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Malcolm X

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The film depicts the early stages of his life when he ran with a fast crowd that included sex and burglaries. The endless crimes ended up catching up with him and he was sentenced to prison. As it turns out, prison was the best thing that happened to Malcolm who fell into orbit of the Black Muslim movement of Elijah Muhammad and learned self-respect. The movie then follows Malcolm as he sheds his last name – the legacy, the Muslims preached, of slave-owners- and becomes a fiery street corner preacher who quickly rises until he is the most charismatic figure in the Black Muslims, teaching that whites are the devil and that blacks must become independent and self-sufficient. This movie has provided a couple of central themes that can correlate with the lectures presented in class on Malcolm X.

A theme common in this movie is that humanity is a basic right. Malcolm focuses on how racism against blacks dehumanizes them. The white people around Malcolm often view him as something less than human, and Malcolm’s desire to correct this perception drives his fight for racial equality. Yet, Malcolm in turn dehumanizes certain white people as revenge for his own subjugation within his rhetoric. However, after many years of anti-white rhetoric in the Nation of Islam, Malcolm meets white-skinned people in Mecca who treat him as an equal, he begins to acknowledge the humanity of individual whites.

Lastly, one of the central themes in this movie is Malcolm’s changing perspective on racism. Malcolm’s changing views of America’s racial problems reflect the development of his character. When, as a child, he sees both of his parents destroyed by white society, he feels despair about the plight of blacks. His attitude changes, however, after his experiences in the black ghettos of Boston and New York develop in him the philosophy that black people should not accept help from white people. The teachings of the Nation of Islam that he receives in prison effect a further change in both Malcolm’s character and his view of white people. He simultaneously abandons his wild past and embraces a systematic hatred of whites. This leads to his style in rhetoric. He is an agitator and many people feared him because of his aggressive rhetorical style. Yet, in the film we learn to sympathize with Malcolm because he was a victim of violence many times throughout his life, so it seemed appropriate to him that blacks should fight for their freedom through any means necessary.

By seeing the world through his eyes during the period of this movie, the audience can begin to understand why Malcolm X was an aggressive agitator. Black people that supported Malcolm felt that white racism was a hugely aggressive and dominant force, ad that any political response needed to confront the violence of racism in order to be effective. For them, it was believed to be the only approach that could be taken to combat discrimination in the societies in which they lived.


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