We live in the world formed under the substantial impact of racism, and this impact could still be observed in numerous spheres of human life. The fact is that humanity managed to stand against all forms of discrimination only in the 20th century under the impact of diverse civil rights movements and drastic changes in peoples mentalities. Meaningful events in the social life like the WWI, WWII, and other conflicts gave rise to humanistic concerns. People shifted their priorities towards the appreciation of humanistic values and cultivation of a new environment free from such remnants of the past as slavery, discrimination, and racism. Humanity has apparently achieved a great success in this field and officially proclaimed tolerance, equality, and the era of humanism.
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However, the situation is still far from the ideal one. Unfortunately, we can observe racism and its manifestations, though it is now not shown directly. Numerous researchers admit the fact that the complete elimination of all forms of discrimination and biased attitude based on the ethnic belonging might demand much effort and time (Dierenfield 5). For this reason, previous experiences of racism and inappropriate behaviors become crucial for the investigation of the concern and improved outcomes. Additionally, numerous activists perspectives on the problem of racism might be helpful. That is why we delve into the two important sources by prominent authors. In The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody, progressive-minded activist Malcolm X and reflecting writer Anne Moody, describe life challenges faced in the United States in the second half of the 20th century. Through social disciples of politics, economics, and the American social atmosphere, both writers illustrate the polarized environment through their differing personal experiences.
Similarities and Differences
Comparing these two authors and their perspectives on the issue of racism, we can admit several factors mentioned by them in their autobiographies. The first significant difference is that Malcolm grew up in the North while Anne was born in the South. These aspects play a substantial role in the formation of the authors mentalities. The traditional opposition between the North and the South resulted in the divergence in their perspectives on black people. Malcolm states that “in those days white people in the North usually would “adopt” just a few Negroes; they didn’t see them as any threat” (Malcolm and Haley). On the contrary, Moody says about whites that “they believed so much in the segregated Southern way of life, they would kill to preserve it.” These quotes from autobiographies demonstrate that the authors had different experiences regarding racism and communities attitude to them. However, they both formulated their negative feelings about segregation and discrimination.
At the same time, there were some similar points in the activists biographies. Both Anne and Malcolm experienced certain family problems. Malcolm said that “The day was to come when our family was so poor that we would eat the hole out of a doughnut” (Malcolm and Haley). Additionally, due to numerous financial and other problems they often have to move from one place to another. For instance: “Our family stayed only briefly in Milwaukee, for my father wanted to find a place where he could raise our own food and perhaps build a business” (Malcolm and Haley). These lines show that Malcolm faced numerous difficulties and challenges when moving with the family and trying to find a better place to live. At the same time, Anne also had some similar problems. She suffered from the recognition of the fact that her family was scared “but it hurt to have my family prove to me how scared they were. It hurt me more than anything else—I knew the whites had already started the threats and intimidations” (Moody). Additionally, she says “during my senior year at Tougaloo, my family hadn’t sent me one penny” (Moody). It means that their financial state was poor.
Nevertheless, there is another aspect in these authors biographies which make them similar. They both supported different social movements and were active members of specific organizations. As for Malcolm, he underlines the fact that this activity and participation in diverse organizations were an important part of his life. He says “I have always been an activist, and my personal chemistry perhaps made me reach more quickly than most ministers in the Nation of Islam that stage of dedication” (Malcolm and Haley). In such a way, it preconditioned his further rise as an important progressive-minded activist. Annes life was also connected with similar social movements. She said that during her study she “had become very friendly with my social science professor, John Salter, who was in charge of NAACP activities on campus” (Moody). Since that time she had become an active member of this organization and participated in diverse activities aimed at the protection of civil rights of black people. In such a way, differences in their biographies and experiences impacted their growth and the ways racism was learned. Additionally, they promoted the better understanding that the American society, economics, and politics nourish racist psychology.
Thus, Malcolm early understood the fact that the country promotes the further rise of racism and its preservation by affecting all spheres of human activity. He was sure that “social, political and economic structure, the criminal, the law, and the politicians were actually inseparable partners” as they helped each other to support the existing environment and preserve a particular distribution of power (Malcolm and Haley). Additionally, analyzing the political life of the state, Malcolm admitted that no parties really supported black people in their desires to struggle against racism (Malcolm and Haley).
As for Anne, very soon she understood that “the general policy” accepted in the society of that period of time was the use of the biased approach to treat black people and consider their rights (Moody). Participating in diverse meetings and political events, she noticed that the American political experiences were far from tolerant ones as they supported segregation and deprived African-Americans of a chance to participate in the political life of the state (Moody). Both authors also believed that the existence of these problematic issues in the American political environment was preconditioned by economic factors, significant shifts in peoples mentalities and psychology that cultivated their behaviors.
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Economics and Psychology
For instance, speaking about the psychological aspect of racism Malcolm states that there is “the American political, economic, and social atmosphere that automatically nourishes a racist psychology in the white man” (Malcolm and Haley). In other words, the existing society makes people conscious of their color differences by causing an economic, political, and social pressure on them (Malcolm and Haley). Additionally, Malcolm states that “if racism could be removed, America could offer a society where rich and poor could truly live like human beings”( Malcolm and Haley); however, it could hardly be achieved regarding the existing differences.
Anne demonstrates a similar understanding of the way economic pressure works and contributes to the preservation of racism. For instance, cogitating about black farmers with numerous acres of land who were not able to make a living off it she was sure that “if they were able to get larger cotton allotments or find some other use for their land, perhaps get FHA loans to build up their farms, it would provide them with economic stability” (Moody). However, the society deprives them of this chance and nourishes racist psychology presupposing that black people should be rich. The authors assumptions show how closely social beliefs and racism are connected and impact each other.
Nevertheless, describing the social atmosphere of that period, Malcolm outlines the existence of “racial tension” and prejudiced attitude to people of color (Malcolm and Haley). In other words, regardless of the fact that whites in the North were not as hostile and did not consider black people a threat to their position, they still had an uncensorious attitude to African Americans.
Anne repeats this idea. Moreover, living in the South, she had even more complex experiences. The attitude to black people sometimes was even aggressive which created the basis for the further rise of racism and its becoming an integral part of peoples mentalities and approaches (Moody). Both Anne and Malcolm perfectly realized this fact and tried to show it their autobiographies to emphasize the necessity of change and ensure that people will understand the roots of racism psychology.
In such a way, the basic aspects of these two activists autobiographies underling the fact that the American society is far from the ideal one and complete elimination of racism. Moreover, they demonstrate the systemic character of the problem. This idea coincides with Malcolms famous statement that “the white man is not entirely evil, but Americas racist society influences him to act evilly” (Malcolm and Haley). As we have already stated, Malcolm described people living in America as not hostile ones; however, this passage is fair only for individuals. His and Annes autobiographies show that political, social, and economic aspects of life are organized in the way that nourishes significant alterations in peoples mentalities and their adherence to biased behavioral patterns. In such a way, it becomes critical to alter the basis of the society and the way it functions to guarantee the achievement of particular success in fighting against racism and improvement of people of colors position. This statement also pointed out the real problem of the U.S. society and showed the way how it should be treated; however, Malcolm and Anne used different methods
Political Behaviors in the Activists 20s and Later
Besides, divergence in Anne and Malcolms perspectives on racism and how it should be resisted preconditioned differences in their political behaviors. For instance, during his 20s. Malcolm was an active member of the Nation of Islam and used it as the platform to spread his ideas among people who really needed his support and advocacy (Dierenfield 56). However, at the same time, he was extremely critical of the civil rights movements and Martin Luther Kings activity (Dierenfield 78). This aspect significantly differentiates him from Anne who was an active member of diverse organizations like NAACP, CORE, student committees, and believed that civil movements are the only way to alter the society (Dierenfield 98).
In their later years, the activists also had different methods to impact the society. Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam because of the numerous tensions and founding his own religious origination Muslim Mosque Inc. that will help to provide “the spiritual force necessary to rid our people of the vices that destroy the moral fiber of our community” (Malcolm and Haley). Until his assassination, he addressed a wide variety of audiences in Africa, Europe, the UK, and the USA promoting his ideas. As for Anne, she remained the active member of civil movements and tried to reveal the problem of racism in her stories (Dierenfield 101).
Having analyzed these autobiographies, I should say that I completely agree with Malcolm statement. The fact is that it is extremely difficult for a representative of a discriminated minority to resist the social pressure that includes political, economic, and other aspects. At the same time, individuals who belong to the majority should follow the rules established in a particular community. In such a way, we can observe the situation described by Malcolm as a single person does not cultivate racism; however, being a part of a system he/she contributes to its further rise.
Altogether, in The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody, progressive-minded activist Malcolm X and reflecting writer Anne Moody, describe life challenges faced in the United States in the second half of the 20th century. Through social disciples of politics, economics, and the American social atmosphere, both writers illustrate the polarized environment through their differing personal experiences. They are sure that the existing society cultivates racism and makes neural individuals act in the ways that promote the further spread of the problem. The combination of economic, social, and political pressure becomes a powerful tool that should be eliminated to ensure the improvement of the existing situation.
Dierenfield, Bruce. The Civil Rights Movement: Revised Edition. Routledge, 2008.
Malcolm, X, and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Ballantine Publishing Group, 1965.
Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi. A Dell Book, 1968.