My First Conk is an article by African American human rights activist Malcolm X. In the article, he describes how he conked his hair together with a friend called Shorty. The Conk was a popular hairstyle amongst black men in America between the 1920s and the 1960s. Malcolm X states that the reason why African Americans adopted this hairstyle was not that they liked it or they truly wished to satisfy any personal desires. Rather, it was meant to unite their existence among white Americans. This essay looks at what is the point put across in My First Conk and the importance of that point.
The article puts across a point that black people at the time were putting a lot of effort to be acceptable to white people and fit into the white society. It did not matter how difficult or unpleasant it was. Malcolm X explains that having his hair conked was not a pleasant experience. Conking involved use of chemicals that alter the hairs structure so as to make it lie straight. These chemicals often caused a burning sensation on the scalp. However, the pain was worth it since it made him get appreciated by the white community. On their part, black women wore wigs of various shades in an attempt to look like white women.
It was after changing his hairstyle for years just so that the society can accept him; it finally dawned on Malcolm X on the implications of what he was doing together with many other African American men. Conking was clearly degrading to them as they should never have altered their appearance just so that they can appear white. It made them look stupid pretending to be something or someone they are not. It did not occur to them that they were losing their sense of identity. They were African Americans trying to survive in a society in which blacks were inferior while whites were superior. The attempt by blacks to change their physical appearance just so that they could get appreciated was mistaken since the whites were just human as themselves.
Malcolm X states in the article This was my first really big step toward self-degradation: burning my flesh to have it look like a white man's hair. I had joined that multitude of Negro men and women in America who are brainwashed into believing that the black people are inferiorand white people superior. mutilate their God-created bodies to try to look "pretty" by white standards... He was of the opinion that African Americans should be proud of being black and direct their time and energies on the good things about being black.
The importance of the point put across in My First Conk is that it highlights how society does away with individuality. When black people make their hair look like that of other people, they were giving up their natural appearance in exchange for the societal norm. Malcolm Xs strong message throughout the article was that maintaining ones identity is crucial as by losing oneself, the individual will only suffer unnecessarily. Passing this message was the reason why he described the agony of undergoing the conking process. The article can be seen as a wakeup call for African Americans to stop feeling inferior to the whites.
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