AP English III October 14, 2011 The Inside Counts In Malcolm X’s personal essay, “My First Conk”, Malcolm X describes a moment in his life where he changed his hairstyle. He altered his hair because he thought that the looks on the outside were more acceptable in society. Malcolm X was a young child when he got his first conk. He was looking up to the older black gentlemen in his town, and the majority of these men had conks. Conks gave the people of the town self-confidence and a sense of importance. In the 1920s, the black minority was considered inferior to the white majority.
Blacks thought that they could gain more respect and acceptance if their appearance was more like the whites. By altering their hair, blacks changed their original hairstyle from a curly afro to a straight conk since they thought success was measured with how you looked on the outside. I understand why blacks switched their hair, but when you judge by outside appearances, you are not allowing an individual’s inner strength to be known. Blacks wanted to look like the whites because they felt they would be closer to their level once they had a similar hairstyle.
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Blacks were so focused on becoming equal that they lost their true self, forgetting that inner strength is greater than outer beauty. I was faced with a similar situation in sixth grade. I wanted to alter my hairstyle because everyone around me had flat, frizz-free hair. I struggled with wanting to maintain my natural appearance and knew I should feel blessed with long, thick, curly, hard to manage hair, but I wanted what my friends had, hair that was straight and more manageable.
I did not feel less than my peers, but I wanted the same hair because I did not naturally have it. We often forget about inside beauty and strength and become focused on outside looks and the opinions of others. I was pleased when Malcolm X realized that blacks only had conks because they were inspired from the whites hair. Once Malcolm X saw this, he became disgusted by the style and quickly removed his conk. He started to feel his inner-self and noticed that importance or beauty is not all about outside ooks. He realized that the pain to change your hair to become popular is self-degrading. I am glad I did not transform my hair out of its natural state in sixth grade. I realized that changing my outside appearance to match my friends is not as important as being yourself. Societal pressures are hard to avoid, but it takes a stronger person to be an individual, not a follower, and to fight for what you believe in.