Thursday, September 14, 2006

"A Homemade Education" by Malcolm X

Summary:
In Malcolm X's "A Homemade Education," Malcolm discusses his struggles between the language on his childhood streets growing up and the language of literature. Being in prison, he explains how his interest and determination to be "able to read and understand"(197) literature led him to a freedom he had never had or ever felt before. He indulged himself in reading while broadening his vocabulary copying the entire dictionary from which he "also learned of people and places and events from history."(196) As he followed the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, he found extraordinary interest in black history and slavery. Due to slavery's horrific impact on Malcolm he became a minister of Mr. Muhammad's, gaining enlightenment that would lead him to fighting for African-American's human and civil rights.

Analysis:
Having grown up on the streets most of his life and being, as he called himself, "the most articulate hustler out there" (195), he faced tremendous frustration when it came to voicing his feelings. This struggle impressed upon him the significance and importance of literature throughout the world. He therefore commited himself to achieving the ability to read and write. "I saw that the best thing I could do was get hold of a dictionary - to study, to learn some words." (196) So Malcolm did. He simply requested "a dictionary along with some tablets and pencils from the Norfolk Prison Colony school." (196) For days on end he'd spend all his time reading and copying from the dictionary then reading it back to himself numerous times. As his vocabulary expanded, finally was he able to read books and comprehend them. As a result, Malcolm X describes his success by indicating "in fact, up to then, I never had been so truly free in my life." (197) Whereas with Frederick Douglass, he simply felt regret and thought that being able to read and write was overrated and not that big of a deal after all. On the other hand, clearly Malcolm discovered a channel for himself to get away from the world, feed off his undying curiosity, and enlighten himself about anything and everything "until three or four every morning." (198) Teachings of Elijah Muhammad sparked an interest for Malcolm X in black history, slavery, and the white man's cruelties and lust in the world. Especially the white man. "Book after book showed me how the white man had brought upon the world's black, brown, red, and yellow peoples every variety of the sufferings of exploitation. I saw how since the sixteenth century, the so-called 'Christian trader' white man began to ply the seas in his lust for Asian and African empires, and plunder, and power." (200) Malcolm learns of the non Christian-like behavior of the "white man" through periods of history. "I perceived, as I read, how the collective white man had been actually nothing but a piratical opportunist who used Faustian machinations to make his own Christianity his initial wedge in criminal conquests." (200) However, since he doesn't consider and appreciate what good things the "white man" has done in and for this world, Malcolm develops a full disliking towards them. He takes his perceivances and what he learned from his readings and conceivs a case to fight for human and civil rights for black people. "I can't think of a better case!" (203) And I'd have stood right there beside him. White people have always been racist and treated the minorities with such disrespect and, unfortunately, it still continues today to a certain extent. "Four hundred years of black blood and sweat invested here in America, and the white man still has the black man begging for what every immigrant fresh off the ship can take for granted the minute he walks down the gangplank." (203) In conclusion, he admits to only being able to fight for black people's rights because of his time in prison and how it completely changed his life forever. "I don't think anybody ever got more out of going to prison than I did. In fact, prison enabled me to study far more intensively than I would have if my life had gone differently and I had attended some college." (203)

Discussion Questions:
Had Malcolm X taken into concideration what many great things the "white man" has also actually done in this world, do you think that he would have still fought as hard for black people's human and civil rights and thought so poorly of the "white man"?

2 Comments:

Blogger P. Davis said...

Later in his life, Malcolm X comes to a realization of the benefits of being an American (of any race) through his experiences with travel. This experience softens his views and causes him to begin to advocate peaceful Civil Rights action (more in line with that supported by leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). It is at this time that he is assassinated. Interestingly, so was Dr. King. you think that the establishment was MORE threatened by advocates of peaceful change than by violent opposition? Something to think about...

7:47 AM  
Blogger truth be told said...

Dropped out of middle school, that was the extent of his formal education.

4:17 AM  

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