Ronald E. Satterfield Jr.
Rhetorical Analysis of Malcolm X’s “My First Conk”
Malcolm X was an activist, a devout Muslim, as well as a reformed criminal. The audiences Malcolm attempted to reach were his fellow civil rights leaders, other Muslims, and those who were still living a criminal lifestyle. Malcolm X addressed the feeling of oppression felt by those engaged in criminal activity, the struggle for respect and equality felt by other civil rights activists and the idea of nationalism for the opportunity for recruitment. Malcolm X wanted to change the mind state of criminals where they would feel a sense of purpose. His goal for the activist was to seek independence, not assimilation. The use of vivid descriptions of the lengths one would go to gain acceptance, as well as describe the feeling of low self-esteem that permeated the community. The comparison of white superiority and black inferiority give examples of the fractured mind state
needed to be repaired by those in the struggle with him. The symbolisms of burning his scalp, sense of worthlessness, inferiority as well as his own act of self- degradation to feel better about himself as many others had done. Malcolm X described the sense of desperation felt by the economically deprived criminal element by stating how he endured all the pain to have White mans hair. To the other activists he explored the backward mentality of the poor black to enlist their assistance. To the Muslim community he depicts their brethren as kerchief wearing Aunt Jemimas. Malcolm X used the strategy of symbolism when he stated that conking was an emblem of shame. Comparison was used to relay the description between the white race being superior and the black race being inferior. The strategy of irony was used when he stated ‘no woman really respects a conk’ solidifies the N.O.I’s doctrine of self-respect. The rhetorical strategies of comparison,...
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