92 pages • 3 hours readMalcolm X, Alex Haley
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The chief criticisms leveled at the Nation of Islam, and its representative Malcolm X, are that they are “Black supremacist” and thus a hate group. The Southern Poverty Law Center, the chief US arbiter of racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, and anti-LGBTQIA+ groups, supports this characterization. The judgment comes from Nation of Islam ideology. The group explicitly advocates the notion that Black Americans are superior to White Americans, who are labeled with the dehumanizing term “devils.” In addition to parroting these talking points, Malcolm engages in his own hateful rhetoric, as when he responds to the deaths of over 30 White people in a plane crash by exclaiming, “I’ve just heard some good news!” (453).
The fact that Malcolm later disavows his blanket hatred of White people does not make these statements any less uncomfortable. Malcolm is keenly aware that the Nation of Islam’s angry and hateful rhetoric appeals to so many Black Americans, particularly those who belong to the lower and working classes, because it is the hatred of the oppressed towards the oppressor. To Malcolm, White supremacy invites hate, so White America has no one but itself to blame.
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