Dr. Ari Santas’ Study Questions

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Dr. Ari Santas’ Study Questions

for Malcolm X

(Spike Lee, 1992)

Things to look for:

  • Connections to/differences from Gandhi and M.L. King

  • Connections to characters in other films like Truman Show and Matrix, Carbon Copy, and to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

  • Role of identity and the importance of psychic conversion/transformation in freedom movements


  1. Why did Malcolm Little hate white people so much on the one hand yet straighten his hair and pursue white women on the other?

  2. Explain how race consciousness affects the “love affair” between Malcolm and Sofia. Discuss the power dynamics of that relationship.

  3. Explain the relation between Malcolm’s “invisibility” as a youth and his “exaggerated visibility” as a young adult.

  4. What does a hedonistic lifestyle have to do with identity and freedom? Is it an expression of it or an impediment to its achievement? Explain.

  5. Compare Malcolm’s anxiety before prison, his question, with Neo’s question in the Matrix. What are the similarities between Neo’s teacher and mentor, Morpheus, and Malcolm’s teacher Elijah Mohammed?

  6. How did Malcolm’s hedonism/escapism make possible his first psychic conversion/transformation?

  7. Comment on the exchange between Malcolm and the prison chaplain about whether Jesus was white. Compare to the exchange between Walter, Vivian and his pastor in Carbon Copy.

  8. Why did Malcolm Little change his name? What did this decision have to do with his search for personal identity? Why did he choose ‘X’ as a last name?

  9. Explain the policeman’s statement: “That’s too much power for one man.” Did he mean too much for a black man?

  10. Compare the Nation of Islam’s emphasis on economics and black-owned businesses to Gandhi’s burning of English-made cloth.

  11. Compare Malcolm’s turning away of the white student wanting to help to Gandhi’s asking Charlie to leave. Why did they do it? What was their point?

  12. Explain the statement: “There cannot be black-white unity until there is first black unity.”

  13. What did Malcolm mean by “mental colonialism.” Compare the colonialism of the British in India to that of the white society Malcolm had to negotiate.

  14. Compare Malcolm’s distinction between ‘house Negroes’ and ‘field Negroes’ to that of the “Traditionals” vs. the “Progressives” at Oglala. Discuss these as examples of the old tactic of divide and conquer.

  15. Did Malcolm have one or two life-changing transformations? Can someone have such a transformation and be wrong? Explain.

  16. Who killed Malcolm X? What killed Malcolm X?

  17. Why do leaders of people’s movements always operate outside of mainstream politics? Discuss Malcolm’s leadership role in this context and compare him to other such leaders.

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