Malcolm X travels down a long road, as revealed in The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley. Malcolm’s lifelong adventure through racial discrimination taught Malcolm some very important messages. Toward the end of his life, he wrote to friends: “I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda. I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole” (Malcolm X, 373).
Malcolm’s outlook on life revealed in this quote is much different than how he felt at the start of his journey. Malcolm’s experience taught him never to give up, to be true to himself, and never to judge people as a whole. These realizations in his life are crucial to the entire message Malcolm X was trying to convey. As a young child, Malcolm lived in a crowded house with his siblings. He claimed, “early in life, I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise” (8). Staying well fed was Malcolm’s first experience, which taught him never to give up.
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Even his teacher, Mr. Ostrowski, denied Malcolm his dream of becoming a lawyer. Malcolm experienced many harsh times throughout his life, forcing him to depend upon himself and persevere. However, he became caught up in illegal activities such as gambling, drug dealing, burglary, and prostitution, costing him respectable jobs and eventually resulting in his arrest. In jail, Malcolm’s brother, Reginald, visited and shared with Malcolm a new way of life. He introduced to Malcolm the Nation of Islam, which gave him a new sense of strength in his life.
Through the Islamic religion, Malcolm was able to believe in himself and produce positive results unlike anything he could imagine. Malcolm claims, “[no one] ever got more out of going to prison than I did” (183). After his conversion, he delivered the message of Allah to anyone he could. In order to spread his knowledge on the suppression of blacks in America, Malcolm knew he must speak up???just as he did as a child. Malcolm remained extremely strong, spreading his message each and every day until his very last breath.
Throughout Malcolm’s life, he met many different people in the numerous communities he lived in or visited. These people taught him to be himself, as well as to lead himself. From the very beginning he was told, “you’re no good, but you don’t try to hide it. You are not a hypocrite” (15), proving Malcolm always remained true to himself. By turning to the Nation of Islam to help him out of the dark place he was in, Malcolm started to rely on Elijah Muhammad to bring him to a safe place in life.
Malcolm said, “I was his most faithful servant, and I know today that I did believe in him more firmly than he believed in himself” (214). Despite what Malcolm thought was an everlasting bond with Elijah Muhammad, Elijah eventually betrayed Malcolm, following his discovery that Elijah Muhammad, a married man, was involved in adulterous relationships with several secretaries. Malcolm was told he was getting too much attention and was “silenced” for ninety days. He decided to step away from the Nation of Islam, which led many members of the NOI to resent Malcolm.
Malcolm experienced betrayal throughout his lifetime from many different friends he met along the road, ultimately leading to his death. The only people he could truly trust were his own family, demonstrating that Malcolm should have continued to depend on himself; relying on others led to his demise. The last realization Malcolm had was never to judge people before getting to know them. Throughout his life, he often judged white people as a whole. He never gave those who were not black a chance to prove they were supportive of his message and were not racist.
When he was first introduced to the Nation of Islam, Malcolm began to educate himself in jail by reading enabling to obtain “more sensitivity to the deafness, dumbness, and blindness that was afflicting the black race in America” (182). When he converted to Orthodox Islam and went on his pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, Malcolm met people “of all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black skinned Africans” (346). For the first time in his life, Malcolm experienced a “sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color” (347).
Malcolm realized that the unity of people of all different colors was actually possible. He understood that just by educating himself on different cultures, he could meet people with very different points of view and rethink his position on judging American whites as a group. This key learning experience in Malcolm’s life changed the message he was spreading to “whatever benefits humanity as a whole” (373), but it was too late because of the hatred people already held against Malcolm. Malcolm X’s life was a learning experience for not only others but for himself. His many experiences taught him key factors as he grew through his life.
He learned that to obtain what he wanted or to spread his message, he must remain strong; he learned never to give up or be afraid to speak up. While doing these things, he learned not many people could be trusted; therefore, he had to lead himself to stay true to himself. In the end, Malcolm learned never to judge people as a group because there’s much about every individual one might not know. These three lessons Malcolm learned in life were crucial to his growth as a person, as well as to the many people who choose to educate themselves and learn from both his experiences and his messages.