Question: Discuss Malcom X’s Life Experiences as Detroit Red.
Malcom X was a great man with an inspiring and moving story that could impact many people’s lives today. As a teenager, Malcom X struggled through life in the streets of Boston. It was not easy for him as he had to fight discrimination amongst other social injustices that were related to being black then. The street experience, in effect, resulted in Malcom’s development of consciousness on the discrimination against black Americans and as a consequence he went deep into defending the African American civil rights.
As a Detroit red, Malcom X totally transformed from his initial self. He attained this by making efforts at fitting into white America. He did this by changing his physical appearance as well as his identity. For instance, in an attempt to fit into the white society, Malcom turned his hair into a smooth, thick and shining sheen of red hair and made it as straight as any white man’s (Wainstock 56-98). Additionally, as Detroit Red, Malcom X adopted the hustler lifestyle. Detroit Red’s hustler lifestyle illuminated the ethical decay that plagued the American ghettos. For instance, he adopted slangs, zoot suits, drugs as well as gambling indicating the degree of ease that an individual could be seduced to join the life in the fast lane.
In spite of having earned the moniker “Detroit Red” as a consequence of his bright red hair, he discovers how to carry out business and, as a result, cold-bloodedly fend for himself. This, therefore, lays the ground for Malcom X’s later sentiment that residing in the ghetto promotes both destruction and deceit. As Detroit Red, Malcom is seen to have a number of social insights but very few moral restraints. His philosophy as Detroit Red demands that he trust nobody, gets to recognize his adversary well, and safeguards his public image vigilantly. As Detroit Red, Malcom acts a representation of the suffering that is endured by members of African Americans in the United States (Diawara and Manthia, 32).
The name Detroit Red symbolized a period of Malcom’s life that was comprised by a great deal of physical transformation. This phase symbolized his regret for being black and as a consequence he tried hard to be and behave like whites (X & Steve, 25). Detroit Red’s attempts to appear as a white man later shaped his life and enabled him to accept and appreciate himself the way he was. He later came to the realization that being black was superior to being white upon learning the Islamic teaching that perceived the whites as “Satan” for the reason that they brainwashed Africans with their Christian teachings as well as the belief that whites were superior beings.
Additionally, As Detroit Red, 15 years old, Malcom learned to be daring enough to face and do anything so as to survive. This was the rule of the jungle for him. He pursued his criminal activities that included drug abuse; drug trafficking, robbery and pimping amongst others. While using the Detroit Red identity, Malcom learned that criminal activities could bar one from luxurious opportunities. For instance, due to his criminal background, Malcolm avoided joining the military and was mentally disqualified after telling the draft board officials that he would steal the guns. This was quite odd, and Malcom must have been under the influence of some drugs (Robinson 78-81).
Malcom finally changed his name to Malcom X in 1950. He believed that in the Muslim world, the name X was an authentic presentation of the African Family name. In addition, he felt that the name, X, replaced the slave-master name of the whites that was previously assigned to him. The name Malcom X was, therefore, taken to symbolize a free man. That is; a man who was totally free from all the slavery of the white men. The slavery is in reference to how he had initially tried to imitate and even make physical changes so as to identify with the whites and feel accepted in the society. Further, the name acted as a symbol that Malcom had developed a change of attitude concerning his identity and was now fully proud of who he was in the society despite the challenges that he faced as a black American.
Additionally, as Malcolm X, Malcolm developed self-assurance and integrity as a spiritual leader as well as a media personality. This period shows Malcolm cautiously shaping the significance and identity of his character. As he goes up the leadership ladder in the Nation of Islam and replaces Elijah Muhammad, the media focus on his philosophies, enabling him to broadcast his message extensively. Even though his public assertions do not at first depart from the party stance of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm finally instigates expanding his messages in an effort to address Caucasians. Through the media, Malcolm X calls for a more vigorous approach to the race-based politics in America, and his authority in America indicates the efficiency with which he has transformed his personality. Following a trip to Africa, Malcolm X advices African Americans to join with the non-Caucasian majority globally for a common course. This depicts Malcom’s general propensity to allow the acumen he acquires
During his identity as Malcom X, he learned and experienced a lot of periodic changes that transformed his nature, attitude and perception on a great deal of things as well as people, particularly the whites and the blacks. This was the last name Malcom had prior to his death on 21st February, 1965 when he was shot dead by three men using 21 bullets. He was thereafter pronounced dead.
History considers Malcom X as one of the greatest American Leader in spite of his skin color. This is in spite of the criticism that he received then and after his demise. Some of the critics have argued that Malcom was not a good role model to look up to owing to the assumptions made and based on his life as a Detroit Red, a duration in which he was a drug addict. Another notable assumption is that he must have been a homosexual to fend enough money to satisfy his undying desire for drugs (Robinson & Dean, 42).Nonetheless, today Malcom X is still looked up to by many owing to the rationale that he was a man who took up intricate ideas and made them look simple and plain for all to comprehend. Additionally, it is unforgettable how Malcom X struggled in a bid to ensure that African Americans were not discriminated against. He attained this by not only concentrating on the civil rights but also looking at it through a humanistic approach.
In a nutshell, we can draw many lessons from Malcom X’s struggles as a kid, in the streets, in prison and the time he rose to be an international voice of the oppressed in the society. Firstly, we are required to have the will to learn and to change our attitudes. This is evident in Malcom’s life as he was always willing to change when faced with challenges and situations. Secondly, we should never give up. Malcom X portrayed this when some people tried to mock his efforts to fight for the oppressed by terming it “at least minor”. In a rejoinder Malcom dismissed their ideas by observing that for over 400 years the white man has had his foot-long blade in the black man’s back, and now the white man had began to squirm the blade out, perhaps six inches! Must the black man be indebted? Why, in case the white man jolted the blade out, it will still leave a mark! (Wainstock 153-176).
Lastly, we learn from the struggles of Malcom X that all human beings are equal regardless of their color, ethnicity, and socio-economic background. This, therefore, implies that we should not discriminate against fellow human beings based on any ground. This virtue is significant in fostering love, peace and harmony in the contemporary societies.
Diawara, Manthia. In Search of Africa. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2009.
Robinson, Dean E. Black Nationalism in American Politics and Thought. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Wainstock, Dennis D. Malcolm X, African American Revolutionary. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2008.