The Autobiography of Malcolm X,
by Alex Haley
460 pages, Ballantine, $8
Not only did he re-discover racial nationalism, and argue persuasively for a society in which each ethnic group ruled itself, but he ultimately began to merge that philosophy into something resembling a mainstream conservative position: economically libertarian, socially conservative, with strong nationalist and traditional components.
In doing so, he broke from the traditional victim politics of the left — the white man is keeping us down — to a more holistic vision, which is that no ethnic group will be happy unless it has rule over itself and a positive direction to take.
As part of his mainstream conservatism, he abandoned rhetoric of racial segregation and repatriation, and focused on roles within a collective known as America. The pendulum swung: for as extreme as he was, he now became calmer. However, the pendulum was swinging back already at the time of his death.
If you want to get right down to the real outcome of this so-called “integration,” what you’ve got to arrive at is intermarriage.
I’m right with the Southern white man who believes that you can’t have so-called “integration,” at least not for long, without intermarriage increasing. And what good is this for anyone? Let’s again face reality. In a world as color-hostile as this, man or woman, black or white, what do they want with a mate of the other race?
Certainly white people have served enough notice of their hostility to any blacks in their families and neighborhoods. And the way most Negroes feel today, a mixed couple probably finds that black families, black communities, are even more hostile than the white ones. So what’s bound to face “integrated” marriages, except being unwelcome, unwanted, “misfits” in whichever world they try to live in? What we arrive at is that “integration,” ultimately, would destroy the white race… and destroy the black race.
“Integration” is called “assimilation” if white ethnic groups alone are involved: it’s fought against tooth and nail by those who want their heritage preserved. Look at how the Irish threw the English out of Ireland. The Irish knew the English would engulf them. Look at the French-Canadians, fanatically fighting to keep their identity. (276-77)
Alex Haley, the author of the underwhelming Roots, claims this book was dictated to him by Malcolm X and represents a small amount of editing. That is likely true: Malcolm X shows himself to be an intelligent, lively, complex intellect with a penchant for autodidacticism. Haley may have edited those words into a more personable narrative, but that’s about it.
The book follows the form of an autobiography laid over a lattice of epiphanies. Malcolm X starts with the role of the ingenue, growing up poor as a racially-charged preacher’s son in rural Michigan, and with each new move he makes in life he is introduced to more of how the world fails. It fails not only black people, but all people.
His early years are a wasteland of drugs, drink, sex, dope dealing, theft, scams and other crimes. He does not record violent crimes so much as crimes of graft and evasion, and how he used white perceptions of black people to be either invisible or written off as harmless.
Through Alex Haley’s fluid onrush of scenes, his prison conversion to Islam seems as natural and soul-saving as it must have to the subject of this auto/biography. We do not know how much of this is Haley and how much comes right from Malcolm, but together the two writers improve on one another.
The book starts to drag slightly after the middle point, as Malcolm/Haley set us up for the downfall of the Nation of Islam — when infighting peaked because of Malcolm’s success, he was ousted and demonized by the same organization that may have had ties to the people who later killed him.
The book is a worthy read in its own right.
For someone who is tired of the modern “we can all get along” illusion and its correspondent hammering of square pegs into round holes, the lucid and unvarnished thinking of a Malcolm X has aspects of divine revelation. Unlike most thinkers who touch on race, Malcolm cuts past social pretense.
Naturally, Malcolm probably found it easier than most because the situation of black Americans was so alien and so obvious that he did not have to deal with the complex social web that a majority-minority must face. Nonetheless, he saw through what so many others could not clearly see.
Here was one of the white man’s most characteristic behavior patterns — where black men are concerned. He loves himself so much that he is startled if he discovers that his victims don’t share his vainglorious self-opinion. (239)
In addition, he fought the same battles with other black nationalists that white nationalists (and others) find among themselves. He was either too extreme, or not extreme enough, and he found that when he looked past this empty complaining, he found a much larger audience among normal people — to the rage of his former cohorts.
One of his biggest struggles was convincing the average African-American that the problem existed, could be solved, and that the situation could actually change. Almost every nationalist or critic of modern society will be familiar with this circular debate, where people agree and then shrug it off.
Following that idea, much of his best rhetoric involves distinguish between fake friends — those who for their own gain use the African-American as a symbol of pity in order to appear altruistic — and those who agree on the basic principle of a better future, which is separate self-rule for both ethnic groups.
You can say for many Southern white people that, individually, they have been paternalistically helpful to many individual Negroes. But the Northern white man, he grins with his teeth, and his mouth has always been full of tricks and lies of “equality” and “integration.” When one day all over America, a black hand touched the white man’s shoulder, and the white man turned, and there stood the Negro saying “Me, too…” why that, Northern liberal shrank from that black man with as much guilt and dread as any Southern white man.
The word “integration” was invented by a Northern liberal. The word has no real meaning. I ask you: in the racial sense in which it’s used so much today, whatever “integration” is supposed to mean, can it precisely be defined? The truth is that “integration” is an image, it’s a foxy Northern liberal’s smoke-screen that confuses the true wants of the American black man. Here in these fifty racist and neo-racist states of North America, this word “integration” has millions of white people confused, and angry, believing wrongly that the black masses want to live mixed up with the white man. That is the case only with the relative handful of these “integration”-mad Negroes. (272)
All readers, whether white or black or other, will find in this book some profundity. Malcolm X is if nothing else highly observant to underlying motivations, which puts him in good company with social critics like Tom Wolfe and H.L. Mencken. He is cynical in the way that can only be said to be a type of love, in that he loves his people (and bears less hatred toward European-Americans than one might imagine) and believes they can do better.
Alex Haley did a good job with this book by letting us hear Malcolm X at his analytical best; he may have pasted together some of the biographical details, as is hinted at in the introduction, or even combined multiple statements into smoother factual emissions early in the book. But he lets Malcolm talk.
As we approach yet another decade of diversity failing, and the process of multiculturalism — trying to combine two or more cultures including the biological record of culture called “heritage” within the same place, thus resulting in a total destruction of any community standards held in common — us 21st century readers can find few more lucid voices than Malcolm X. He wants what we want: a nationalist world order and ethnic self-rule by every ethnic group.
We can even learn quite a bit about white people. Not only do his zingers smart — he knows his opposition — but his insights into human psychology apply to whites, blacks and every ethnic group. They would apply to super-intelligent lizards forced into struggle for social standards despite the mixing of sub-species. And he knows the force of inertia that slows reform.
Most importantly, however, Malcolm X reveals why people act against their own ethnic interests. This information is probably more important at this point to Caucasians, who in the USA and Europe seem to prefer to publicly act against their self-interests in order to appear Christlike, benevolent and altruistic to the proles.
What I thought I was seeing there in Roxbury were high-class, educated, important Negroes, living well, working in big jobs and positions. Their quiet homes sat back in their mowed yards. These Negroes walked along the sidewalks looking haughty and dignified, on their way to work, to shop, to visit, to church. I know now, of course, that what I was really seeing was only a big-city version of those “successful” Negro bootblacks and janitors back in Lansing. The only difference was that the ones in Boston had been brainwashed even more thoroughly. They prided themselves on being incomparably more “cultured,” “cultivated,” “dignified,” and better off than their black brethren down in the ghetto, which was no further away than you could throw a rock. Under the pitiful misapprehension that it would make them “better,” these Hill Negroes were breaking their backs trying to imitate white people. (40)
Malcolm X’s unerring gaze sees the hidden issue behind race: individuals attempting to climb socially, putting on pretenses so that they appear better than others, and as a result, being completely unwilling to stir up any trouble about the race issue. He describes white people today as thoroughly as he might be describing African-Americans in the 1940s.
Not only is he lucid on issues of race, but through them and his conversion to Islam, he discovers a conservative outlook on the world. Drugs, drink and pursuit of empty desires creates a self-destructive mentality; what is needed is moral discipline, courage, higher principles and a disciplined, focused, purposeful existence. Few people today of any sub-species can claim familiarity with such clarity.
For its honesty and extreme clarity, this book is an excellent read for any citizen of planet earth interested in the future of diversity. As a resolved critic of diversity, Malcolm X shows us why it is impossible and why nationalism is preferable; as a writer, he provokes us to look deep into our own motivations to understand what we truly want out of this situation.