Good Essay On Malcolm X And His Mastery Of The English Language
Malcolm X did not betray his people by learning and using “white” English. He was determined to fight for equal rights “by any means necessary” and he would have used German or Chinese if it would have helped his cause. As an autodidact, learning formal English was a natural result of his education, and necessary to reach a wider audience and spread the word about his beliefs. Malcolm X used the language of White America because it was necessary, not other language would have worked. He was articulate because what he was saying was powerful and serious. His true language was the truth, and his followers understood the need to use clear, formal and traditional English.
In “Homemade Education”, Malcolm X describes how he became enlightened and educated by consuming books and learning to communicate. He devoured books, and became a great communicator. He had a passionate message to share, and he “became increasingly frustrated at not being able to express what I wanted in letters that I wrote” (Malcolm X 143). He read and learned a new vocabulary. Words and language became his weapon, and he was not going to rely on slang, or a limited vocabulary. He was going to become the best and most eloquent speaker and writer, because he was serious about what he was saying.
His community understood that he was not adopting a “white” persona. He was using English, in a formal way, to communicate his ideas. His education was mostly self-taught, and the language he learned was from books written by great thinkers. Therefore, the English was not slang, or street language that can often be associated with black culture. There is a saying in the Art of War, that you must “know your enemy” (Sunzi). Malcolm X used the power of English against his oppressors. He also understood they way power works in America. He would not be taken seriously by anyone, white or black, if he did not speak clearly and with authority. He claimed English for himself, and asserted that it is not the sole domain of white culture. His enemies were racists, not the English language, which he used as a weapon against them.
Malcolm X, “Homemade Education”, Goshgarian, Gary, ed. Exploring language.
Sunzi, and Samuel B. Griffith. The Art of War. London: Oxford UP, 1971. Print.