This was not an easy read, but definitely a good thing to have read.
I’m honestly surprised that this wasn’t required reading when I was in high school or college. Granted, that was a long time ago but the issues that Malcolm X dealt with during his life, from 1925 to 1965, are issues that we are very much still dealing with today. To me, that was the most shocking and difficult thing about reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X; it feels like so little has changed. If anything, the past three years feel like we’ve moved the wrong direction and back toward the same racism and discrimination that were so prevalent during Malcolm X’s life. His story is the story of struggle and he was definitely a polarizing and dynamic figure in the struggle for civil rights. What’s so interesting to me is that, despite the demonization his fiery rhetoric received in the news media at the time, at the end of his life, his views about the solution to the issues that plague our society still had changed to something far less radical than was normally ascribed to him.
I cannot say that I will ever truly understand the struggles that any minorities experienced, or still experience, in this country, but I do feel like I understand the history a little better having read this book. The first-hand account of the way African Americans were forced to live in the margins, constantly used by white society and always oppressed, were startling to read. It’s not that I didn’t know they had happened or are happening, but there’s something about reading a first-hand account of someone who lived it that shifts one’s perspective. Like so many others who worked hard to bring change for our society that were killed for their views, I wonder what might have been if he had not been shot. If Malcolm X had lived or avoided the assassination attempt entirely, what might he have become? What might he have accomplished?
We may never know how Malcolm X may have changed our society had he continued on his post hajj path of political change, but I can say that I’m glad to have read this book. I’m glad to have read about who Malcolm X really was and not just the stories about him told by the very society he sought to reform. He certainly was no angel, by his own admission, but his life story can definitely inform us today and help shape our future.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understanding of some of the racial issues we still face as a country today.