S. Brandt

After reading Malcolm X's "My First Conk" from the Patterns book, respond to the following question: This Process explanation has an explicitly stated thesis that makes its purpose clear. What is this thesis?"

Maria King
4/25/2008 04:43:51 am

Malcolm X was a prominent civil rights leader in the 1960s that people either loved or hated. He was not a man for people who wanted to find a middle ground. His views on civil rights and equality for blacks were strong and aggressive and could often be perceived as offensive to other blacks and all whites. In this selection, he tells the story of when he had his first "conk," a popular hairstyle for black men that made their naturally kinky hair unnaturally straight. When he first underwent this painful procedure he was ecstatic, but after many years of altering his appearance to be accepted into society, he understood the implications of what he and many other young black men were doing.
Malcolm X clearly believes that conking is degrading to young black men; he believes that black men should not alter their appearance to appear white. He also does not approve of young black women wearing wigs in order to mimic the popular hairstyles of white women. In all essence, he does not see the necessity for black people to try and appear white. In his opinion, blacks should take pride in being black and spend more time focusing on the positive things about being black rather than the socially accepted misconceived "negative" aspects of being black.

ashley roth
4/25/2008 05:25:10 am

In this exert by Malcolm X he describes what he calls his “first big step to self-degradation”. His thesis is not stated directly, but is stated throughout the piece. Malcolm X wants people to think about how society has affected them and how society also takes away individuality.
X briefly describes the horror of societies states quo. The story about his first conk is about the painful experience he had to go through to make his hair look good. By doing this he admits there is a problem with society and shows others were they are led astray. This story brought a powerful image that shows us how strongly society controls us. By alliterating how ridicules societies demands are he also makes us rethink our reasons for doing things.
The second part of X’s thesis was about how society takes away individuality. By making his hair look like everyone else’s he gives up he natural appearance for the “societal norm”. His strong message throughout this essay was that keeping your identity is important, because by losing yourself you will only suffer needlessly. This was his reason for describing how painful the conking process was.
Over all Malcolm X’s thesis is also the message he is trying to portray to the reader. Which is when you give up your identity to society’s demands you will suffer and loss yourself.

Alex Fix
4/25/2008 08:04:37 am

In his autobiography, Malcolm X tells the story of his first conk. He tells this story to interesting effect, giving out every single excruciating detail. While telling his story, Malcolm speaks with a tone of childish fascination quickly changing to one of reflective cynicism. After doing so, Malcolm clearly explicates his thesis that African Americans had furthered their own oppression by imitating the styles and hair structures of Caucasians.
Being a prominent member of both the Civil Rights and Black Pride movements, Malcolm X believed in the individual strength of African Americans. The story of the conk is Malcolm’s perfect example of how African-Americans had submitted to their white counterparts. In his own words Malcolm states “I had joined that multitude of Negro men and women in America who are brainwashed into believing that the black people are ‘inferior’- and the white people ‘superior’- that they will even violate and mutilate their God-created bodies to try to look ‘pretty’ by white standards.” Malcolm showed his fellow citizens, and audience, that even one as strong as he could succumb to the white “brainwashing”.

Afaribea Dodi
4/25/2008 09:48:08 am

Malcolm X is undoubtedly one of the most famous African-American men to set foot on this earth. He is known for his strong religious views, which he acquired during his incarceration on burglary charges. He found solace in the Muslim religion, and soon converted to orthodox Islam. As many people go through a period in which they are trying to “find” themselves in life, he went through this period as well. He explains in his autobiography on how he received his first conk (now known as perm), as a young man. There is a deeper meaning behind his story; it is not just about a man straightening his hair. Malcolm X’s thesis is implying about how black America felt the only way they could be accepted in society is to be like the majority, white America.
The 1960s was a trying time for African-Americans. They were going through discrimination, in which many white people felt as if they were superior to black people. Growing up is hard, but when one faces bigotry it is harder. Unfortunately, Malcolm X was drawn into trying to conform into society, and steered towards self-degradation. Perhaps many people in the black community felt inferior to white people so they decided to conk their hair, or wear various wig colors because it made them feel better about themselves. Malcolm X soon realized how ridiculous this was, and viewed the conk as symbol of defeat to society by the African-American community. When he saw an African-American with a conk he felt as if that person was implying that they wanted to be white, because white is better than black. Overall Malcolm X viewed the conk as a weakness, and wished that the black community would have stayed true to themselves, and loved their race flaws and all.

Krystal Rodriguez
4/25/2008 11:45:22 am

Malcolm X is known to be one of the bets representations of African American freedom since the 1950's. In his autobiography, he explains how he came to be such a passionate fighter against segregation and racism. X sheds light on the inactive black men and women in his thesis which helps the audience understand not only the passion that drives Malcolm X, but also examples from past experiences.
"I'm speaking from a personal experience when I say that any black man who conks today, or any white-wigged black woman, that if they gave brains to their heads half as much attention to their hair, they would be a thousand times better off". This passage illuminates how even the "poorest, most downtrodden" black men wanted to get a conk, forgetting their true heritage to assimulate with the white americans. This statement also illustrates how X's straightforward opinion toward the black community who has "lost his sense of identity" as a black ma nby conforming to the "white standards". By saying this, he explains that when a black man conks their hair, they are accepting the white opinion that blacks are "inferior" and whites are "superior".
Malcolm X's thesis statemen clarifies his view on how the black community had lost its black roots to asociate with the white peoples. His thesis exclaims his thoughts bluntly and boldly, creating that sense of passion and dedication that he has acquired through hardships in the past. With the statement the audience can comprehend his view and although it may be an insult to the people, through the thesis the audience understands that he is only pointing out the degrading actions of he black community just to become a part of the white americans.

Byron Wigfall
4/25/2008 11:51:14 am

The thesis of “My First Conk” by Malcolm X is the changing of one’s self to be accepted in society. The first sentence says a lot of the underlying theme supporting the thesis, “Shorty soon decided that my hair was finally long enough to be conked.” This idea of someone else making a decision for the author brings up a theme of societal influence, and what one wants as a person as opposed to what society wants for that person. The idea of societal influences and the pressure to fit that definition it has created, rather than defining oneself as an individual, is what pushes the plot in the story.
When the ingredients for the conk were being mixed, the author describes the different changes it went through, how the mixture went from purple to yellow and how all of a sudden it was hot. This figuratively can be seen as the losing of one’s self. The ingredients were not recognizable in the end, signifying the losing of oneself under false layers of acceptance within society rather than living as the individual you are happiest being.
The author at one point in the story, when the conk was in his hair, said his hair had caught fire. This almost “re-forging” of oneself with the “fire”, is once again tied back to the changing of oneself to fit in. The conk hurt, and yet people were still willing to endure that level discomfort to be accepted by people other than themselves. The idea of “if it hurts don’t do it” seems simple enough but the need to fit in overrides simple human nature, and suppresses the individual.
The author mentions self-degradation in the story, and this idea of degrading yourself for someone else automatically creates inferiority in the African American culture. One does not fight for equality in differences, only to, in the end, lose the identity fought to be recognized and absorb another. To think that a person is essentially “burning” their scalps to fit into a society where they are not accepted for who they are is blasphemous. One is tearing themselves apart to look good for someone else. And if one does not believe in themselves as an individual, no one else will believe in them either.
The author is trying to get across this idea of being an individual no matter what, and accepting the beauty in differences. To define things for oneself and not seek happiness in the acceptance of others is the only true freedom, and this is what the author wishes for the black community.

Mansford Masters
4/25/2008 12:18:44 pm

During the first half of the twentieth century, Malcom X was one of the many African American men who got caught up in trying to imitate the appearance of their white counterparts. One way they would try to imitate this appearance was by conking their hair so that it straightened out and looked like the hair of Caucasian men.
Malcom X, in "My First Conk", vividly explains the steps he went through when he recieved his first conk. In doing so, he is better able to make his readers understand his position. Malcom X states that activities such as these are only degrading to the race as a whole, and by explaining the process shows why it is humiliating and unnecessary. Showing that cover ups like these are humiliating are discouraging to African Americans, which is exactly Malcom X’s purpose; to show his people that by trying to change their identity to mimic someone else’s is shameful, and that in order to be strong as a race acceptance is key. In the end of his process he reminds his readers that he has also gone through the humiliating actions they have; that he had once embraced the conk just like they did. This too is another way in which Malcom X attempts to unite his people. He is showing that while they must strive towards the common, correct goal, they have also all faced the same perils and obstacles thrown at them by society.
Malcom X’s entire purpose through not only this essay, but also through the majority of his work that he spent his life on, is unity and acceptance among his people, and through that prosperity.

Mike Rodriguez
4/26/2008 12:38:14 am

Malcolm X was a famous leader during the civil rights era in the history of the United States. His urgency to fight for what he believed in put him in the same category as famous civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr. However, the way he went about fighting for African-American civil rights offended not only white people but some African Americans as well. He was aggressive in his approach, even sometimes resorting to physical violence with white people who tried to degrade him and his fellow African Americans. In his story, “My First Conk,” he talks about when he got his first conk and how he stepped towards self-degradation because he was trying to assimilate to the white culture. In his autobiography, he writes, “This was my first really big step toward self-degradation: when I endured all of that pain, literally burning my flesh to have it look like a white man’s hair.”
He understood at that point that he should not need to be accepted by the white community just because he looks like one of them. He had to go through years and years of pain just to get his hair conked do to the chemical reaction with his skin, and he learned to burn himself just not be someone who he is not was outrageous. Instead, the white people in his community should accept him for who he is as a fellow American. African American men who got conks and women who wore wigs were just letting the white people degrade themselves even more. Now white people no longer had to degrade African Americans, because they were doing it themselves. Instead of pointing out all of the negative aspects of African-Americans, they should be proudly holding themselves high to a standard above what white people expected of them.

Camille Warren
4/26/2008 04:01:55 am

The thesis of Malcolm X’s “My First Conk” is that he had “joined the multitude of Negro men and women in American who are brain washed into believing that black people are “inferior” and white people are “superior” that they will even violate and mutilate their God created bodies to try and look “pretty” by white standards.”

Malcolm X begins with the story of his first conk with his best friend shorty and the excitement he felt as he bought the ingredients and viewed himself after the painful transformation. The entire time the reader gets the feel of his excitement but also the underlying truth to what is really going on, Malcolm X felt anger and disgust that he had fallen underneath the trap and believed the hype. His thesis makes the purpose very clear to the reader, Malcolm X wants to let the reader know that beauty does not come from emulation, it comes from God.

Malcolm X’s “My First Conk” expresses his growth and transition from his youth and his adulthood. Most importantly Malcolm X’s story creates an account of his first realization about his history and his pride. This part of his life helped to shape his way of thinking and helped to open his eyes to an identity issue within the African American Community.

Karen Riley
4/28/2008 06:19:23 am

During the time of Malcolm X, a well known black separatist in the 1960’s, the want to be equal was very common among people in America. Many African Americans had been taught throughout life that to be equal, they had to act and look like the white man. In his autobiography, Malcolm X describes his first time “conking”, or straightening his hair so it was like a white man’s. After this experience was through, and after suffering through conking for many years, Malcolm X finally realized how ridiculous it was that he was trying to look like a white man. The entire essay has a very clearly stated thesis, that conking was his first step to self-degradation, and he didn’t believe God created African Americans to try and look “pretty” according to white standards.
The entire excerpt’s purpose is to describe his first experience conking, which wasn’t positive at all. The whole time he was getting “conked” his head was burning as if it were in flames. Even after all of this, his hair wasn’t completely how he wanted it to look. At first Malcolm was mesmerized by his new hair style, but he later came to realize that it was stupid for his to think that this was making him “better”. by trying to look like a white man, he was making it seem as if he were less superior to white people. However through this experience, Malcolm X came to realize that he wasn’t less superior to the white man, and he needed to be proud of his heritage.

Lakeshia White
4/28/2008 12:24:35 pm

During a time of racial injustice, my African Americans were divided between the beliefs of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Many African Americans were attracted to King’s non-violence method, whereas young African Americans were attracted to the Malcolm X’s black separatist methods. Malcolm X preached of black pride and not conforming to the white society.
“ I had joined the multitude of Negro men and women in America who are brainwashed into believing that black people are “inferior” and white “superior” that they will even mutilate their God created bodies to look “pretty” by white standards.” Malcolm X uses this bold thesis to reveal to the African American society that they do not need to conform to white society. For a long time, African Americans have been on the outside of society looking in, longing to be accepted by all. Theoretically, many blacks believe that if they endured the pain of getting a conk, which was acceptable by white standards, that society in turn will come to accept them. Malcolm X started to realize that African Americans were beginning to lose their identity by conforming to white standards which in turn can led to the down fall of the African Americans.
The whole purpose for Malcolm X’s thesis for this passage was to reveal to the African American society that there is pride in being black. That the African American society needs to go back to its roots and embrace the black culture.

ashley holley
4/29/2008 04:28:56 am

Ashley N. Holley
English Per. 5
Mrs. Brandt
April 24, 2008
Malcolm X “My First Conk”
This selection has an explicitly stated thesis that makes its purpose clear.
What is this thesis?

In the excerpt taken from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm describes his first experience getting a conk, or hair straightened. He analyzed how having straight hair resemble the white race. He also explained all the trouble and pain African Americans such as himself that went through process to get his hair straight. After having analyzed all of this Malcolm believed getting his hair conked “was [his] fist really big step toward self-degradation.” He stated that black people were “brain-washed into believing that black people are ‘inferior’- and white people [are] superior’”. Malcolm went on to further more explain that a black person straitening their hair was an attempt to imitate the white race.
The overall thesis of this excerpt is that African Americans who conk their hair are degrading themselves and are showing that they are ashamed to be black. Conking ones hair is an effort to mimic whites. This is understood in the belief that straight her is good and curly is bad, straight hair mean whites and black hair meaning blacks.

Bryan Kennedy
4/30/2008 06:58:23 am

Bryan Kennedy

“My First Conk”

Malcolm X’s story “My First Conk” was about the first time Malcolm tried to look like a white man. His thesis is in near the end were he says “This was my first really big step to self-degradation: when I endured all of that pain, literally burning my flesh to have it look like white man’s hair.”. This is when Malcolm was trying to change his body to become a white man which as he is going through his past he realizes that this was not a good thing.
Malcolm X lived in the time were the “..multitude of Negro men and women in America who are brainwashed into believing that the black people are “inferior”-and white people “superior”…” This made black people do what they could to be just like white America. Malcolm X was one of the many black Americans who uses a conk to straighten his hair to look like a white man. The conk symbolizes the want in black Americans to be white because of the stereotype on blacks. The conk was a changing point in Malcolm X’s life but when he was doing it he didn’t notice that it was a bad one. It put him into the want to change himself under the pressure to “look “pretty” by white standards”. He realizes this as he is going back and telling this story in his short story and sees that what he was doing was just bringing himself down and not noticing his own look as an African-American. He also notices that just about all the other African-Americans are doing whatever it is that they can do to achieve the good looks by the white Americans as well.
The thesis that Malcolm X uses in his short story “My First Conk” is the point that he is trying to prove with his story. It is that African-Americans were blinded by the way that people saw them so they would do whatever it takes to be more like the white American people. “My First Conk” was written after all these experiences were over and Malcolm X saw all of what he had done wrong earlier in his about changing his body to try to be something he is not.

Alyssa Gerstner
5/1/2008 07:13:45 am

Malcolm X Response
Alyssa Gerstner

Malcolm X was a major player in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. He was a member of the Black Muslim movement, and was a believer in black pride. In the selection “My First Conk”, the thesis is clearly stated in line 23 “This was my first really big step toward self-degradation: when I endured all of that pain, literally burning my flesh to have it look like a white man’s hair.”
The thesis comes near the end of the selection, which may seem odd, but the whole point of the piece was to show the extent that a person would go to “look white”. Malcolm X is trying to show how ridiculous the conking process was. He describes in great detail the steps from buying the materials, to mixing, to the conking, all the while describing how painful the process was. His thesis, his whole purpose, was to try to explain how damaging the process was, not only physically but emotionally. There was the physical damage from burning his hair with lye, but there was also emotional damage. Malcolm X was conking because he was ashamed of having kinky hair. He went through all the pain, but that pain was short lived. The real pain came after, when he realized that he was suffering to conform to white beauty standards instead of finding himself good the way he was. He felt guilty and degraded because he sacrificed himself, his pride and his dignity, to become something he was not born to be. It was not only Malcolm X that degraded himself, but the whole generation of blacks, and that is what this section is all about. Black men conked their hair, black women wore wigs, all in an attempt to look white. Malcolm X is trying to show how crazy that is by explaining the whole painful process.

Kyle Jones
5/2/2008 07:43:36 am

In "My First Conk", written with Alex Haley by Malcolm X, he first describes the process of conking his hair when he goes to get the long list of items so that Shorty can make the congolene. Malcolm X then proceeds to illustrate the agony of combing congolene through his hair, making his hair straight, and thus giving him his first conk. This is when he states that, "This was my first really big step toward self-degradation: when I endured all of that pain, literally burning my flesh to have it look like a white man's hair", which is his thesis statement.

The first part of the excerpt seems like the thesis at first because the thesis is usually at the beginning. However, the first part is only the mere steps of getting his first conk. When he speaks of self-degradation, Malcolm X continues to describe how the burning of someone's scalp in order to gain the approval of white society, a society that does not accept them because they are African American, shows that the person is ahsamed of their heritage. He includes his observation of irony to the fact that no white woman or black woman have shown any liking for the conk, yet black men whether rich, middle class, or poor, wear conks in attempt to "look pretty by white standards" which ties to theme of loss of identity and man vs. society. His purpose is to tell about the conk and how it makes him lose his identity for some time and how he can see how it does the same thing to other black men. Malcolm X's thesis provides a digusted tone toward the black men that are under the impression that white society will accept them in honor of their hair despite the fact that they are African American trying to fit into an Anglo Saxon culture. He also deduces that if the same attention is given to the brain as is hair, people would be better off in society.

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Joseph Aidan


Echt genial gemacht, gefältl mir gut. Schöne lange Wimpern hast du bekommen!

9/16/2015 11:10:15 am

This story was interesting because it shows how males used to get perms and how kinda shows a difference in the time frames and how now in current time boys just get haircuts . Also the fact that African Americans used to get perms to look ''White'' .

9/16/2015 11:11:27 am

This story was interesting because it talks about all of the things that X went through.

9/16/2015 11:12:06 am

I think this story was interesting. It was a funny moment to tell of his life.

Cash'e Clark
9/16/2015 11:15:04 am

I think this story was very interesting. I think it was interesting because back in the day boys used to get something made like a perm to straighten their hair, but now they get an hair cut.

Jalyn Wsihem
9/16/2015 11:15:53 am

I found "My First Conk" a very interesting autobiography by Malcolm X. It showed more of his personal life.

Jade Watson
9/16/2015 12:46:39 pm

This story was interesting, it shows and tells you how he life was actually lived and what he to become who he was.

Kiera Dabon
9/16/2015 12:57:46 pm

this story was interesting. In "My first conk" Malcolm X explained how that was his first step into self degrading and how perms and other similar treatments make African American try to be white

Keenon McCann
9/16/2015 12:57:55 pm

Itsncrazy how the roles have been reversed. Men used to get perms and now women are getting perms. I think we shouldn't use those dangerous chemicals for cosmetic looks

9/16/2015 12:59:29 pm

This story tells about all the events that occurred in Malcolm X life and how he became a leader

Christopher Eden
9/16/2015 01:02:50 pm

Degrading one's "god-made" body to pretend or look "white" is the ultimate injustice of the brainwashing effects that whites left on the blacks. The thought that whites are superior than blacks is something that should be unthinkable to me.


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    S. Brandt

    This is my first attempt at blogging, so please be patient with me.  Incorporating a blog into the AP curriculum will help facilitate discussion that can be rewarding for everyone.  Here you will be able to post your responses online and to see what the rest of your classmates are analyzing as well.  Enjoy the experience and let me know what you think.


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