and Negroes. Jews who had anglicized their names were Hymies favorite hate. Spitting and curling his mouth in scorn, he would reel off names of people he said had done this. (143) The race card: Who in the worlds history has ever played a worse skin game than the white man? (206) 15

16 Being toward death I believed that a man should do anything that he was slick enough, or bad and bold enough, to do and that a woman was nothing but another commodity. (155) Deep down, I actually believed that after living as fully as humanly possible, one should then die violently. (159) I lived and thought like a predatory animal. (155) What does it mean to live and think like a man? 16

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