“Yes! Yes, that raping, red-headed devil was my grandfather! That close, yes! My mother’s father! She didn’t like to speak of it, can you blame her? She said she never laid eyes on him! She was glad for that! I’m glad for her! If I could drain away his blood that pollutes my body, and pollutes my complexion, I’d do it! Because I hate every drop of the rapist’s blood that’s in me!”
This passage from Chapter Twelve, “Savior,” an excerpt from one of Malcolm’s early speeches as a Nation of Islam minister, demonstrates the fierceness of his anti–white sentiment. The “raping, red-headed devil” is Malcolm’s grandfather, a white man on the Caribbean island of Antigua who fathered Malcolm’s mother, Louise, by raping her mother. Though the man is Malcolm’s own grandfather, Malcolm condemns him for his odious actions and for the oppression that he represents. In his youth, Malcolm does experience benefits from having lighter skin, such as his father treating him well and his easier time integrating into his white school. But such benefits eventually only frustrate him because they illuminate the depths of the real racial boundaries he faces.
Malcolm’s agitation about “his blood pollut[ing] my body” reflects his belief in the Nation of Islam’s genetic theory of race, which holds that white people were bred from black people by a mad scientist in order to unleash evil on the world. The racist values behind this attitude put Malcolm on a parallel with racist whites. Furthermore, by dwelling on the rape of black women by white men and the evils of interracial intercourse, Malcolm evokes the debate on miscegenation, a term that denotes the mixing of races and that racist whites use to denounce interracial sex as an attack on white racial purity. While Malcolm’s rhetoric is as fanatical as that of white racists, we can easily understand it as a reaction to the white rhetoric that oppresses his people. The unity he seeks among blacks requires excluding whites, just as the unspoken unity among whites requires excluding blacks. It is not surprising, then, that Malcolm X’s racism against whites has many of same characteristics as white racism against blacks.