A Phenomenological Hermeneutic of Antiblack Racism in The Autobiography of Malcolm X

by David Polizzi
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Publisher: Lexington Books

Series: Philosophy of Race

Publication Date: June 04, 2019

ISBN: 9781498592345

Binding: Kobo eBook

Availability: eBook

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This text provides a phenomenological account of the experience of anti-black racism as described by Malcolm X. Central to this analysis is the phenomenology that emerges over the course of Malcolm’s life, which emerges through the various personal transformations that the autobiography introduces and explores. As this process unfolds, a variety of different aspects of lived-experience can be witnessed that becomes situated within the process of naming that Malcolm employs to situate the specifics of his experience.

For example, the phenomenology of Malcolm’s early childhood experience, is defined by two very different competing definitions for blackness. Though Malcolm Little and his family exist or find themselves “thrown” within a social structure that employs a narrative of anti-black racism, his parents are able to provide a powerful alternative meaning for blackness that is informed by the perspective taken from the Marcus Garvey Movement of the early 1900s.When that narrative is effectively silenced given Malcolm’s separation from his family, the positive meanings for black-being-in-the-world disappear and leave Malcolm with few alternatives to this new reality.

As the Autobiography moves forward, Malcolm’s experience becomes defined by the phenomenology that these overlapping narratives construct. During certain moments of this phenomenology, the negative aspects of anti-black racism seem to impose very specific challenges to Malcolm’s lived-experience that become difficult to overcome and in others, powerful alternative meanings for black-being-in-the-world are taken-up and successfully employed to address the consequences of this type of racism. Though the fact of anti-black racism is never actually defeated, Malcolm’s relationship to this process is drastically transformed over the course of his reflection.