He dressed like other young men of his generation and behaved as they did. he preferred women who were lighter in color because white society had made him ashamed of his color. He fell into crime as an easy way to make a living, and in any case society asked nothing more of him and expected even less.
It is while he is in prison that he begins to see the fallacy of this way of life and the way it has been imposed on him without his awareness. He also becomes ashamed of his ignorance as another inmate, Bimbi, makes him see how little he knows and how much he needs to learn:
But every book I picked up had few sentences which didn't contain anywhere from one to nearly all of the words that might as well have been in Chinese (Haley 171).
He gets hold of a dictionary and learns the words one at a time, learning both to read and to write them as he goes through the dictionary. He copied the dictionary page by page, learning by doing, and he read copiously as he became better at understanding what he read, reading to the point of straining his eyes badly.
It is in these readings that he learns a lesson about the education he never received in the white schools. He reads books by Elijah Muhammad that "stressed how history had been 'whitened'--when white men had written history books, the black men simply had been left out" (Haley 174). Malcolm remembers when he was a child in Mason and had studied history, with all the history of the Negro covered in one paragraph:
You can hardly show me a black adult in America--or a white one, for that matter--who knows from the history books anything like the truth about the black man's role (Haley 174).
Reading opens his eyes to the reality of the situation of the black man in the world, a reality he had always ignored as he lived out the role society seemed to have set for him, a role that was negative, destructive, and that prevented him from achieving anything positive i...
The Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. (2000, January 01). In LotsofEssays.com. Retrieved 10:55, October 31, 2014, from http://www.collegetermpapers.com/viewpaper/1303728823.html