Malcolm X’s attitude towards white people changed dramatically during the course of his life. When he was young, he looked up to and admired white people. He writes, “I didn’t really have much feeling about being a Negro, because I was trying so hard, in every way I could, to be white.”(32-33) When he was a young man, he didn’t really have an opinion of whites in general. However, when he was sent to prison and became exposed to Islam, he became very resentful of whites and formed a true hatred towards them. He began calling whites “the devil” and wrote, “Book after book showed me how the white man had brought upon the world’s black, brown, red, and yellow people’s every variety of the sufferings of exploitation.”(180) He began blaming whites for all of the black man’s problems. His experience in Mecca and in other parts of the world seemed to mellow his attitude somewhat though. In Mecca, he met other Muslims from all over the world and of every color, including whites. His hatred of whites in general subsided, but he still never embraced the idea of integration. He said, “I never really trust the kind of white people who are always so anxious to hang around Negroes.”(384) He seemed to appreciate good intentioned whites wanting to help in his cause. But, he believed that they could best help by staying with their own kind and trying to change minds in the white community. So, Malcolm X’s attitude towards whites did develop and change as he aged. First he wanted to become white. As the apathy of his younger years faded, he formed a true hatred of whites. As he aged, however, he gained a respect for whites but never seemed to want to work directly with them.

Similarly, X’s attitude towards blacks also changed throughout his life. He believed that black true place was “at the top of civilization.”(201) He hated so-called “house-niggers” that did everything in their power to please the whites that were suppressing them. He was also angered by the fact that most blacks he tried to recruit to his state of mind seemed to be entirely apathetic to his teachings that he believed “would resurrect the black man.”(203)And, despite the fact that he blamed whites for the problems of the blacks in America, he eventually came to believe that only blacks could improve their situation. He thought that they had to do away with the problems of crime, drugs, drunkenness, and absent fathers in order to lift themselves up.

I think that it would be fair to label Malcolm X as a racist at certain points of his life. Certainly when he was in prison and then first exposed to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, X was a racist. He absolutely hated whites and believed they were the root of nearly all evil in the world. The fact that he repeatedly refers to whites as the devil is pretty convincing evidence that he was a racist. That is not to say, however, that he did not have good reason to be a racist at that point in his life. Everything he had experienced and been taught up to that point showed him that he was right for hating whites. However, a racist is a racist whether they have a reason to be or not. When he left America and encountered white Muslims and other international whites that treated him well, he lost that racist edge he had earlier. He no longer thought that all whites were evil, but rather began to realize that only a segment of whites were the problem. This is a much more nuanced, intelligent, and, I believe, correct attitude. So, I would say that when Malcolm X was first engaged in the struggle of blacks, he was a racist. However, as he matured and experienced more of life, he became much more focused on the true areas of white people who were causing blacks problems. Instead of lumping all whites together as evil, as a racist would, X was much more pointed in directing his anger towards truly problematic whites. So, at the end, I don’t believe you could accurately describe Malcolm X as a racist.

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