I must be honest. Negroes-Afro-Americans-showed no inclination to rush to the United Nations and demand justice for themselves here in America. I really had known in advance that they wouldn’t. The American white man has so thoroughly brainwashed the black man to see himself as only a domestic “civil rights” problem that it will probably take longer than I live before the Negro sees that the struggle of the American black man is international.
And I had known, too, that Negroes would not rush to follow me into the orthodox Islam which had given me the insight and perspective to see that the black men and white men truly could be brothers. America’s Negroes-especially older Negroes-are too indelibly soaked in Christianity’s double standard of oppression.
So, in the “public invited” meetings which I began holding each Sunday afternoon or evening in Harlem’s well-known Audubon Ballroom, as I addressed predominantly non-Muslim Negro audiences, I did not immediately attempt to press the Islamic religion, but instead to embrace all who sat before me:
“-not Muslim, nor Christian, Catholic, nor Protestant . . . Baptist nor Methodist, Democrat nor Republican, Mason nor Elk! I mean the black people of America-and the black people all over this earth! Because it is as this collective mass of black people that we have been deprived not only of our civil rights, but even of our human rights, the right to human dignity. . . .”
On the streets, after my speeches, in the faces and the voices of the people I met-even those who would pump my hands and want my autograph-I would feel the wait-and-see attitude. I would feel-and I understood-their uncertainty about where I stood. Since the Civil War’s “freedom,” the black man has gone down so many fruitless paths. His leaders, very largely, had failed him. The religion of Christianity had failed him. The black man was scarred, he was cautious, he was apprehensive.
I understood it better now than I had before. In the Holy World, away from America’s race problem, was the first time I ever had been able to think clearly about the basic divisions of white people in America, and how their attitudes and their motives related to, and affected Negroes. In my thirty-nine years on this earth, the Holy City of Mecca had been the first time I had ever stood before the Creator of All and felt like a complete human being.
In that peace of the Holy World-in fact, the very night I have mentioned when I lay awake surrounded by snoring brother pilgrims-my mind took me back topersonal memories I would have thought were gone forever . . . as far back, even, as when I was just a little boy, eight or nine years old. Out behind our house, out in the country from Lansing, Michigan, there was an old, grassy “Hector’s Hill,” we called it-which may still be there. I remembered there in the Holy World how I used to lie on the top of Hector’s Hill, and look up at the sky, at the clouds moving over me, and daydream, all kinds of things. And then, in a funny contrast of recollections, I remembered how years later, when I was in prison, I used to lie on my cell bunk-this would be especially when I was in solitary: what we convicts called “The Hole”-and I would picture myself talking to large crowds. I don’t have any idea why such previsions came to me. But they did. To tell that to anyone then would have sounded crazy. Even I didn’t have, myself, the slightest inkling. . . .
In Mecca, too, I had played back for myself the twelve years I had spent with Elijah Muhammad as if it were a motion picture. I guess it would be impossible for anyone ever to realize fully how complete was my belief in Elijah Muhammad. I believed in him not only as a leader in the ordinary _human_ sense, but also I believed in him as a _divine_ leader. I believed he had no human weaknesses or faults, and that, therefore, he could make no mistakes and that he could do no wrong. There on a Holy World hilltop, I realized how very dangerous it is for people to hold any human being in such esteem, especially to consider anyone some sort of “divinely guided” and “protected” person.
My thinking had been opened up wide in Mecca. In the long letters I wrote to friends, I tried to convey to them my new insights into the American black man’s struggle and his problems, as well as the depths of my search for truth and justice.
“I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda,” I had written to these friends. “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever andwhatever benefits humanity _as a whole_.”
Largely, the American white man’s press refused to convey that I was now attempting to teach Negroes a new direction. With the 1964 “long, hot summer” steadily producing new incidents, I was constantly accused of “stirring up Negroes.” Every time I had another radio or television microphone at my mouth, when I was asked about “stirring up Negroes” or “inciting violence,” I’d get hot.
“It takes no one to stir up the sociological dynamite that stems from the unemployment, bad housing, and inferior education already in the ghettoes. This explosively criminal condition has existed for so long, it needs no fuse; it fuses itself; it spontaneously combusts from within itself. . . .”
They called me “the angriest Negro in America.” I wouldn’t deny that charge. I spoke exactly as I felt. “I _believe_ in anger. The Bible says there is a _time_ for anger.” They called me “a teacher, a fomenter of violence.” I would say point blank,’ That is a lie. I’m not for wanton violence, I’m for justice. I feel that if white people were attacked by Negroes-if the forces of law prove unable, or inadequate, or reluctant to protect those whites from those Negroes-then those white people should protect and defend themselves from those Negroes, using arms if necessary. And I feel that when the law fails to protect Negroes from whites’ attack, then those Negroes should use arms, if necessary, to defend themselves.”
“Malcolm X Advocates Armed Negroes!”
What was wrong with that? I’ll tell you what was wrong. I was a black man talking about physical defense against the white man. The white man can lynch and burn and bomb and beat
Negroes-that’s all right: “Have patience” . . .”The customs are entrenched” . . .”Things are getting better.”
Well, I believe it’s a crime for anyone who is being brutalized to continue to accept that brutality without doing something to defend himself. If that’s how “Christian” philosophy is interpreted, if that’s what Gandhian philosophy teaches, well, then, I will call them criminal philosophies.
I tried in every speech I made to clarify my new position regarding white people-“I don’t speak against the sincere, well-meaning, good white people. I have learned that there _are_ some. I have learned that not all white people are racists. I am speaking against and my fight is against the white _racists_. I firmly believe that Negroes have the right to fight against these racists, by any means that are necessary.”
But the white reporters kept wanting me linked with that word “violence.” I doubt if I had one interview without having to deal with that accusation.
“I _am_ for violence if non-violence means we continue postponing a solution to the American black man’s problem-just to _avoid_ violence. I don’t go for non-violence if it also means a delayed solution. To me a delayed solution is a non-solution. Or I’ll say it another way. If it must take violence to get the black man his human rights in this country, I’m _for_ violence exactly as you know the Irish, the Poles, or Jews would be if they were flagrantly discriminated against. I am just as they would be in that case, and they would be for violence-no matter what the consequences, no matter who was hurt by the violence.”
White society _hates_ to hear anybody, especially a black man, talk about the crime the white man has perpetrated on the black man. I have always understood that’s why I have been so frequently called “a revolutionist.” It sounds asif _I_ have done some crime! Well, it may be the American black man does need to become involved in a _real_ revolution. The word for “revolution” in German is _Umwalzung_. What it means is a complete overturn-a complete change. The overthrow of King Farouk in Egypt and the succession of President Nasser is an example of a true revolution. It means the destroying of an old system, and its replacement with a new system. Another example is the Algerian revolution, led by Ben Bella; they threw out the French who had been there over 100 years. So how does anybody sound talking about the Negro in America waging some “revolution”? Yes, he is condemning a system-but he’s not trying to overturn the system, or to destroy it. The Negro’s so-called “revolt” is merely an asking to be _accepted_ into the existing system! A _true_ Negro revolt might entail, for instance, fighting for separate black states within this country-which several groups and individuals have advocated, long before Elijah Muhammad came along.
When the white man came into this country, he certainly wasn’t demonstrating any “nonviolence.” In fact, the very man whose name symbolizes non-violence here today has stated:
“Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or to feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it. Our children are still taught to respect the violence which reduced a red-skinned people of an earlier culture into a few fragmented groups herded into impoverished reservations.” “Peaceful coexistence!” That’s another one the white man has always been quick to cry. Fine! But what have been the deeds of the white man? During his entire advance through history, he has been waving the banner of Christianity . . . and carrying in his other hand the sword and the flintlock.
You can go right back to the very beginning of Christianity. Catholicism, the genesis of Christianity as we know it to be presently constituted, with its hierarchy, was conceived in Africa-by those whom the Christian church calls “The Desert Fathers.” The Christian church became infected with racism when it entered white Europe. The Christian church returned to Africa under the banner of the Cross-conquering, killing, exploiting, pillaging, raping, bullying, beating-and teaching white supremacy. This is how the white man thrust himself into the position of leadership of the world-through the use of naked physical power. And he was totally inadequate spiritually. Mankind’s history has proved from one era to another that the true criterion of leadership is spiritual. Men are attracted by spirit. By power, men are _forced_. Love is engendered by spirit. By power, anxieties are created.
I am in agreement one hundred per cent with those racists who say that no government laws ever cam _force_ brotherhood. The only true world solution today is governments guided by true religion-of the spirit. Here in race-torn America, I am convinced that the Islam religion is desperately needed, particularly by the American black man. The black man needs to reflect that he has been America’s most fervent Christian-and where has it gotten him? In fact, in the white man’s hands, in the white man’s interpretation . . . where has Christianity brought this _world_?
It has brought the non-white two-thirds of the human population to rebellion. Two-thirds of the human population today is telling the one-third minority white man, “Get out!” And the white man is leaving. And as he leaves, we seethe non-white peoples returning in a rush to their original religions, which had been labeled “pagan” by the conquering white man. Only one religion-Islamhad the power to stand and fight the white man’s Christianity for a _thousand years_! Only Islam could keep white Christianity at bay.
The Africans are returning to Islam and other indigenous religions. The Asians are returning to being Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims.
As the Christian Crusade once went East, now the Islamic Crusade is going West. With the EastAsia-closed to Christianity, with Africa rapidly being converted to Islam, with Europe rapidly becoming un-Christian, generally today it is accepted that the “Christian” civilization of America-which is propping up the white race around the world-is Christianity’s remaining strongest bastion.
Well, if _this_ is so-if the so-called “Christianity” now being practiced in America displays the best that world Christianity has left to offer-no one in his right mind should need any much greater proof that very close at hand is the _end_ of Christianity.
Are you aware that some Protestant theologians, in their writings, are using the phrase “post-Christian era”-and they mean _now_?
And what is the greatest single reason for this Christian church’s failure? It is its failure to combat racism. It is the old “You sow, you reap” story. The Christian church sowed racism-blasphemously; now it reaps racism.
Sunday mornings in this year of grace 1965, imagine the “Christian conscience” of congregations guarded by deacons barring the door to black would-be worshipers, telling them “You can’t enter _this_ House of God!”
Tell me, if you can, a sadder irony than that St. Augustine, Florida-a city namedfor the black African saint who saved Catholicism from heresy-was recently the scene of bloody race riots.
I believe that God now is giving the world’s so-called “Christian” white society its last opportunity to repent and atone for the crimes of exploiting and enslaving the world’s non-white peoples. It is exactly as when God gave Pharaoh a chance to repent. But Pharaoh persisted in his refusal to give justice to those whom he oppressed. And, we know, God finally destroyed Pharaoh.
Is white America really sorry for her crimes against the black people? Does white America have the capacity to repent-and to atone? Does the capacity to repent, to atone, exist in a majority, in one-half, in even one-third of American white society?
Many black men, the victims-hi fact most black men-would like to be able to forgive, to forget, the crimes.
But most American white people seem not to have it in them to make any serious atonement-to do justice to the black man.
Indeed, how _can_ white society atone for enslaving, for raping, for unmanning, for otherwise brutalizing _millions_ of human beings, for centuries? What atonement would the God of Justice demand for the robbery of the black people’s labor, their lives, their true identities, their culture, their history-and even their human dignity?
A desegregated cup of coffee, a theater, public toilets-the whole range of hypocritical “integration”-these are not atonement.
After a while in America, I returned abroad-and this time, I spent eighteen weeks in the Middle East and Africa. The world leaders with whom I had private audiences this time included President Gamal Abdel Nasser, of Egypt; President Julius K. Nyerere, of Tanzania; President Nnamoi Aziki-we, of Nigeria; Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, of Ghana; President Sekou Toure, of Guinea; President Jomo Kenyatta, of Kenya; and Prime Minister Dr. Milton Obote, of Uganda.
I also met with religious leaders-African, Arab, Asian, Muslim, and non-Muslim. And in all of these countries, I talked with Afro-Americans and whites of many professions and backgrounds.
An American white ambassador in one African country was Africa’s most respected American ambassador: I’m glad to say that this was told to me by one ranking African leader. We talked for an entire afternoon. Based on what I had heard of him, I had to believe him when he told me that as long as he was on the African continent, he never thought in terms of race, that he dealt with human beings, never noticing their color. He said he was more aware of language differences than of color differences. He said that only when he returned to America would he become aware of color differences.
I told him, “What you are telling me is that it isn’t the American white _man_ who is a racist, but it’s the American political, economic, and social _atmosphere_ that automatically nourishes a racist psychology in the white man.” He agreed.
We both agreed that American society makes it next to impossible for humans to meet in America and not be conscious of their color differences. And we both agreed that if racism could be removed, America could offer a society where rich and poor could truly live like human beings.
That discussion with the ambassador gave me a new insight-one which I like:that the white man is _not_ inherently evil, but America’s racist society influences him to act evilly. The society has produced and nourishes a psychology which brings out the lowest, most base part of human beings.
I had a totally different kind of talk with another white man I met in Africa-who, to me, personified exactly what the ambassador and I had discussed. Throughout my trip, I was of course aware that I was under constant surveillance. The agent was a particularly obvious and obnoxious one; I am not sure for what agency, as he never identified it, or I would say it. Anyway, this one finally got under my skin when I found I couldn’t seem to eat a meal in the hotel without seeing him somewhere around watching me. You would have thought I was John Dil-linger or somebody.
I just got up from my breakfast one morning and walked over to where he was and I told him I knew he was following me, and if he wanted to know anything, why didn’t he ask me. He started to give me one of those too-lofty-to-descend-to-you attitudes. I told him then right to his face he was a fool, that he didn’t know me, or what I stood for, so that made him one of those people who let somebody else do their thinking; and that no matter what job a man had, at least he ought to be able to think for himself. That stung him; he let me have it.
I was, to hear him tell it, anti-American, un-American, seditious, subversive, and probably Communist. I told him that what he said only proved how little he understood about me. I told him that the only thing the F.B.I. the C.I.A., or anybody else could ever find me guilty of, was being open-minded. I said I was seeking for the truth, and I was trying to weigh-objectively-everything on its own merit. I said what I was against was strait-jacketed thinking, and strait-jacketed societies. I said I respected every man’s right to believe whatever his intelligence tells him is intellectually sound, and I expect everyone else to respect my right to believe likewise.
This super-sleuth then got off on my “Black Muslim” religious beliefs. I asked him hadn’t his headquarters bothered to brief him-that my attitudes and beliefs were changed? I told him that the Islam I believed in now was the Islam which was taught in Mecca-that there was no God but Allah, and that Muhammad ibn Abdullah who lived in the Holy City of Mecca fourteen hundred years ago was the Last Messenger of Allah.
Almost from the first I had been guessing about something; and I took a chance-and I really shook up that “super-sleuth.” From the consistent subjectivity in just about everything he asked and said, I had deduced something, and I told him, “You know, I think you’re a Jew with an Anglicized name.” His involuntary expression told me I’d hit the button. He asked me how I knew. I told him I’d had so much experience with how Jews would attack me that I usually could identify them. I told him all I held against the Jew was that so many Jews actually were hypocrites in their claim to be friends of the American black man, and it burned me up to be so often called “anti-Semitic” when I spoke things I knew to be the absolute truth about Jews. I told him that, yes, I gave the Jew credit for being among all other whites the most active, and the most vocal, financier, “leader” and “liberal” in the Negro civil rights movement. But I said at the same time I knew that the Jew played these roles for a very careful strategic reason: the more prejudice in America could be focused upon the Negro, then the more the white Gentiles’ prejudice would keep diverted off the Jew. I said that to me, one proof that all the civil rights posturing of so many Jews wasn’t sincere was that so often in the North the quickest segregationists were Jews themselves. Look at practically everything the black man is trying to “integrate” into for instance; if Jews are not the actual owners, or are not in controlling positions, then they have major stockholdings or they are otherwise in powerful leverage positions-and do they really sincerely exert these influences? No!
And an even clearer proof for me of how Jews truly regard Negroes, I said, waswhat invariably happened wherever a Negro moved into any white residential neighborhood that was thickly Jewish. Who would always lead the whites’ exodus? The Jews! Generally in these situations, some whites stay put-you just notice who they are: they’re Irish Catholics, they’re Italians; they’re rarely ever any Jews. And, ironically, the Jews themselves often still have trouble being “accepted.”
Saying this, I know I’ll hear “anti-Semitic” from every direction again. Oh, yes! But truth is truth.
Politics dominated the American scene while I was traveling abroad this time. In Cairo and again in Accra, the American press wire services reached me with trans-Atlantic calls, asking whom did I favor, Johnson-or Goldwater?
I said I felt that as far as the American black man was concerned they were both just about the same. I felt that it was for the black man only a question of Johnson, the fox, or Goldwater, the wolf.
“Conservatism” in America’s politics means “Let’s keep the niggers in their place.” And “liberalism” means “Let’s keep the _knee_-grows in their place-but tell them we’ll treat them a little better; let’s fool them more, with more promises.” With these choices, I felt that the American black man only needed to choose which one to be eaten by, the “liberal” fox or the “conservative” wolf-because both of them would eat him.
I didn’t go for Goldwater any more than for Johnson-except that in a wolf’s den, I’d always known exactly where I stood; I’d watch the dangerous wolf closer than I would the smooth, sly fox. The wolf’s very growling would keep me alert and fighting him to survive, whereas I _might_ be lulled and fooled by the tricky fox. I’ll give you an illustration of the fox. When the assassination in Dallas made Johnson President, who was the first person he called for? It wasfor his best friend, “Dicky”-Richard Russell of Georgia. Civil rights was “a moral issue,” Johnson was declaring to everybody-while his best friend was the Southern racist who _led_ the civil rights opposition. How would some sheriff sound, declaring himself so against bank robbery-and Jesse James his best friend?
Goldwater as a man, I respected for speaking out his true convictions-something rarely done in politics today. He wasn’t whispering to racists and smiling at integrationists. I felt Gold-water wouldn’t have risked his unpopular stand without conviction. He flatly told black men he wasn’t for them-and there is this to consider: always, the black people have advanced further when they have seen they had to rise up against a system that they clearly saw was outright against them. Under the steady lullabies sung by foxy liberals, the Northern Negro became a beggar. But the Southern Negro, facing the honestly snarling white man, rose up to battle that white man for his freedom-long before it happened in the North.
Anyway, I didn’t feel that Goldwater was any better for black men than Johnson, or vice-versa. I wasn’t in the United States at election time, but if I had been, I wouldn’t have put myself in the position of voting for either candidate for the Presidency, or of recommending to any black man to do so. It has turned out that it’s Johnson in the White House-and black votes were a major factor in his winning as decisively as he wanted to. If it had been Goldwater, all I am saying is that the black people would at least have known they were dealing with an honestly growling wolf, rather than a fox who could have them half-digested before they even knew what was happening.
I kept having all kinds of troubles trying to develop the kind of Black Nationalist organization I wanted to build for the American Negro. Why Black Nationalism? Well, in the competitive American society, how can there ever beany white-black solidarity before there is first some black solidarity? If you will remember, in my childhood I had been exposed to the Black Nationalist teachings of Marcus Garvey-which, in fact, I had been told had led to my father’s murder. Even when I was a follower of Elijah Muhammad, I had been strongly aware of how the Black Nationalist political, economic and social philosophies had the ability to instill within black men the racial dignity, the incentive, and the confidence that the black race needs today to get up off its knees, and to get on its feet, and get rid of its scars, and to take a stand for itself.
One of the major troubles that I was having in building the organization that I wanted-an all-black organization whose ultimate objective was to help create a society in which there could exist honest white-black brotherhood-was that my earlier public image, my old so-called “Black Muslim” image, kept blocking me. I was trying to gradually reshape that image. I was trying to turn a corner, into a new regard by the public, especially Negroes; I was no less angry than I had been, but at the same time the true brotherhood I had seen in the Holy World had influenced me to recognize that anger can blind human vision.
Every free moment I could find, I did a lot of talking to key people whom I knew around Harlem, and I made a lot of speeches, saying: “True Islam taught me that it takes _all_ of the religious, political, economic, psychological, and racial ingredients, or characteristics, to make the Human Family and the Human Society complete.
“Since I learned the _truth_ in Mecca, my dearest friends have come to include _all_ kinds-some Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, and even atheists! I have friends who are called capitalists, Socialists, and Communists! Some of my friends are moderates, conservatives, extremists-some are even Uncle Toms! My friends today are black, brown, red, yellow, and _white_!”
I said to Harlem street audiences that only when mankind would submit to theOne God who created all-only then would mankind even approach the “peace” of which so much _talk_ could be heard . . . but toward which so little _action_ was seen.
I said that on the American racial level, we had to approach the black man’s struggle against the white man’s racism as a human problem, that we had to forget hypocritical politics and propaganda. I said that both races, as human beings, had the obligation, the responsibility, of helping to correct America’s human problem. The well-meaning white people, I said, had to combat, actively and directly, the racism in other white people. And the black people had to build within themselves much greater awareness that along with equal rights there had to be the bearing of equal responsibilities.
I knew, better than most Negroes, how many white people truly wanted to see American racial problems solved. I knew that many whites were as frustrated as Negroes. I’ll bet I got fifty letters some days from white people. The white people in meeting audiences would throng around me, asking me, after I had addressed them somewhere, “What _can_ a sincere white person do?”
When I say that here now, it makes me think about that little co-ed I told you about, the one who flew from her New England college down to New York and came up to me in the Nation of Islam’s restaurant in Harlem, and I told her that there was “nothing” she could do. I regret that I told her that. I wish that now I knew her name, or where I could telephone her, or write to her, and tell her what I tell white people now when they present themselves as being sincere, and ask me, one way or another, the same thing that she asked.
The first thing I tell them is that at least where my own particular Black Nationalist organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, is concerned, they can’t _join_ us. I have these very deep feelings that white people who want to join black organizations are really just taking the escapist way tosalve their consciences. By visibly hovering near us, they are “proving” that they are “with us.” But the hard truth is this _isn’t_ helping to solve America’s racist problem. The Negroes aren’t the racists. Where the really sincere white people have got to do their “proving” of themselves is not among the black _victims_, but out on the battle lines of where America’s racism really _is_-and that’s in their own home communities; America’s racism is among their own fellow whites. That’s where the sincere whites who really mean to accomplish something have got to work.
Aside from that, I mean nothing against any sincere whites when I say that as members of black organizations, generally whites’ very presence subtly renders the black organization automatically less effective. Even the best white members will slow down the Negroes’ discovery of what they need to do, and particularly of what they can do-for themselves, working by themselves, among their own kind, in their own communities.
I sure don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but in fact I’ll even go so far as to say that I never really trust the kind of white people who are always so anxious to hang around Negroes, or to hang around in Negro communities. I don’t trust the kind of whites who love having Negroes always hanging around them. I don’t know-this feeling may be a throwback to the years when I was hustling in Harlem and all of those red-faced, drunk whites in the afterhours clubs were always grabbing hold of some Negroes and talking about “I just want you to know you’re just as good as I am-” And then they got back in their taxicabs and black limousines and went back
downtown to the places where they lived and worked, where no blacks except servants had
better get caught. But, anyway, I know that every time that whites join a black organization, you
watch, pretty soon the blacks will be leaning on the whites to support it, and before you know it a
black may be up front with a title, but the whites, because of their money, are the real controllers.
I tell sincere white people, “Work in conjunction with us-each of us working among our own kind.”
Let sincere white individuals find all other white people they can who feel as they do-and let them
form their own all-white groups, to work trying to convert other white people who are thinking and
acting so racist. Let sincere whites go and teach non-violence to white people!
We will completely respect our white co-workers. They will deserve every credit. We will give
them every credit. We will meanwhile be working among our own kind, in our own black
communities-showing and teaching black men in ways that only other black men can-that the
black man has got to help himself. Working separately, the sincere white people and sincere
black people actually will be working together.
In our mutual sincerity we might be able to show a road to the salvation of America’s very soul. It
can only be salvaged if human rights and dignity, in full, are extended to black men. Only such
real, meaningful actions as those which are sincerely motivated from a deep sense of humanism
and moral responsibility can get at the basic causes that produce the racial explosions in America
today. Otherwise, the racial explosions are only going to grow worse. Certainly nothing is ever
going to be solved by throwing upon me and other so-called black “extremists” and
“demagogues” the blame for the racism that is in America.
Sometimes, I have dared to dream to, myself that one day, history may even say that my voice-
which disturbed the white man’s smugness, and his arrogance, and his complacency-that my
voice helped to save America from a grave, possibly even a fatal catastrophe.
The goal has always been the same, with the approaches to it as different as mine and Dr. Martin
Luther King’s non-violent marching, that dramatizes the brutality and the evil of the white man
against defenseless blacks. And in the racial climate of this country today, it is anybody’s guess
which of the”extremes” in approach to the black man’s problems might _personally_ meet a fatal
catastrophe first-“non-violent” Dr. King, or so-called “violent” me.
* * *
Anything I do today, I regard as urgent. No man is given but so much time to accomplish
whatever is his life’s work. My life in particular never has stayed fixed in one position for very long.
You have seen how throughout my life, I have often known unexpected drastic changes.
I am only facing the facts when I know that any moment of any day, or any night, could bring me
death. This is particularly true since the last trip that I made abroad. I have seen the nature of
things that are happening, and I have heard things from sources which are reliable.
To speculate about dying doesn’t disturb me as it might some people. I never have felt that I
would live to become an old man. Even before I was a Muslim-when I was a hustler in the ghetto
jungle, and then a criminal in prison, it always stayed on my mind that I would die a violent death.
In fact, it runs in my family. My father and most of his brothers died by violence-my father
because of what he believed in. To come right down to it, if I take the kind of things in which I
believe, then add to that the kind of temperament that I have, plus the one hundred per cent
dedication I have to whatever I believe in-these are ingredients which make it just about
impossible for me to die of old age.
* * *
I have given to this book so much of whatever time I have because I feel, and I hope, that if I
honestly and fully tell my life’s account, read objectively it might prove to be a testimony of some
I think that an objective reader may see how in the society to which I was exposed as a black
youth here in America, for me to wind up in a prison was really just about inevitable. It happens to
so many thousands of black youth.
I think that an objective reader may see how when I heard “The white man is the devil,” when I
played back what had been my own experiences, it was inevitable that I would respond positively;
then the next twelve years of my life were devoted and dedicated to propagating that phrase
among the black people.
I think, I hope, that the objective reader, in following my life-the life of only one ghetto-created
Negro-may gain a better picture and understanding than he has previously had of the black
ghettoes which are shaping the lives and the thinking of almost all of the 22 million Negroes who
live in America.
Thicker each year in these ghettoes is the kind of teen-ager that I was-with the wrong kinds of
heroes, and the wrong kinds of influences. I am not saying that all of them become the kind of
parasite that I was. Fortunately, by far most do not. But still, the small fraction who do add up to
an annual total of more and more costly, dangerous youthful criminals. The F.B.I. not long ago
released a report of a shocking rise in crime each successive year since the end of World War II-
ten to twelve per cent each year. The report did not say so in so many words, but I am saying that
the majority of that crime increase is annually spawned in the black ghettoes which the American
racist society permits to exist. In the 1964 “long, hot summer” riots in major cities across the
United States, the socially disinherited black ghetto youth were always at the forefront.
In this year, 1965, I am certain that more-and worse-riots are going to erupt, in yet more cities, in
spite of the conscience-salving Civil Rights Bill. The reasonis that the _cause_ of these riots, the
racist malignancy in America, has been too long unattended.
I believe that it would be almost impossible to find anywhere in America a black man who has
lived further down in the mud of human society than I have; or a black man who has been any
more ignorant than I have been; or a black man who has suffered more anguish during his life
than I have. But it is only after the deepest darkness that the greatest joy can come; it is only after
slavery and prison that the sweetest appreciation of freedom can come.
For the freedom of my 22 million black brothers and sisters here in America, I do believe that I
have fought the best that I knew how, and the best that I could, with the shortcomings that I have
had. I know that my shortcomings are many.
My greatest lack has been, I believe, that I don’t have the kind of academic education I wish I had
been able to get-to have been a lawyer, perhaps. I do believe that I might have made a good
lawyer. I have always loved verbal battle, and challenge. You can believe me that if I had the time
right now, I would not be one bit ashamed to go back into any New York City public school and
start where I left off at the ninth grade, and go on through a degree. Because I don’t begin to be
academically equipped for so many of the interests that I have. For instance, I love languages. I
wish I were an accomplished linguist. I don’t know anything more frustrating than to be around
people talking something you can’t understand. Especially when they are people who look just
like you. In Africa, I heard original mother tongues, such as Hausa, and Swahili, being spoken,
and there I was standing like some little boy, waiting for someone to tell me what had been said; I
never will forget how ignorant I felt.
Aside from the basic African dialects, I would try to learn Chinese, because itlooks as if Chinese
will be the most powerful political language of the future. And already I have begun studying
Arabic, which I think is going to be the most powerful spiritual language of the future.
I would just like to _study_. I mean ranging study, because I have a wide-open mind. I’m
interested in almost any subject you can mention. I know this is the reason I have come to really like, as individuals, some of the hosts of radio or television panel programs I have been on, and to respect their minds-because even if they have been almost steadily in disagreement with me on the race issue, they still have kept their minds open and objective about the truths of things happening in this world. Irv Kupcinet in Chicago, and Barry Farber, Barry Gray and Mike Wallace hi New York-people like them. They also let me see that they respected my mind-in a way I know they never realized. The way I knew was that often they would invite my opinion on subjects off the race issue. Sometimes, after the programs, we would sit around and talk about all kinds of things, current events and other things, for an hour or more. You see, most whites, even when they credit a Negro with some intelligence, will still feel that all he can talk about is the race issue; most whites never feel that Negroes can contribute anything to other areas of thought, and ideas. You just notice how rarely you will ever hear whites asking any Negroes what they think about the problem of world health, or the space race to land men on the moon.
* * *
Every morning when I wake up, now, I regard it as having another borrowed day. In any city, wherever I go, making speeches, holding meetings of my organization, or attending to other business, black men are watching every move I make, awaiting their chance to kill me. I have said publicly many times that I know that they have their orders. Anyone who chooses not to believe what I am saying doesn’t know the Muslims in the Nation of Islam. But I am also blessed with faithful followers who are, I believe, as dedicated to me as I once was to Mr. Elijah Muhammad. Those who would hunt a man need to remember that a jungle also contains those who hunt the hunters.
I know, too, that I could suddenly die at the hands of some white racists. Or I could die at the hands of some Negro hired by the white man. Or it could be some brainwashed Negro acting on his own idea that by eliminating me he would be helping out the white man, because I talk about the white man the way I do.
Anyway, now, each day I live as if I am already dead, and I tell you what I would like for you to do. When I _am_ dead-I say it that way because from the things I _know_, I do not expect to live long enough to read this book in its finished form-I want you to just watch and see if I’m not right in what I say: that the white man, in his press, is going to identify me with “hate.”
He will make use of me dead, as he has made use of me alive, as a convenient symbol of “hatred”-and that will help him to escape facing the truth that all I have been doing is holding up a mirror to reflect, to show, the history of unspeakable crimes that his race has committed against my race.
You watch. I will be labeled as, at best, an “irresponsible” black man. I have always felt about this accusation that the black “leader” whom white men consider to be “responsible” is invariably the black “leader” who never gets any results. You only get action as a black man if you are regarded by the white man as “irresponsible.” In fact, this much I had learned when I was just a little boy. And since I have been some kind of a “leader” of black people here in the racist society of America, I have been more reassured each time the white man resisted me, or attacked me harder-because each time made me more certain that I was on the right track in the American black man’s best interests. The racistwhite man’s opposition automatically made me know that I did offer the black man something worthwhile.
Yes, I have cherished my “demagogue” role. I know that societies often have killed the people who have helped to change those societies. And if I can die having brought any light, having exposed any meaningful truth that will help to destroy the racist cancer that is malignant in the body of America-then, all of the credit is due to Allah. Only the mistakes have been mine.
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/