The more places I represented Mr. Muhammad on television and radio, and at colleges and elsewhere, the more letters came from people who had heard me. I’d say that ninety-five per cent of the letters were from white people.
Only a few of the letters fell into the “Dear Nigger X” category, or the death-threats. Most of my mail exposed to me the white man’s two major dreads. The first one was his own private belief that God wrathfully is going to destroy this civilization. And the white man’s second most pervading dread was his image of the black man entering the body of the white woman.
An amazing percentage of the white letter-writers agreed entirely with Mr. Muhammad’s analysis of the problem-but not with his solution. One odd ambivalence was how some letters, otherwise all but championing Mr. Muhammad, would recoil at the expression “white devils.” I tried to explain this in subsequent speeches:
“Unless we call one white man, by name, a ‘devil,’ we are not speaking of any _individual_ white man. We are speaking of the _collective_ white man’s _historical_ record. We are speaking of the collective white man’s cruelties, and evils, and greeds, that have seen him _act_ like a devil toward the non-white man. Any intelligent, honest, objective person cannot fail to realize that this white man’s slave trade, and his subsequent devilish actions are directly _responsible_ for not only the _presence_ of this black man in America, but also for the _condition_ in which we find this black man here. You cannot find _one_ black man, I do not care who he is, who has not been personally damaged in some way by the devilish acts of the collective white man!”
Nearly every day, some attack on the “Black Muslims” would appear in some newspapers. Increasingly, a focal target was something that I had said, “Malcolm X” as a “demagogue.” I would grow furious reading any harsh attack upon Mr. Muhammad. I didn’t care what they said about me.
Those social workers and sociologists-they tried to take me apart. Especially the black ones, for some reason. Of course, I knew the reason: the white man signed their paychecks. If I wasn’t “polarizing the community,” according to this bunch, I had “erroneously appraised the racial picture.” Or in some statement, Ihad “over-generalized.” Or when I had made some absolutely true point, “Malcolm X conveniently manipulated. . . .”
Once, one of my Mosque Seven Muslim brothers who worked with teenagers in a well-known Harlem community center showed me a confidential report. Some black senior social worker had been given a month off to investigate the “Black Muslims” in the Harlem area. Every paragraph sent me back to the dictionary-I guess that’s why I’ve never forgotten one line about me. Listen to this: “The dynamic interstices of the Harlem sub-culture have been oversimplified and distorted by Malcolm X to meet his own needs.”
Which of us, I wonder, knew more about that Harlem ghetto “sub-culture”? I, who had hustled for years in those streets, or that black snob status-symbol-educated social worker?
But that’s not important. What’s important, to my way of thinking about it, is that among America’s 22 million black people so relatively few have been lucky enough to attend a college-and here was one of those who had been lucky. Here was, to my way of thinking, one of those “educated” Negroes who never had understood the true intent, or purpose, or application of education. Here was one of those stagnant educations, never used except for parading a lot of big words.
Do you realize this is one of the major reasons why America’s white man has so easily contained and oppressed America’s black man? Because until just lately, among the few educated Negroes scarcely any applied their education, as I am forced to say the white man does-in searching and creative thinking, to
further themselves and their own kind in this competitive, materialistic, dog-eat-dog white man’s world. For generations, the so-called “educated” Negroes have “led” their black brothers by echoing the white man’s thinking-which naturally has been to the exploitive white man’s advantage.
The white man-give him his due-has an extraordinary intelligence, an extraordinary cleverness. His world is full of proof of it. You can’t name a thing the white man can’t make. You can hardly name a scientific problem he can’t solve. Here he is now solving the problems of sending men exploring into outer space-and returning them safely to earth.
But in the arena of dealing with human beings, the white man’s working intelligence is hobbled.
His intelligence will fail him altogether if the humans happen to be non-white. The white man’s
emotions superseded his intelligence. He will commit against non-whites the most incredible
spontaneous emotional acts, so psyche-deep is his “white superiority” complex.
Where was the A-bomb dropped . . .”to save American lives”? Can the white man be so naive as
to think the clear import of this ever will be lost upon the non-white two-thirds of the earth’s
Before that bomb was dropped-right over here in the United States, what about the one hundred
thousand loyal naturalized and native-born Japanese-American citizens who were herded into
camps, behind barbed wire? But how many German-born naturalized Americans were herded
behind barbed wire? They were _white_!
Historically, the non-white complexion has evoked and exposed the “devil” in the very nature of
the white man.
What else but a controlling emotional “devil” so blinded American white intelligence that it couldn’t
foresee that millions of black slaves, “freed,” then permitted even limited education, would one
day rise up as a terrifying monster within white America’s midst?
The white man’s brains that today explore space should have told the slavemaster that any slave,
if he is educated, will no longer fear his master. History shows that an educated slave always
begins to ask, and next demand, equality with his master.
Today, in many ways the black man sees the collective white man in America better than that
white man can see himself. And the 22 million blacks realize increasingly that physically,
politically, economically, and even to some degree socially, the aroused black man can create a
turmoil in white America’s vitals-not to mention America’s international image.
* * *
I had not intended to stray off. I had been telling how in 1963, I was trying to cope with the white
newspaper, radio, and television reporters who were determined to defeat Mr. Muhammad’s
I developed a mental image of reporters as human ferrets-steadily sniffing, darting, probing for
some way to trick me, somehow to corner me in our interview exchanges.
Let some civil rights “leader” make some statement, displeasing to the white public power
structure, and the reporters, in an effort to whip him back into line, would try to use me. I’ll give an
example. I’d get a question like this: “Mr. Malcolm X, you’ve often gone on record as disapproving
of the sit-ins and similar Negro protest actions-what is your opinion of the Montgomery boycott
that Dr. King is leading?”
Now my feeling was that although the civil rights “leaders” kept attacking us Muslims, still they
were black people, still they were our own kind, and Iwould be most foolish to let the white man
maneuver me against the civil rights movement.
When I was asked about the Montgomery boycott, I’d carefully review what led up to it. Mrs. Rosa
Parks was riding home on a bus and at some bus stop the white cracker bus driver ordered Mrs.
Parks to get up and give her seat to some white passenger who had just got on the bus. I’d say,
“Now, just _imagine_ that! This good, hard-working, Christian-believing black woman, she’s paid
her money, she’s in her seat. Just because she’s _black_, she’s asked to get up! I mean,
sometimes even for _me_ it’s hard to believe the white man’s arrogance!”
Or I might say, “No one will ever know exactly what emotional ingredient made this relatively trivial incident a fuse for those Montgomery Negroes. There had been _centuries_ of the worst kind of outrages against Southern black people-lynchings, rapings, shootings, beatings! But you know history has been triggered by trivial-seeming incidents. Once a little nobody Indian lawyer was put off a train, and fed up with injustice, he twisted a knot in the British Lion’s tail. _His_ name was Mahatma Gandhi!”
Or I might copy a trick I had seen lawyers use, both in life and on television. It was a way that lawyers would slip in before a jury something otherwise inadmissable. (Sometimes I think I really might have made it as a lawyer, as I once told that eighth-grade teacher in Mason, Michigan, I wanted to be, when he advised me to become a carpenter.) I would slide right over the reporter’s question to drop into his lap a logical-extension hot potato for him.
“Well, sir, I see the same boycott reasoning for Negroes asked to join the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Why should we go off to die somewhere to preserve a so-called ‘democracy’ that gives a white immigrant of one day more than it gives the black man with four hundred years of slaving and serving in this country?”
Whites would prefer fifty local boycotts to having 22 million Negroes start thinking about what I had just said. I don’t have to tell you that it never got printed the way I said it. It would be turned inside out if it got printed at all. And I could detect when the white reporters had gotten their heads together; they quit asking me certain questions.
If I had developed a good point, though, I’d bait a hook to get it said when I went on radio or television. I’d seem to slip and mention some recent so-called civil rights “advance.” You know, where some giant industry had hired ten showpiece Negroes; some restaurant chain had begun making more money by serving Negroes; some Southern university had enrolled a black freshman without bayonets-like that. When I “slipped,” the program host would leap on that bait: “Ahhh! Indeed, Mr. Malcolm X-you can’t deny _that’s_ an advance for your race!”
I’d jerk the pole then. “I can’t turn around without hearing about some ‘civil rights advance’! White people seem to think the black man ought to be shouting ‘hallelujah’! Four hundred years the white man has had his foot-long knife in the black man’s back-and now the white man starts to _wiggle_ the knife out, maybe six inches! The black man’s supposed to be _grateful_? Why, if the white man jerked the knife _out_, it’s still going to leave a _scar_!”
Similarly, just let some mayor or some city council somewhere boast of having “no Negro problem.” That would get off the newsroom teletypes and it would soon be jammed right in my face. I’d say they didn’t need to tell me where this was, because I knew that all it meant was that relatively very few Negroes were living there. That’s true the world over, you know. Take “democratic” England-when 100,000 black West Indians got there, England stopped the black migration. Finland welcomed a Negro U.S. Ambassador. Well, let enough Negroes follow him to Finland! Or in Russia, when Khrushchev was in power, he threatened to cancel the visas of black African students whose anti-discrimination demonstration said to the world, “Russia, too. . . .”
* * *
The Deep South white press generally blacked me out. But they front-paged what I felt about Northern white and black Freedom Riders going _South_ to “demonstrate.” I called it “ridiculous”; their own Northern ghettoes, right at home, had enough rats and roaches to kill to keep all of the Freedom Riders busy. I said that ultra-liberal New York had more integration problems than Mississippi. If the Northern Freedom Riders wanted more to do, they could work on the roots of such ghetto evils as the little children out in the streets at midnight, with apartment keys on strings around their necks to let themselves in, and their mothers and fathers drunk, drug addicts, thieves, prostitutes. Or the Northern Freedom Riders could light some fires under Northern city halls, unions, and major industries to give more jobs to Negroes to remove so many of them from the relief and welfare rolls, which created laziness, and which deteriorated the ghettoes into steadily worse places for humans to live. It was all-it is all-the absolute truth; but what did I want to say it for? Snakes couldn’t have turned on me faster than the liberal.
Yes, I will pull off that liberal’s halo that he spends such efforts cultivating! The North’s liberals have been for so long pointing accusing fingers at the South and getting away with it that they have fits when they are exposed as the world’s worst hypocrites.
I believe my own life _mirrors_ this hypocrisy. I know nothing about the South. I am a creation of the Northern white man and of his hypocritical attitude toward the Negro.
The white Southerner was always given his due by Mr. Muhammad. The white Southerner, you can say one thing-he is honest. He bares his teeth to theblack man; he tells the black man, to his face, that Southern whites never will accept phony “integration.” The Southern white goes further, to tell the black man that he means to fight him every inch of the way-against even the so-called “tokenism.” The advantage of this is the Southern black man never has been under any illusions about the opposition he is dealing with.
You can say for many Southern white people that, individually, they have been paternalistically helpful to many individual Negroes. But the Northern white man, he grins with his teeth, and his mouth has always been full of tricks and lies of “equality” and “integration.” When one day all over America, a black hand touched the white man’s shoulder, and the white man turned, and there stood the Negro saying “Me, too . . .” why, that Northern liberal shrank from that black man with as much guilt and dread as any Southern white man.
Actually, America’s most dangerous and threatening black man is the one who has been kept sealed up by the Northerner in the black ghettoes-the Northern white power structure’s system to keep talking democracy while keeping the black man out of sight somewhere, around the comer.
The word “integration” was invented by a Northern liberal. The word has no real meaning. I ask you: in the racial sense in which it’s used so much today, whatever “integration” is supposed to mean, can it precisely be defined? The truth is that “integration” is an _image_, it’s a foxy Northern liberal’s smokescreen that confuses the true wants of the American black man. Here in these fifty racist and neo-racist states of North America, this word “integration” has millions of white people confused, and angry, believing wrongly that the black masses want to live mixed up with the white man. That is the case only with the relative handful of these “integration”-mad Negroes.
I’m talking about these “token-integrated” Negroes who flee from their poor, downtrodden black brothers-from their own self-hate, which is what they’rereally trying to escape. I’m talking about these Negroes you will see who can’t get enough of nuzzling up to the white man. These “chosen few” Negroes are more white-minded, more anti-black, than even the white man is.
Human rights! Respect as _human beings_! That’s what America’s black masses want. That’s the true problem. The black masses want not to be shrunk from as though they are plague-ridden. They want not to be walled up in slums, in the ghettoes, like animals. They want to live in an open, free society where they can walk with their heads up, like men, and women!
Few white people realize that many black people today dislike and avoid spending any more time than they must around white people. This “integration” image, as it is popularly interpreted, has millions of vain, self-exalted white people convinced that black people want to sleep in bed with them-and that’s a lie! Or you can’t _tell_ the average white man that the Negro man’s prime desire isn’t to have a white woman-another lie! Like a black brother recently observed to me, “Look, you ever smell one of them wet?”
The black masses prefer the company of their own kind. Why, even these fancy, bourgeois Negroes-when they get back home from the fancy “integrated” cocktail parties, what do they do but kick off their shoes and talk about those white liberals they just left as if the liberals were dogs. And the white liberals probably do the very same thing. I can’t be sure about the whites, I am never around them in private-but the bourgeois Negroes know I’m not lying.
I’m telling it like it _is_! You _never_ have to worry about me biting my tongue if something I know as truth is on my mind. Raw, naked truth exchanged between the black man and the white man is what a whole lot more of is needed in this country-to clear the air of the racial mirages, clich‚s, and lies that this country’s very atmosphere has been filled with for four hundred years. In many communities, especially small communities, white people have created a benevolent image of themselves as having had so much “good-will toward our Negroes,” every time any “local Negro” begins suddenly letting the local whites know the truth-that the black people are sick of being hind-tit, second-class, disfranchised, that’s when you hear, uttered so sadly, “Unfortunately now because of this, our whites of good-will are starting to turn against the Negroes. . . . It’s so regrettable
. . . progress was being made . . . but now our communications between the races have broken down!”
What are they talking about? There never was any _communication_. Until after World War II, there wasn’t a single community in the entire United States where the white man heard from any local Negro “leaders” the truth of what Negroes felt about the conditions that the white community imposed upon Negroes.
You need some proof? Well, then, why was it that when Negroes did start revolting across America, virtually all of white America was caught up in surprise and even shock? I would hate to be general of an army as badly informed as the American white man has been about the Negro in this country.
This is the situation which permitted Negro combustion to slowly build up to the revolution-point, without the white man realizing it. AH over America, the local Negro “leader,” in order to survive as a “leader,” kept reassuring the local white man, in effect, “Everything’s all right, everything’s right in hand, boss!” When the “leader” wanted a little something for his people: “Er, boss, some of the people talking about we sure need a better school, boss.” And if the local Negroes hadn’t been causing any “trouble,” the “benevolent” white man might nod and give them a school, or some jobs. The white men belonging to the power structures in thousands of communities across America know that I’m right! They know that I am describing what has been the true pattern of “communications” between the “local whites of good-will” and the local Negroes. It has been a pattern created by domineering, ego-ridden whites. Its characteristic design permitted the white man to feel “noble” about throwing crumbs to the black man, instead of feeling guilty about the local community’s system of cruelly exploiting Negroes.
But I want to tell you something. This pattern, this “system” that the white man created, of teaching Negroes to hide the truth from him behind a facade of grinning, “yessir-bossing,” foot-shuffling and head-scratching-that system has done the American white man more harm than an invading army would do to him.
Why do I say this? Because all this has steadily helped this American white man to build up, deep in his psyche, absolute conviction that he _is_ “superior.” In how many, many communities have, thus, white men who didn’t finish high school regarded condescendingly university-educated local Negro “leaders,” principals of schools, teachers, doctors, other professionals?
The white man’s system has been imposed upon non-white peoples all over the world. This is exactly the reason why wherever people who are anything but white live in this world today, the white man’s governments are finding themselves in deeper and deeper trouble and peril.
Let’s just face truth. Facts! Whether or not the white man of the world is able to face truth, and facts, about the true reasons for his troubles-that’s what essentially will determine whether or not he will now survive.
Today we are seeing this revolution of the non-white peoples, who just a few years ago would have frozen in horror if the mighty white nations so much aslifted an eyebrow. What it is, simply, is that black and brown and red and yellow peoples have, after hundreds of years of exploitation and imposed “inferiority” and general misuse, become, finally, do-or-die sick and tired of the white man’s heel on their necks.
How can the white American government figure on selling “democracy” and “brotherhood” to nonwhite peoples-if they read and hear every day what’s going on right here in America, and see the better-than-a-thousand-words photographs of the American white man denying “democracy” and “brotherhood” even to America’s native-born non-whites? The world’s non-whites know how this Negro here has loved the American white man, and slaved for him, tended to him, nursed him. This Negro has jumped into uniform and gone off and died when this America was attacked by enemies both white and non-white. Such a faithful, loyal non-white as _this_-and _still_ America bombs him, and sets dogs on him, and turns fire hoses on him, and jails him by the thousands, and beats him bloody, and inflicts upon him all manner of other crimes.
Of course these things, known and refreshed every day for the rest of the world’s non-whites, are a vital factor in these burnings of ambassadors’ limousines, these stonings, defilings, and wreckings of embassies and legations, these shouts of
“White man, go home!” these attacks on white Christian missionaries, and these bombings and tearing down of flags.
Is it clear why I have said that the American white man’s malignant superiority complex has done him more harm than an invading army?
* * *
The American black man should be focusing his every effort toward buildinghis _own_ businesses, and decent homes for himself. As other ethnic groups have done, let the black people, wherever possible, however possible, patronize their own kind, hire their own kind, and start in those ways to build up the black race’s ability to do for itself. That’s the only way the American black man is ever going to get respect. One thing the white man never can give the black man is self-respect! The black man never can become independent and recognized as a human being who is truly equal with other human beings until he has what they have, and until he is doing for himself what others are doing for themselves.
The black man in the ghettoes, for instance, has to start self-correcting his own material, moral, and spiritual defects and evils. The black man needs to start his own program to get rid of drunkenness, drug addiction, prostitution. The black man in America has to lift up his own sense of values.
Only a few thousands of Negroes, relatively a very tiny number, are taking any part in “integration.” Here, again, it is those few bourgeois Negroes, rushing to throw away their little money in the white man’s luxury hotels, his swanky nightclubs, and big, fine, exclusive restaurants. The white people patronizing those places can afford it. But these Negroes you see in those places can’t afford it, certainly most of them can’t. Why, what does some Negro one installment payment away from disaster look like somewhere downtown out to dine, grinning at some headwaiter who has more money than the Negro? Those bourgeois Negroes out draping big tablecloth-sized napkins over their knees and ordering quail under glass and stewed snails-why, Negroes don’t even _like_ snails! What they’re doing is proving they’re integrated.
If you want to get right down to the real outcome of this so-called “integration,” what you’ve got to arrive at is intermarriage.
I’m right _with_ the Southern white man who believes that you can’t haveso-called “integration,” at least not for long, without intermarriage increasing. And what good is this for anyone? Let’s again face reality. In a world as color-hostile as this, man or woman, black or white, what do they want with a mate of the other race?
Certainly white people have served enough notice of their hostility to any blacks in their families and neighborhoods. And the way most Negroes feel today, a mixed couple probably finds that black families, black communities, are even more hostile than the white ones. So what’s bound to face “integrated” marriages, except being unwelcomed, unwanted, “misfits” in whichever world they try to live in? What we arrive at is that “integration,” socially, is no good for either side. “Integration,” ultimately, would destroy the white race . . . and destroy the black race.
The white man’s “integrating” with black women has already changed the complexion and characteristics of the black race in America. What’s been proved by the “blacks” whose complexions are “whiter” than many “white” people? I’m told that there are in America today between two and five million “white Negroes,” who are “passing” in white society. Imagine their torture! Living in constant fear that some black person they’ve known might meet and expose them. Imagine every day living a lie. _Imagine_ hearing their own white husbands, their own white wives, even their own white children, talking about “those Negroes.”
I would doubt if anyone in America has heard Negroes more bitter against the white man than some of those I have heard. But I will tell you that, without any question, the _most_ bitter anti-white diatribes that I have ever heard have come from “passing” Negroes, living as whites, among whites, exposed every day to what white people say among themselves regarding Negroes-things that a recognized Negro never would hear. Why, if there was a racial showdown,these Negroes “passing” within white circles would become the black side’s most valuable “spy” and ally.
Europe’s “brown babies,” now young men and women who are starting to marry, and produce families of their own . . . have their experiences throughout their lives, scarred as racial freaks, proved anything positive for “integration”?
“Integration” is called “assimilation” if white ethnic groups alone are involved: it’s fought against tooth and nail by those who want their heritage preserved. Look at how the Irish threw the English out of Ireland. The Irish knew the English would engulf them. Look at the French-Canadians, fanatically fighting to keep their identity.
In fact, history’s most tragic result of a mixed, therefore diluted and weakened, ethnic identity has been experienced by a white ethnic group-the Jew in Germany.
He had made greater contributions to Germany than Germans themselves had. Jews had won over half of Germany’s Nobel Prizes. Every culture in Germany was led by the Jew; he published the greatest newspaper. Jews were the greatest artists, the greatest poets, composers, stage directors. But those Jews made a fatal mistake-assimilating.
From World War I to Hitler’s rise, the Jews in Germany had been increasingly intermarrying. Many changed their names and many took other religions. Their own Jewish religion, their own rich Jewish ethnic and cultural roots, they anesthetized, and cut off. . . until they began thinking of themselves as “Germans.” And the next thing they knew, there was Hitler, rising to power from the beer halls-with his emotional “Aryan master race” theory. And right at hand for a scapegoat was the self-weakened, self-deluded “German” Jew.
Most mysterious is how did those Jews-with all of their brilliant minds, with all of their power in every aspect of Germany’s affairs-how did those Jews stand almost as if mesmerized, watching something which did not spring upon them overnight, but which was gradually developed-a monstrous plan for their own _murder_.
Their self-brainwashing had been so complete that not long after, in the gas chambers, a lot of them were still gasping, “It can’t be true!”
If Hitler had conquered the world, as he meant to-that is a shuddery thought for every Jew alive today.
The Jew never will forget that lesson. Jewish intelligence eyes watch every neo-Nazi organization. Right after the war, the Jews’ Haganah mediating body stepped up the longtime negotiations with the British. But this time, the Stern gang was shooting the British. And this time the British acquiesced and helped them to wrest Palestine away from the Arabs, the rightful owners, and then the Jews set up Israel, their own country-the one thing that every race of man in the world respects, and understands.
* * *
Not long ago, the black man in America was fed a dose of another form of the weakening, lulling and deluding effects of so-called “integration.” It was that “Farce on Washington,” I call it.
The idea of a mass of blacks marching on Washington was originally the brainchild of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters’ A. Philip Randolph. For twenty or more years the March on Washington idea had floated around among Negroes. And, spontaneously, suddenly now, that idea caught on.
Overalled rural Southern Negroes, small town Negroes, Northern ghetto Negroes, even thousands of previously Uncle Tom Negroes began talking “March!”
Nothing since Joe Louis had so coalesced the masses of Negroes. Groups of Negroes were talking of getting to Washington any way they could-in rickety old cars, on buses, hitch-hikingwalking, even, if they had to. They envisioned thousands of black brothers converging together upon Washington-to lie down in the streets, on airport runways, on government lawns-demanding of the Congress and the White House some concrete civil rights action.
This was a national bitterness; militant, unorganized, and leaderless. Predominantly, it was young Negroes, defiant of whatever might be the consequences, sick and tired of the black man’s neck under the white man’s heel.
The white man had plenty of good reasons for nervous worry. The right spark-some unpredictable emotional chemistry-could set off a black uprising. The government knew that thousands of milling, angry blacks not only could completely disrupt Washington-but they could erupt in Washington.
The White House speedily invited in the major civil rights Negro “leaders.” They were asked to stop the planned March. They truthfully said they hadn’t begun it, they had no control over it-the idea was national, spontaneous, unorganized, and leaderless. In other words, it was a black powder keg.
Any student of how “integration” can weaken the black man’s movement was about to observe a master lesson.
The White House, with a fanfare of international publicity, “approved,” “endorsed,” and “welcomed” a March on Washington. The big civil rights organizations right at this time had been publicly squabbling about donations.The _New York Times_ had broken the story. The N.A.A.C.P. had charged that other agencies’ demonstrations, highly publicized, had attracted a major part of the civil rights donations-while the N.A.A.C.P. got left holding the bag, supplying costly bail and legal talent for the other organizations’ jailed demonstrators.
It was like a movie. The next scene was the “big six” civil rights Negro “leaders” meeting in New York City with the white head of a big philanthropic agency. They were told that their money-wrangling in public was damaging their image. And a reported $800,000 was donated to a United Civil Rights Leadership council that was quickly organized by the “big six.”
Now, what had instantly achieved black unity? The white man’s money. What string was attached to the money? Advice. Not only was there this donation, but another comparable sum was promised, for sometime later on, after the March . . . obviously if all went well.
The original “angry” March on Washington was now about to be entirely changed.
Massive international publicity projected the “big six” as March on Washington leaders. It was news to those angry grassroots Negroes steadily adding steam to their March plans. They probably assumed that now those famous “leaders” were endorsing and joining them.
Invited next to join the March were four famous white public figures: one Catholic, one Jew, one Protestant, and one labor boss.
The massive publicity now gently hinted that the “big ten” would “supervise” the March on Washington’s “mood,” and its “direction.”
The four white figures began nodding. The word spread fast among so-called “liberal” Catholics, Jews, Protestants, and laborites: it was “democratic” to join this black March.
And suddenly, the previously March-nervous whites began announcing _they_ were going.
It was as if electrical current shot through the ranks of bourgeois Negroes-the very so-called “middle-class” and “upper-class” who had earlier been deploring the March on Washington talk by grass-roots Negroes. But white people, now, were going to march. Why, some downtrodden, jobless, hungry Negro might have gotten trampled. Those “integration”-mad Negroes practically ran over each other trying to find out where to sign up. The “angry blacks” March suddenly had been made chic. Suddenly it had a Kentucky Derby image. For the status-seeker, it was a status symbol. “Were you _there_?” You can hear that right today.
It had become an outing, a picnic.
The morning of the March, any rickety carloads of angry, dusty, sweating small-town Negroes would have gotten lost among the chartered jet planes, railroad cars, and air-conditioned buses. What originally was planned to be an angry riptide, one English newspaper aptly described now as “the gentle flood.” Talk about “integrated”! It was like salt and pepper. And, by now, there wasn’t a single logistics aspect uncontrolled.
The marchers had been instructed to bring no signs-signs were provided. They had been told to sing one song: “We Shall Overcome.” They had been told _how_ to arrive, _when_, _where_ to arrive, _where_ to assemble, when to _start_ marching, the _route_ to march. First-aid stations were strategically located-even where to _faint_! Yes, I was there. I observed that circus. Who ever heard of angry revolutionists all harmonizing “We Shall Overcome . . . Suum Day . . .” while tripping and swaying along arm-in-arm with the very people they were supposed to be angrily revolting against? Who ever heard of angry revolutionists swinging their bare feet together with their oppressor in lily-pad park pools, with gospels and guitars and “I Have, A Dream” speeches?
And the black masses in America were-and still are-having a nightmare.
These “angry revolutionists” even followed their final instructions: to leave early. With all of those thousands upon thousands of “angry revolutionists,” so few stayed over that the next morning the Washington hotel association reported a costly loss in empty rooms.
Hollywood couldn’t have topped it.
In a subsequent press poll, not one Congressman or Senator with a previous record of opposition to civil rights said he had changed his views. What did anyone expect? How was a one-day “integrated” picnic going to counter-influence these representatives of prejudice rooted deep in the psyche of the American white man for four hundred years?
The very fact that millions, black and white, believed in this monumental farce is another example of how much this country goes in for the surface glossing over, the escape ruse, surfaces, instead of truly dealing with its deep-rooted problems.
What that March on Washington did do was lull Negroes for a while. But inevitably, the black masses started realizing they had been smoothly hoaxed again by the white man. And, inevitably, the black man’s anger rekindled, deeperthan ever, and there began bursting out in different cities, in the “long, hot summer” of 1964, unprecedented racial crises.
* * *
About a month before the “Farce on Washington,” the _New York Times_ reported me, according to its poll conducted on college and university campuses, as “the second most sought after” speaker at colleges and universities. The only speaker ahead of me was Senator Barry Goldwater.
I believe that what had generated such college popularity for me was Dr. Lincoln’s book, _The Black Muslims in America_. It had been made required reading in numerous college courses. Then a long, candid interview with me was carried by _Playboy_ magazine, whose circulation on college campuses is the biggest of any magazine’s. And many students, having studied first the book and then the _Playboy_ interview, wanted to hear in person this so-called “fiery Black Muslim.”
When the _New York Times_ poll was published, I had spoken at well over fifty colleges and universities, like Brown, Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Rutgers, in the Ivy League, and others throughout the country. Right now, I have invitations from Cornell, Princeton and probably a dozen others, as soon as my time and their available dates can be scheduled together. Among Negro institutions, I had then been to Atlanta University and Clark
College down in Atlanta, to Howard University in Washington, D.C., and to a number of others with small student bodies.
Except for all-black audiences, I liked the college audiences best. The college sessions sometimes ran two to four hours-they often ran overtime. Challenges, queries, and criticisms were fired at me by the usually objective and alwaysalive and searching minds of undergraduate and graduate students, and their faculties. The college sessions never failed to be exhilarating. They never failed in helping me to further my own education. I never experienced one college session that didn’t show me ways to improve upon my presentation and defense of Mr. Muhammad’s teachings. Sometimes in a panel or debate appearance, I’d find a jam-packed audience to hear me, alone, facing six or eight student and faculty scholars-heads of departments such as sociology, psychology, philosophy, history, and religion, and each of them coming at me in his specialty.
At the outset, always I’d confront such panels with something such as: “Gentlemen, I finished the eighth grade in Mason, Michigan. My high school was the black ghetto of Roxbury, Massachusetts. My college was in the streets of Harlem, and my master’s was taken in prison.
Mr. Muhammad has taught me that I never need fear any man’s intellect who tries to defend or to justify the white man’s criminal record against the non-white man-especially the white man and the black man here in North America.”
It was like being on a battlefield-with intellectual and philosophical bullets. It was an exciting battling with ideas. I got so I could feel my audiences’ temperaments. I’ve talked with other public speakers; they agree that this ability is native to any person who has the “mass appeal” gift, who can get through to and move people. It’s a psychic radar. As a doctor, with his finger against a pulse, is able to feel the heart rate, when I am up there speaking, I can _feel_ the reaction to what I am saying.
I think I could be speaking blindfolded and after five minutes, I could tell you if sitting out there before me was an all-black or an all-white audience. Black audiences and white audiences feel distinguishably different. Black audiences feel warmer, there is almost a musical rhythm, for me, even in their silent response. Question-and-answer periods are another area where, by now, again blindfolded, I can often tell you the ethnic source of a question. The most easily recognizable of these to me are a Jew in any audience situation, and a bourgeois Negro in “integrated” audiences.
My clue to the Jew’s question and challenges is that among all other ethnic groups, his expressed thinking, his expressed concerns, are the most subjective. And the Jew is usually hypersensitive. I mean, you can’t even say “Jew” without him accusing you of anti-Semitism. I don’t care what a Jew is professionally, doctor, merchant, housewife, student, or whatever-first he, or she, thinks Jew.
Now, of course I can understand the Jew’s hypersensitivity. For two thousand years, religious and personal prejudices against Jews have been vented and exercised, as strong as white prejudices against the non-white. But I know that America’s five and a half million Jews (two million of them are concentrated in New York) look at it very practically, whether they know it or not: that all of the bigotry and hatred focused upon the black man keeps off the Jew a lot of heat that would be on him otherwise.
For an example of what I am talking about-in every black ghetto, Jews own the major businesses. Every night the owners of those businesses go home with that black community’s money, which helps the ghetto to stay poor. But I doubt that I have ever uttered this absolute truth before an audience without being hotly challenged, and accused by a Jew of anti-Semitism. Why? I will bet that I have told five hundred such challengers that Jews as a group would never watch some other minority systematically siphoning out their community’s resources without doing something about it. I have told them that if I tell the simple truth, it doesn’t mean that I am anti-Semitic; it means merely that I am anti-exploitation.
The white liberal may be a little taken aback to know that from all-Negro audiences I never have had one challenge, never one question that defended the white man. That has been true even when a lot of those “black bourgeoisie” and “integration”-mad Negroes were among the blacks. All Negroes, among themselves, admit the white man’s criminal record. They may not know as many details as I do, but they know the general picture.
But, let me tell you something significant: This very same bourgeois Negro who, among Negroes, would never make a fool of himself in trying to defend the white man-watch that same Negro in a mixed black and white audience, knowing he’s overheard by his beloved “Mr. Charlie.” Why, you should hear those Negroes attack me, trying to justify, or forgive the white man’s crimes! These Negroes are people who bring me nearest to breaking one of my principal rules, which is never to let myself become over-emotional and angry. Why, sometimes I’ve felt I ought to jump down off that stand and get _physical_ with some of those brainwashed white man’s tools, parrots, puppets. At the colleges, I’ve developed some stock put-downs for them: “You must be a law student, aren’t you?” They have to say either yes, or no. And I say, “I thought you were. You defend this criminal white man harder than he defends his guilty self!” One particular university’s
“token-integrated” black Ph.D. associate professor I never will forget; he got me so mad I couldn’t
see straight. As badly as our 22 millions of educationally deprived black people need the help of
any brains he has, there he was looking like some fly in the buttermilk among white
“colleagues”-and he was trying to _eat me up_! He was ranting about what a “divisive
demagogue” and what a “reverse racist” I was. I was racking my head, to spear that fool; finally I
held up my hand, and he stopped. “Do you know what white racists call black Ph.D’s?” He said
something like, “I believe that I happen not to be aware of that”-you know, one of these ultraproper-talking Negroes. And I laid the word down on him, loud: “Nigger!”
* * *
Speaking in these colleges and universities was good for the Nation of Islam, I would report to Mr.
Muhammad, because the devilish white man’s best minds were developed and influenced in the
colleges and universities. But for some reason that I could never understand until much later, Mr.
Muhammad never really wanted me to speak at these colleges and universities.
I was to learn later, from Mr. Muhammad’s own sons, that he was envious because he felt
unequipped to speak at colleges himself. But nevertheless, in Mr. Muhammad’s behalf at this
time, I was finding these highly intelligent audiences amazingly open-minded and objective in
their receptions of the raw, naked truths that I would tell them:
“Time and time again, the black, the brown, the red, and the yellow races have witnessed and
suffered the white man’s small ability to understand the simple notes of the spirit. The white man
seems tone deaf to the total orchestration of humanity. Every day, his newspapers’ front pages
show us the world that he has created.
“God’s wrathful judgment is close upon this white man stumbling and groping blindly in
wickedness and evil and spiritual darkness.
“Look-remaining today are only two giant white nations, America and Russia, each of them with
mistrustful, nervous satellites. America is propping up most of the remaining white world. The
French, the Belgians, the Dutch, the Portuguese, the Spanish and other white nations have
weakened steadily as non-white Asians and Africans have recovered their lands.
“America is subsidizing what is left of the prestige and strength of the once mighty Britain. The
sun has set forever on that monocled, pith-helmeted resident colonialist, sipping tea with his
delicate lady in the non-white coloniesbeing systematically robbed of every valuable resource.
Britain’s superfluous royalty and nobility now exist by charging tourists to inspect the once
baronial castles, and by selling memoirs, perfumes, autographs, titles, and even themselves.
“The whole world knows that the white man cannot survive another war. If either of the two giant
white nations pushes the button, white civilization will die!
“And we see again that not ideologies, but race, and color, is what binds human beings. Is it
accidental that as Red Chinese visit African and Asian countries, Russia and America draw
steadily closer to each other?
“The collective white man’s history has left the non-white peoples no alternative, either, but to
draw closer to each other. Characteristically, as always, the devilish white man lacks the moral
strength and courage to cast off his arrogance. He wants, today, to ‘buy’ friends among the nonwhites. He tries, characteristically, to cover up his past record. He does not possess the humility
to admit his guilt, to try and atone for his crimes. The white man has perverted the simple
message of love that the Prophet Jesus lived and taught when He walked upon this earth.”
Audiences seemed surprised when I spoke about Jesus. I would explain that we Muslims believe
in the Prophet Jesus. He was one of the three most important Prophets of the religion of Islam,
the others being Muhammad and Moses. In Jerusalem there are Muslim shrines built to the
Prophet Jesus. I would explain that it was our belief that Christianity did not perform what Christ
taught. I never failed to cite that even Billy Graham, challenged in Africa, had himself made the
distinction, “I believe in Christ, not Christianity.”
I never will forget one little blonde co-ed after I had spoken at her New England college. She must
have caught the next plane behind that one I took to New York. She found the Muslim restaurant
in Harlem. I just happened to be there when she came in. Her clothes, her carriage, her accent,
all showed Deep South white breeding and money. At that college, I told how the antebellum
white slavemaster even devilishly manipulated his own woman. He convinced her that she was
“too pure” for his base “animal instincts.” With this “noble” ruse, he conned his own wife to look
away from his obvious preference for the “animal” black woman. So the “delicate mistress” sat
and watched the plantation’s little mongrel-complexioned children, sired obviously by her father,
her husband, her brothers, her sons. I said at that college that the guilt of American whites
included their knowledge that in hating Negroes, they were hating, they were rejecting, they were
denying, their own blood.
Anyway, I’d never seen anyone I ever spoke before more affected than this little white college girl.
She demanded, right up in my face, “Don’t you believe there are any _good_ white people?” I
didn’t want to hurt her feelings. I told her, “People’s _deeds_ I believe in, Miss-not their words.”
“What can I _do_?” she exclaimed. I told her, “Nothing.” She burst out crying, and ran out and up
Lenox Avenue and caught a taxi.
* * *
Mr. Muhammad-each time I’d go to see him in Chicago, or in Phoenix-would warm me with his
expressions of his approval and confidence in me.
He left me in charge of the Nation of Islam’s affairs when he made an Omra pilgrimage to the
Holy City Mecca.
I believed so strongly in Mr. Muhammad that I would have hurled myself between him and an
A chance event brought crashing home to me that there was something-one thing-greater than
my reverence for Mr. Muhammad.
It was the awesomeness of my reason to revere him.
I was the invited speaker at the Harvard Law School Forum. I happened to glance through a
window. Abruptly, I realized that I was looking in the direction of the apartment house that was my
old burglary gang’s hideout.
It rocked me like a tidal wave. Scenes from my once depraved life lashed through my mind.
_Living_ like an animal; _thinking_ like an animal!
Awareness came surging up in me-how deeply the religion of Islam had reached down into the
mud to lift me up, to save me from being what I inevitably would have been: a dead criminal in a
grave, or, if still alive, a flint-hard, bitter, thirty-seven-year-old convict in some penitentiary, or
insane asylum. Or, at best, I would have been an old, fading Detroit Red, hustling, stealing
enough for food and narcotics, and myself being stalked as prey by cruelly ambitious younger
hustlers such as Detroit Red had been.
But Allah had blessed me to learn about the religion of Islam, which had enabled me to lift myself
up from the muck and the mire of this rotting world.
And there I stood, the invited speaker, at Harvard.
A story that I had read in prison when I was reading a lot of Greek mythology flicked into my head.
The boy Icarus. Do you remember the story?
Icarus’ father made some wings that he fastened with wax. “Never fly but so high with these wings,” the father said. But soaring around, this way, that way, Icarus’ flying pleased him so that he began thinking he was flying on his own merit. Higher, he flew-higher-until the heat of the sun melted the wax holding those wings. And down came Icarus-tumbling.
Standing there by that Harvard window, I silently vowed to Allah that I never would forget that any wings I wore had been put on by the religion of Islam. That fact I never have forgotten . . . not for one second.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://al-rasid.com/shared_uploads/The.Autobiography.of.MalcolmX.pdf
Photo from: ModernBenjamin (2016). The Autobiography of Malcolm X: Book Review. Retrieved from https://modernbenjamin.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/the-autobiography-of-malcolm-x-book-review/