Monday, January 9, 2012

Malcolm X and his Views of the“White Man” in America Before and After Mecca

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Malcolm X was a very important figure for the black race in America during his time. Fighting against racism, oppression and segregation, he was one of Americas leaders for African American democracy and black liberation in the United States. During Malcolm’s pilgrimage to the holy City of Mecca, his views of the white race drastically changed within a few months. With the society of America and the orthodox Muslim religion of Islam as his guide, Malcolm had two completely opposite views of whites before and after his trip to Mecca. This change of thought was a very intricate part of Malcolms life, because it helped him see the intricacy of the white and black race problem in America. From this gained knowledge, Malcolm also realizes that the solution of the racial problem in America, is the Muslim religion where both races accept the Oneness of God and become “brothers” despite the differences in color and appearance.

Before Malcolm’s pilgrimage, he viewed the white man as the “devil” of the world. From childhood, Malcolm had been looking for an answer or excuse that explained the black man’s racial problems in America. With the help of Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm found thought he had fond the answer when he developed the theory of black separation from the white devil. During and Malcolm’s pilgrimage, his thoughts changed as he realized and witnessed the truth about the white man throughout the world. Malcolm saw that, both the white and black race could be brother and sister, through Islam

Malcolms childhood had an immediate affect on his views of himself and whites in America. Malcolm witnessed firsthand the violence of racism projected by the white man. Louis Decardo explains this idea as he writes, In the particular sense of racism, Malcolm would come to know from his youth the reality of white racial animosity and innocence toward the black struggle. During Malcolms youth he and his family were harassed and threatened by white racists. Malcolm describes this harassment as he writes, 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. This had an immediate impact on his perception of the white race as whole. At the mere age of six, the little family suffered an everlasting loss when Malcolms father was murdered by white racists. Louis Decardo describes how Malcolm viewed his father’s death as he writes, Like the rest of the family, Malcolm viewed his fathers tragic death through the lens of a racist system. In an interview with Kennith Clark, Malcolm shows his reasoning behind this belief as he states, The police department and various branches of the law were interwoven with that Klan element, so the Klan had the backing of the police, and usually the police had the backing of the Klan. The culmination of Malcolms childhood experiences caused Malcolm to start to develop a feeling of animosity towards the white race. Michael Dyson describes this feeling that Malcolm develops in the passage below

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This experience of racial violence, which Malcolm termed his earliest vivid memory, deeply influenced his unsparing denunciation of white racism during his public career as a Black Nationalist leader.

Another event that had an impact on Malcolm occurred during his schooling when his dreams of becoming a lawyer were broken by Mr. Ostrowski his 8th grade English teacher. Malcolms dreams vanish when Mr. Ostrowski states, But youve got to be realistic about being a nigger. A lawyer -- thats no realistic goal for a nigger. You need to think about something you can be. This conversation forced Malcolm to realize the degree of racism and the lack of equal opportunity that occurred in the Americas society during that time. That event marked the first major change in Malcolms association with and perception of himself in the eyes of the white man in America. This devastating insult caused Malcolm to virtuously abandon his schoolwork and question his identity as a member of the black race. This realization caused Malcolm to search for an identity. Realizing the status of blacks he tries to remake himself into a white person by acquiring a zoot suit, wearing a conk hair cut, walking a diddybop, dancing a lindy hop and most importantly dating a white woman. Malcolm shows this by stating, I was trying as hard as I could to become white. Malcolm finally thinks he has found himself when he adopts the hood mentality, which got him familiar with hoodlums, thieves, dope peddlers, and pimps. This eventually lead to Malcolms seven-year imprisonment at the mere age of 0.

In prison, Malcolm was introduced to the religion of Islam, which guided him to a new and more powerful feeling towards the white race throughout the world. The religion of Islam, the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, a man by the name of John Elton Bembry (whom Malcolm called Bimbi) and Malcolms older brother, Reginald helped lead Malcolm to a new view of history and religion along with this new vision of whites in the world. Bimbi influenced Malcolms decision to take his first steps towards the religion of Islam, which include this new vision. With the quote in mind, If you take one step towards Allah -- Allah will take two steps towards you. Malcolm took his first steps, which were to stop eating pork and to stop smoking cigarettes. Malcolm starts to develop new feelings towards whites when Reginald states, The white man is the devil and when he explained how “slavery had deprived Americas blacks of their cultural roots and left them mentally dead. A piece of this conversation is shown in Malcolms Autobiography as he writes

You dont even know who you are,” Reginald had said. You dont even know, the white devil has hidden it from you, that you are a race of ancient civilizations, and riches in gold and kings. You dont even know your true family name, you wouldnt recognize your true language if you heard it. You have been cut off by the devil white man from all true knowledge of your own kind. You have been a victim of the evil of the devil white man ever since he murdered and raped and stole you from your native land in the seeds of your forefathers.

This conversation made Malcolm realize the truth about his race in relation to the white race in America and this discussion is what sparked the fire that Malcolm developed towards whites. Within the next month, Malcolm decided to accept the teachings of Elijah Muhammad,” who taught him the natural religion and true knowledge of the black man through the religion of Islam. This passage from Malcolms autobiography shows the true knowledge summed up

The true knowledge, reconstructed much more briefly that I received it, was that history has been whitened in the white mans history books, and that the black man had been brainwashed for hundreds of years. Originally Man was black, in the continent called Africa where the human race had emerged on the planet earth... Human historys greatest crime was the traffic in black flesh when the devil white man went into Africa and murdered and kidnapped to bring to the West in chains, in slave ships, millions of black men, women, and children who were worked and beaten and tortured as slaves. ... The devil white man cut these black people off from all knowledge of their kind, and cut them off from any knowledge of their own language, religion, and past culture, until the black man in America was the earths only race of people who had absolutely no knowledge of his true identity.

As Malcolm became more exposed to Elijah Mohammed’s teachings he began to accept them, and he started to look for his own proof for the things that he was hearing. Malcolm begins to read books about the details of black history, which also contributed to his feelings for whites. Malcolm shows what he has learned about black history as he writes, History has been so whitened by the white man that even the black professors have known little more than the most ignorant black man about the talents and rich civilizations of the black man of millenniums ago.

As a preacher, Malcolm represented Elijah Mohammed’s and revealed his teachings about the white devil in America. Malcolm had more faith in the teachings of Elijah Muhammad than any other word upon the earth. By now, Malcolm believed the white man was the devil. In Malcolms autobiography he shows his thoughts about the white mans persuasive Christian religion in the passage below

Brothers and sisters, the white man has brainwashed us black people to fasten our gaze upon a blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus! We are worshiping a Jesus that doesnt even look like us! Oh. yes! Now just bear with me, listen to the teachings of the Messenger of Allah, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Now just think of this. The blond-haired, blue-eyed white man has taught you and me to worship a white Jesus, and to shout and sing and pray to this God thats his God, the white mans God. And while we are doing all that, for himself, this blue-eyed devil has twisted his Christianity, to keep his foot on our backs . . . to keep our eyes fixed on the pie in the sky and heaven in the hereafter . . . while he enjoys his heaven right here . . . on this earth . . . in this life.

Malcolm believed that the white man would continue to use the black man and that the white man will never give the black man anything more than token integration. This caused Malcolm to believe in Elijah Mohammed’s teachings, which says, the only solution for the black man in America is complete separation from the white man. Through the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm also felt that the white man has committed a huge sin against the black race of Africa during slavery, taking these tribal blacks away from their family, culture, and language, to work as slaves in a prejudiced, segregated, and oppressed America. This is shown in Malcolms autobiography as he quotes Elijah Muhammad

You are the planet Earths only group of people ignorant of yourself, ignorant of your own kind, of your true history, ignorant of your enemy! You know nothing at all but what your white slavemaster has chosen to tell you. And he has told you that which will benefit himself and his own kind. He has taught you, for his benefit, that you are a neutral, shiftless, helpless so-called ‘Negro.’

Malcolm believed that this sin was the mark of a devil and that the black man can never forgive it.

Malcolms pilgrimage to Mecca was a very important turning point in his life. Malcolms experiences in Germany and Arab allowed him to view whites and other races outside of America. Malcolm soon realized the difference between American society compared to other societies around the world. This aspect is shown as quoted from Malcolms autobiography, In Europe, wed walk in, any store, every store, and it would be Hello...Europeans act more human, or humane, whichever the right word is. As soon as Malcolm arrived in Frankford, Germany, he immediately noticed the hospitality of all people overseas, which he knew, failed to exist in America. Malcolm was shocked to see white people treating him like their own because he was so used to racism and segregation towards blacks in America. Below is a passage from Malcolms autobiography where he writes about his plane ride to Jetta

Packed in the plane were white, black, brown, red, and yellow people, blue eyes and blond hair, and my kinky red hair -- all together, brothers! All honoring the same God, all in turn giving equal honor to each other. 54

As Malcolms voyage continued, he started to realize how wrong he had been about his previous judgements and beliefs of the white race as a whole especially in America. Malcolm soon realized that his thoughts of the white man were primarily in response to 400 years of slavery and segregation in America and that the Muslim white men could not be held responsible for the sin of slavery that was committed in America. Malcolm explains this concept in the passage below

That is when I first began to reappraise the white man. It was when I first began to perceive that white man, as commonly used, means complexion only secondarily; primarily it described attitudes and actions. In America,white man meant specific attitudes and actions toward the black man, and toward all other non-white men. But in the Muslim world, I had seen that men with white complexions were more genuinely brotherly than anyone else had ever been. That morning was the start of a radical alteration in my whole outlook about white men.

In Arab, during Malcolms pilgrimage, he was awed and astonished when a Muslim white man named Abdel Azzam lodged Malcolm in his suite. Malcolm was so overwhelmed because he knew that this Muslim white man went out his way and was doing Malcolm a favor in spite of the fact that Malcolm was perceived as a white racist by the American press. Malcolm shows this as he writes, The white man...with nothing in the world to gain, had given up his suite to me, for my transient comfort. He had nothing to gain. He didnt need me. He had everything, In-fact he had more to loose than gain. He had followed the American press about me... I was a racist,” I was anti white and he from all appearances was white.” That experience forced Malcolm to reevaluate Elijah Muhammads white devil theory because Malcolm was taught that the white man was evil and that the white man could not perform good deeds to help blacks.

Everything about the pilgrimage accented the Oneness of Man Under God

The above quote was the theme of Malcolm’s pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. In Mecca, Malcolm witnessed and participated in the brotherhood of all men composed of all colors through the religion of Islam. In a question asking Malcolm what impressed him the most during his pilgrimage, he answered The brotherhood! The people of all races color, from all over the world coming together as one! It has proven to me the power of the One God. During the pilgrimage Malcolm went through all of the religious ceremonies and rituals alongside men of many races including white men. In Malcolms autobiography he explains this concept in more details

There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America handled me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white.... During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug) -- while praying to the same God -- with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan, and Ghana.

As Malcolm continued with his rituals during his Hajj in Mecca, he soon realized the problem of his previous ways of thinking about the race issues in American society. Malcolm identified the color-blindness of the Muslim worlds society and the color-blindness of the Muslims worlds human society, as a mode of influence in his previous ways thinking about the white man. All of these experiences combined to form Malcolm’s new view of whites in America.

Each hour here in the Holy Land enables me to have greater spiritual insights into what is happening in America between black and white. The American Negro never can be blamed for his racial animosities -- he is only reacting to four hundred years of the conscious racism of the American whites. But as racism leads America up the suicide path I do believe, from the experiences that I have had with them, that the whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, will see the handwriting on the wall and many of them will turn to the spiritual path of truth -- the only way left to America to ward off the disaster that racism inevitably must lead to . . . We were truly all the same (brothers) -- because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behavior, and the white from their attitude. I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man -- and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their differences in color.

In the past, yes, I have made sweeping indictments of all white people. I will never be guilty of that again -- as I know now that some white people are truly sincere, that some truly are capable of being brotherly toward a black man. The true Islam has shown me that a blanket indictment of all white people is as wrong as when whites make blanket indictments against blacks.

Taking into consideration, Malcolms previous experiences with the white man, it took a unique and powerful experience to change Malcolms views of whites as a whole. Before Mecca, Malcolm had a biased unequal view of the white man. Malcolm envisioned every white man as they appeared in America during and after slavery. Malcolm failed to realize the other Muslim whites throughout the word that worshiped and prayed to the same god as he did. Elijah Muhammad and his teachings of separation through Islam helped fuel Malcolm’s misconception of the white man in America.

Malcolm’s pilgrimage was the only force that could change his views of whites. Malcolm had been too involved and too persuaded by the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and too mesmerized by racism in America to just abandon his beliefs. Racism and segregation were proof of the “white devil” of America in Malcolm’s eyes. Elijah Muhammad’s solution to America’s racial problem was a feasible one in Malcolm’s eyes. This drew Malcolm more closer to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and the religion of Islam.

In Mecca Malcolm was shocked to see the absence of racism and segregation by the white. Malcolm had became so accustomed to the serrated American society, that he found it hard to comprehend that people of different races could be brothers under the same religion. Malcolm soon realized that the answer to America’s racial problem is not separation, but attachment and accepting the Oneness of God through Islam. Malcolm also believed that in Alla’s eyes, there is no “white man” and everyone is all the same. When one is in his pilgrimage, the black and white label is removed from man. The pilgrimage is what helped Malcolm see this miscomprehension he had towards the white man. The misconception is that all white man are not “evil,” but in-fact many white men throughout the world are brotherly with people of all races and share a common bond through the religion of Islam.


Asante, Molefi Kete. Malcolm X As Cultural Hero And Other Afrocentric Essays. Africa World Press. Trenton, New Jersey, 1

Decardo, Luis A. On the Side of My People A Religious Life of Malcolm X. New York University Press, 16

Dyson, Michael Eric. Making Malcolm The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X. Oxford University Press New York, New York 15

Gallen, David. Malcolm A To X The Man and His Ideas. Caroll & Graft Publishers, Inc. New York, New York, 1

Goldwin, Peter. The Death and Life of Malcolm X. Chicago University of Illinois Press, 17

Malcolm X, with Alex Haley. The Autobiography f Malcolm X. New York Grove Press, 165

Perry, Bruce. Malcolm The Life of a Man Who Changed America. Sation Hill Press Inc., Barrytown, New York 11

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