The following quotations are taken from:
Malcolm X, “At the Audobon,” Dec. 20, 1964, from Malcolm X Speaks, ed. George Breitman. Grove Press 1965. Pp. 115-156.
“Number one, we want to know what are we? How did we get to be what we are? Where did we come from? How did we come from there? Who did we leave behind? Where was it that we left them behind, and what are they doing over there where they used to be? This is something that we have not been told. We have been brought over here and isolated—you know the funniest thing about that: they accuse us of introducing ‘separation ‘ and ‘isolation.’ No one is more isolated than you and I. There’s no system on earth more capable of thoroughly separating and isolating a people than this system that they call the democratic system; and you and I are the best proof of it, the best example of it. We were separated from our people, and have been isolated here for a long time.
So thoroughly has this been done to us that now we don’t even know that there is somebody else that looks like we do. When we see them, we look at them like thy’re strangers. And when we see somebody that doesn’t look anything like us, we call them our friends. That’s a shame. It shows you what has been done to us. Yes, I mean our own people—we see our people come here who look exactly like we do, our twins, can’t tell them apart, and we say, ‘Those are foreigners.’ Yet we’re getting our heads busted trying to snuggle up to somebody who not only doesn’t look like us, but doesn’t even smell like us.
So you can see the importance of these meetings on Sunday nights during the past two or three weeks, and for a couple more weeks. It is not so much to spell out any program; you can’t give a people a program until they realize they need one, and until they realize that all existing programs aren’t programs that are going to produce productive results. So what we would like to do on Sunday nights is to go into our problem, and just analyze and analyze and analyze; and question things that you don’t understand, so we can at least try and get a better picture of what faces us.
I, for one, believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what it is that confronts them, and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program; and when the people create a program, you get action. When these ‘leaders’ create programs, you get no action. The only time you see them is when the people are told to control things. You can’t show me a leader that has set off an explosion. No, they come and contain the explosion. They say, ‘Don’t get rough, you know, do the smart thing.’ This is their role—they’re there just to restrain you and me, to restrain the struggle, to keep it in a certain groove, and not let it get out of control. Whereas you and I don’t want anybody to keep us from getting out of control. We want to get out of control. We want to smash anything that gets in our way that doesn’t belong there.
Listen to the last part of what I said: I didn’t just say we want to smash anything that gets in our way. I said we want to smash anything that gets in our way that doesn’t belong there. You see, I had to give you the whole thing, because when you read it, you’ll hear we’re going to smash up everybody. No, I didn’t say that. I said we’ll smash up anything that gets in the way that doesn’t belong there. I mean that. If it doesn’t belong there, it’s worthy to be smashed. This country practices that—power. This country smashes anything that gets in its way. It crushes anything that gets in its way. And since we’re Americans, they tell us, well, we’ll do it the American way. We’ll smash anything that gets in our way.
This is the type of philosophy we want to express among our people. We don’t need to give them a program, not yet. First, give them something to think about. If we give them something to think about, and start them thinking in a way that they should think, they’ll see through all this camouflage that’s going on right now. It’s just a show—the result of a script written by somebody else. The people will take that script and tear it up ad write one for themselves. And you can bet that when you write the script for yourself, you’re always doing something different than you’d be doing if you followed somebody else’s script.” 118-119
“You can’t operate a capitalistic system unless you are vulturistic; you have to have someone else’s blood to suck to be a capitalist. You show me a capitalist, I’ll show you a bloodsucker. He cannot be anything but a bloodsucker if he’s going to be a capitalist. He’s got to. Get it from somewhere other than himself, and that’s where he gets it—from somewhere or someone other than himself. So, when we look at the African continent, when we look at the trouble that’s going on between East and West, we find that the nations in Africa are developing socialistic systems to solve their problems.” 121
“I say this because it is necessary for you and me to understand what is at stake. You can’t understand what is going on in Mississippi if you don’t understand what is going on in the Congo. And you can’t really be interested in what’s going on in Mississippi if you’re not also interested in what’s going on in the Congo. They’re the same. The same interests are at stake. The same sides are drawn up, the same schemes are at work in the Congo that are at work in Mississippi. The same stake—no difference whatsoever.” 125
“The only kind of power that can help you and me is international power, not local power. Any power that’s local, if it’s real power, is only a reflection or a part of that international power. If you think you’e got some power, and it isn’t in some way tied into that international thing, brother, don’t get too far out on a limb.
If your power base is only here, you can forget it. You can’t build a power base here. You have to have a power base among brothers and sisters. You have to have your power base among people who have something in common with you. They have to have some kind of cultural identity, or there has to be some relationship between you and your power base. When you build a power base in this country, you’re building it where you aren’t in any way related to what you build it on. No, you have to have that base somewhere else. You can work here, but you’d better put your base somewhere else. Don’t put it in this man’s hand. Any kind of organization that is based here can’t be an effective organization. Anything you’ve got going for you, if the base is here, is not going to be effective. Your and my base must be at home, and this is not at home.” 129-130
“I read a little story once, and Mau Mau proved it. I read a story once where someone asked some group of people how many of them wanted freedom. They all put up their hand. Think there were about 300 of them. Then person says, ‘Well, how many of you are ready to kill anybody who gets in your way for freedom?’ About fifty put up their hands. And he told those fifty, ‘You stand over here.’ That left 250 sitting who wanted freedom, but weren’t ready to kill for it. So he told this fifty, ‘Now you wanted freedom and you said you’d kill anybody who’d get in your way. You see those 250? You get them first. Some of them are your own brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers. But they’re the ones who stand in the way of your freedom. They’re afraid to do whatever is necessary to get it and they’ll stop you from doing it. Get rid of them and freedom will come naturally.’
I go for that. That’s what the Mau Mau learned. The Mau Mau realized that the only thing that was standing in the way of the independence of the African in Kenya was another Afircan. So they started getting them one by one, all those Toms. One after another, they’d find another Uncle Tom African by the roadside. Today they’re free. The white man didn’t even get involved—he got out of the way. That’s the same thing that will happen here. We’ve got too many of our own people who stand in the way. They’re too squeamish. They want to be looked upon as respectable Uncle Toms. They want to be looked upon by the white man as responsible. They don’t want to be classified by him as extremist, or violent, or , you know, irresponsible. They want that good image. And nobody who’s looking for a good image will ever be free. No, that kind of image doesn’t get you free. You’ve got to take something in your hand and say, ‘Look, it’s you or me.’ And I guarantee you he’ll give you freedom then. He’ll say, ‘This man is ready for it.’” 134
“To Mississippi Youth,” Dec. 31, 1964
“One of the first things I think young people, especially nowadays, should learn is how to see for yourself and listen for yourself and think for yourself. Then you can come to an intelligent decision for yourself. If you form the habit of going by what you hear others say about someone, or going by what others think about someone, instead of searching that thing out for yourself and seeing for yourself, you will be walking west when you think you’re going east, and you will be walking east when you think you’re going west. This generation, especially of our people, has a burden, more so than any other time in history. Themost important thing that we can learn to do today is think for ourselves.
It’s good to keep wide-open ears and listen to what everybody else has to say, but when you come to make a decision, you have to weigh all of what you’ve heard on its own, and place it where it belongs, and come to a decision for yourself; you’ll never regret it. But if you form the habit of taking what someone else says about a thing without checking it out for yourself, you’ll find that other people will have you hating your friends and loving your enemies. This is one of the things that our people are beginning to learn today—that it is very important to think out a situation for yourself. If you don’t do it, you’ll always be maneuvered into a situation where you are never fighting your actual enemies, where you will find yourself fighting your own self.” 137-138
“I myself would go for nonviolence if it was consistent, if everybody was going to be nonviolent all the time. I’d say, okay, let’s get with it, we’ll all be nonviolent. But I don’t go along with any kind of nonviolence unless everybody’s going to be nonviolent. If they make the Ku Klux Klan nonviolent, I’ll be nonviolent. I they make the White Citizens Council nonviolent, I’ll be nonviolent. But as long as you’ve got somebody else not being nonviolent, I don’t want anybody coming to me talking any nonviolent talk. I don’t think it is fair to tell our people to be non-violent unless someone is out there making the Klan and the Citizens Council and these other groups also be non-violent.” 138-139
“They weren’t drafting him when the war first started. This is what they thought of you and me in those days. For one thing, they didn’t trust us; they feared that if they put us in the army and trained us in how to use rifles and other things, we might shoot at some targets that they hadn’t picked out. And we would have. Any thinking man knows what target to shoot at. If a man has to have someone else to choose his target, then he isn’t thinking for himself—they’re doing the thinking for him.” 140
“Never at any time in the history of our people in this country have we made advances or progress in any way based upon the internal good will of this country. We have made advancement in this country only when this country was under pressure from forces above and beyond its control. The internal moral consciousness of this country is bankrupt. It hasn’t existed since they first brought us over here and made slaves out of us. They make it appear that they have our good interests at heart, but when you study it, every time, no matter how many steps they take us forward, it’s like we’re standing on a – what do you call that thing? – a treadmill. The treadmill is moving backwards faster than we’re able to go forward I this direction. We’re not even standing still—we’re going backwards.
In studying the process of this so-called progress during the past twenty years, we of the Organization of Afro-American Unity realized that the only time the black man in this country is given any kind of recognition, or even listened to, is when America is afraid of outside pressure, or when she’s afraid of her image abroad. So we saw that it was necessary to expand the proem and the struggle of the black man in this country until it went above and beyond the jurisdiction of the United States.” 142
“So don’t you run around here trying to make friends with somebody who’s depriving you of your rights. They’re not your friends, no, they’re your enemies. Treat them like that and fight them, and you’ll get your freedom; and after you get your freedom, your enemy will respect you. And we’ll respect you. And I say that with no hate. I don’t have hate in me. I have no hate at all. I don’t have any hate. I’ve got some sense. I’m not going to let somebody who hates me tell me to love him.” 145
“The people in this country who in the past have been at peace and have been peaceful were that way only because they didn’t know what freedom was. They let somebody else define it for them, but today, 1965, you find those who have not had freedom, and were not in a position to define freedom, are beginning to define freedom for themselves, they see that they don’t have it, and it makes them less peaceful, or less inclined towards peace…” 148
“Power never takes a back step—only in the face of more power. Power doesn’t back up in the face of some kind of nonviolent loving action. It’s not the nature of power to back up in the face of anything but some more power. And this is what the people have realized in Southeast Asia, in the Congo, in Cuba, in other parts of the world. Power recognizes only power, and all of them who realize this have made gains.” 150
“An illegal attack, an unjust attack and an immoral attack can be made against you by anyone. Just because a person has on a uniform does not give him the right to come and shoot up your neighborhood. No, this is not right, and my suggestion would be that as long as the police department doesn’t use those methods in white neighborhoods, they shouldn’t come to Harlem and use them in our neighborhood.
I wasn’t here. I’m glad I wasn’t here. Because I’d be dead, they’d have to kill me. I’d rather be dead than let someone walk around my house or in my neighborhood shooting it up, where my children are in the line of rire. Either they’d die or I’d die.
It’s not intelligent—and it all started when a little boy was shot by a policeman, and he was turned loose the same as the sheriff was turned loose in Mississippi when he killed the three civil-rights workers….” 154