Malcom X “Autobiography”

Chapter 1 Nightmare:

“It has always been my belief that I, too, will die by violence. I have done al that I can to be prepared” (2)

“Out in the world later on, in Boston and New York I was among the millions of Negroes who were insane enough to feel that it was some kind of status symbol to be light-complexioned- that one was actually fortunate to be born thus.  But, still later, I learned to hate every drop of that white rapist’s blood that is in me.” (2)

“Negroes who would shout as my father preached, for the pie-in-the-sky and their heaven in the hereafter while the white man had his here on earth.” (6)

‘My image of Africa, at that time, was of naked savages, cannibals, monkeys and tigers and steaming jungles” (7)

“I learned early that crying out in protest could accomplish things.  My older brothers and sister had started to school when, sometimes, they would come in and ask for a buttered biscuit or something and my mother, impatiently, would tell them no.  But I would cry out and make a fuss until I got what I wanted.  I remember well how my mother asked me why I couldn’t be a nice boy like Wilfrd; but I would think to myself that Wilfred, for being so nice and quiet, often stayed hungry.  So early in life, I had learned taht if you want something, you had better make some noise.” (8)

“‘Malcom, there’s one thing I like about you.  You’re no good, but you don’ try to  hide it.  You are not  a hypocrite.'” (15)

“White people always associated watermelons with NEgroes, and they sometime called Negroes “coons” among all the other names, and so stealing watermelons became “cooning” them.  If white boys were doing it, it implied that they were only acting like Negroes.  Whites have always hidden or justified all of the guilts they could by ridiculing or blaming Negroes.” (15)

“(…) anytime you find someone more successful than you are, especially when you’re both engaged in the same business- you know they’re doing something that you aren’t.” (20)

“It was as if I was trying to walk up the side of a hill of feathers.” (21)

“Hence I have no mercy or compassion in me for a society that will crush people, and then penalize them for not being able to stand up under the weight.” (22)

Chapter 2 – Mascot

“I’m sorry to say that the subject I most disliked was mathematics.  I have thought about it.  I think the reasons was that mathematics leaves no room for argument.  If you made a mistake, that was all there was to it.” (29)

“The only difference was that the ones in Boston had been brainwashed even more thoroughly.”(40)

“It has never ceased to amaze me how so many Negroes, then and now, could stand the indignity of that kind of self-delusion.” (41)

“I didn’t want to disappoint or upset Ella, but despite her advice, I began going down into the town ghetto section.  That world of grocery stores, walk-up flats, cheap restaurants, poolrooms, bars storefront churches, and pawnshops seemed to hold a natural lure for me” (42).

“I met chicks who were fine as May wine, and cats who were hip to all happenings.” (56)

“Sammy the Pimp taught me something I wish I had known then to look for in Laura’s face. It was what Sammy declared was his infallible clue for determining the ‘unconscious, true personality’ of women. Considering all the women he had picked out of crowds and turned into prostitutes, Sammy qualified as an expert. Anyway, he swore that if a woman, any woman, gets really carried away while dancing, what she truly is-at least potentially- will surface and show on her face.” (63)

“Never ask a woman about other men. Either she’ll tell you a lie, and you still won’t known, or if she tells you the truth, you might not have wanted to hear it in the first place.” (68)

“Of course I knew their reason like I knew my own name: they wanted to steal my fine white woman way from me” (68)

“One of the shames I have carried for years is that I blame myself for all of this. To have treated her as I did for a white woman made the blow doubly heavy. The only excuse I can offer is that like so many of my black brothers today, I was just deaf, dumb, and blind.” (68)

“We were in that world of Negroes who are both servants and psychologists, aware that white people are so obsessed with their own importance that they will pay liberally, even dearly , for the impression of being catered to and entertained.” (75)

“Let this very book circulate widely in the black ghettoes of the country, and-although I’m no longer a gambling person-I’d lay a small wager for your favorite charity that millions of dollars would be bet by my poor, foolish black brothers and sister upon, say, whatever happens to be the number of this page, or whatever is the total of the whole book’s pages.” (85)

“All of us-who might have probed space, or cured cancer, or built industries- were instead, black victims of the white man’s American social system. In another sense, the tragedy of the once master pickpocket made him, for those brother old-time hustlers a ‘there but for the grade of God’ symbol. To wolves who still were able to catch some rabbits, it had meaning that an old wolf had lost his fangs was still eating.” (90)

“This shouldn’t reflect too badly on that particular building, because almost everyone in Harlem needed some kind of hustle to survive, and needed to stay high in some way to forget what they had to do to survive” (91)

“The prostitutes had to make it their business to be students of men. They said that after most men passed their virile twenties, they went to bed mainly to satisfy their egos, and because a lot of women don’t understand it that way, they damage and wreck a man’s ego.” (92)

“All women, by their nature, are fragile and weak; they are attracted to the male in whom they see strength.” (93)

“In Sammy’s native Paducah, Kentucky, he had gotten a girl pregnant. Her parents made it so hot that Sammy had come to Harlem, where he got a job as a restaurant waiter. When a woman came in to eat alone, and he found she really was alone, not married, or living with somebody, it generally was not hard for smooth Sammy to get invited to her apartment. He’s insist on going out to a nearby restaurant to bring back some dinner, and while he was out he would have her key duplicated. Then, when he knew she was away, Sammy would go in and clean out all her valuables. Sammy was then able to offer some little stake, to help her back on her feet. This could be the beginning of an emotional and financial dependency, which Sammy knew how to develop until she was his virtual slave.” (100)

“When you become an animal, a vulture, in the ghetto, as I had become, you enter a world of animals and vultures.  It becomes truly the survival of only the fittest.” (102)

“Most whites don’t give a Negro credit for having sense enough to fool them – or nerve enough.” (103)

“I told Reginald what I had learned: that in order to get something you had to look as though you already had something.” (104)

“This is till one of the black man’s big troubles today.  So many of those so-called ‘upper class’ Negroes are so busy trying to impress on the white man that they are ‘different from those others’ that they can’t see they are only helping the white man to keep his low opinion of all Negroes.” (106)

“One day, in a blackjack game, an old cook who was dealing the cards tried to be slick, and I had to drop my pistol in his face.” (108)

“Full-time hustlers never can relax to appraise what they are doing and where they are bound.” (109)

“Any experienced hustlers will tell you that getting greedy is the quickest road to prison.” (109)

“And we laughed about the scared little Chinese whose restaurant didn’t have a hand laid on it, because the rioters just about convulsed laughing when they saw the sign the Chinese had hastily stuck on his front door: ‘Me Colored Too’.” (114)

“Negroes can’t afford to be taking their money downtown to the white man.” (114)

“She knew from personal experience how crime existed only to the degree that the law cooperated with it.  She showed me how, in the country’s entire social, political and economic structures, the criminal, the law, and the politicians were actually inseparable partners.” (116)

“Harlem was their sin-den, their fleshpot.” (119)

“She told me that nearly every white woman in her clientele would specify ‘a black one’; sometimes they would say ‘a real one’, meaning black, no brown Negroes, no red Negroes.” (121)

“The hypocritical white man will talk about the Negro’s ‘low morals.’  But who has the world’s lowest morals if not whites? And not only that, but the ‘upper-class’ whites!” (121)

“They say God takes care of fools and babies (…) Through all of this time of my life, I really was dead – mentally dead.  I just didn’t know that I was.” (125)

“Always, every now and then, I had given her a hard time, just to keep her in line.  Every one in a while a woman seems to need, in fact wants this, too.” (135)

“Looking back, I think I really was at least slightly out of my mind.  I viewed narcotics as most people regard food.  I wore my guns as today I wear my neckties.  Deep down, I actually believed that after living as fully as humanly possible, one should then die violently.  I expected then, as I still expect today, to die at any time.” (138)

“Once a week, Rudy went to the home of this old, rich Boston blueblood, pillar-of-society aristocrat.  He paid Rudy to undress them both, then pick up the old man like a baby, lay him on his bed, then stand over him and sprinkle him all over with talcum powder.” (141)

“I can give you a very good tip if you want to keep burglars out of your house.  A light on for the burglar to see is the very best single means of protection.  One of the ideal things is to leave a bathroom light on all night.  The bathroom is one place when somebody could be, for any length of time, at any time of the night, and he would be likely to hear the slightest strange sound.  The burglar, knowing this, won’t try to enter.  It’s also the cheapest possible protection.  The kilowatts are a lot cheaper than your valuables.” (144)

“I knew that something was wrong. But I didn’t ask him anything.  I’ve always had this rule- never ask anybody in that kind of situation; they will tell you what they want you to know.  But the bartender didn’t get a chance to tell me, if he had meant to.  When I sat down on a stool and ordered a drink, I saw them.” (147)

“But people are always speculating- why am I as I am? To understand that of any person, his whole life, from birth, must be reviewed.  All of our experiences fuse into our personality.  Everything that ever happened to us is an ingredient.” (150)

“That seems surprising, even after the dozen years since I have been out of prison.  Because your number in prison became part of you.  You never heard your name, only your number.  On all of your clothing, every item, was your number, stenciled.  It grew stenciled on your brain.”(152)

“Any person who claims to have deep feeling for other human beings should think a long, long time before he votes to have other men kept behind bars-caged.  I am not saying there shouldn’t be prisons, but there shouldn’t be bars.  Behind bars, a man never reforms. he will never forget.  He never will get completely over the memory of the bars.  After he gets out, his mind tries to erase the experience, but he can’t.  I’ve talked with numerous former convicts.  It has been very interesting to me to find that all of our minds had blotted away many details of years in prison.  But in every case, he will tell you that he can’T forget those bars.” (152)

“It was the funniest thing, the reaction, and the way that it spread.  In prison, where so little breaks the monotonous routine, the smallest thing causes a commotion of talk.  It was being mentioned all over the cell block by night that Satan didn’t eat pork.” (156)

“I have never pushed anyone to tell me anything before he is ready.” (158)

“if a many knew every imaginable thing that there is to know, who would he be?” (158)

“I just listened, knowing he was taking his time in putting me onto something.  And if somebody is trying to put you onto something, you need to listen.” (158)

“‘John’, I said, ‘how many degrees in circle?’ He said, ‘Three hundred and sixty.’ I drew a square.  ‘How many degrees in that?’ He said three hundred and sixty.  I asked him was three hundred and sixty degrees, then, the maximum of degrees in anything? He said ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Well, why is it that Masons go only to thirty-three degrees?’ (160)

“You don’t even know, the white devil has hidden it form you, that you are of a race of people of ancient civilizations, and riches in gold and kings.  You don’t even know your true family name, you wouldn’t recognize your true language if you heard it.  You have been cut off by the devil white man from all true knowledge of your own kind.  You have been a victim of the evil of the devil white man ever since he murdered and raped and stole you from your native land in the seeds of your forefathers.” (161)

“‘The true knowledge,’ reconstructed much more briefly than I received it, was that history had been ‘whitened’ in the white man’s history books, and that the black man had been ‘brainwashed for hundreds of years.’ Original Man was black, in the continent called Africa where the human race had emerged on the planet Earth.” (162)

“I have since learned-helping me to understand what then began to happen within me- that the truth can be quickly received, or received at all, only by the sinner who know and admits that he is guilty of having sinned much. State another way: only guilt admitted accepts truth.” (163)

“I was going through the hardest thing, also the greatest thing, for any human being to do: to accept that which is already within you, and around you.” (164)

p. 164-166 : Yacub’s History.

“The black prisoner, he said, symbolized white society’s crime of keeping black men oppressed and deprived and ignorant, and unable to get decent jobs, turning them into criminals.” (169)

“But bending my knees to pray-that act-well, that took me a week (…) Picking a lock to rob someone’s house was the only way my knees had ever bent before.”(169)

“For evil to bend its knees, admitting its guilt, to implore the forgiveness of God, is the hardest thing in the world.  It’s easy for me to see and to say that now.  But then, when I was the personification of evil, I was going through it.” (170)

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