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   Vol. 69/No. 45           November 21, 2005  
 
 
Malcolm X: There is no polite rebellion
 
In response to the recent events in France (see front-page article) and the description by capitalist politicians and most media of young people protesting police brutality there as “rioters” and “criminals,” we are printing an excerpt from a relevant speech by Malcolm X. It replaces the regular Books of the Month column for this week. The portion below appears in February 1965: The Final Speeches by Malcolm X. It is from a talk entitled “The oppressed masses of the world cry out for action against the common oppressor,” which Malcolm presented at the London School of Economics Feb. 11, 1965, to a packed meeting sponsored by the school’s Africa Society. Copyright ©1992 by Betty Shabazz and Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

BY MALCOLM X  
It is only being a Muslim which keeps me from seeing people by the color of their skin. This religion teaches brotherhood, but I have to be a realist—I live in America, a society which does not believe in brotherhood in any sense of the term. Brute force is used by white racists to suppress nonwhites. It is a racist society ruled by segregationists….

[W]here the government fails to protect the Negro he is entitled to do it himself. He is within his rights. I have found the only white elements who do not want this advice given to undefensive Blacks are the racist liberals. They use the press to project us in the image of violence.

There is an element of whites who are nothing but cold, animalistic racists. That element is the one that controls or has strong influence in the power structure. It uses the press skillfully to feed statistics to the public to make it appear that the rate of crime in the Black community, or community of nonwhite people, is at such a high level. It gives the impression or the image that everyone in that community is criminal.

And as soon as the public accepts the fact that the dark-skinned community consists largely of criminals or people who are dirty, then it makes it possible for the power structure to set up a police-state system. Which will make it permissible in the minds of even the well-meaning white public for them to come in and use all kinds of police methods to brutally suppress the struggle on the part of these people against segregation, discrimination, and other acts that are unleashed against them that are absolutely unjust.

They use the press to set up this police state, and they use the press to make the white public accept whatever they do to the dark-skinned public. They have all kinds of negative characteristics that they project to make the white public draw back, or to make the white public be apathetic when police-state-like methods are used in these areas to suppress the people’s honest and just struggle against discrimination and other forms of segregation.

A good example of how they do it in New York: Last summer, when the Blacks were rioting—the riots, actually they weren’t riots in the first place; they were reactions against police brutality.1 And when the Afro-Americans reacted against the brutal measures that were executed against them by the police, the press all over the world projected them as rioters. When the store windows were broken in the Black community, immediately it was made to appear that this was being done not by people who were reacting over civil rights violations, but they gave the impression that these were hoodlums, vagrants, criminals….

But this is wrong. In America the Black community in which we live is not owned by us. The landlord is white. The merchant is white. In fact, the entire economy of the Black community in the States is controlled by someone who doesn’t even live there. The property that we live in is owned by someone else. The store that we trade with is operated by someone else. And these are the people who suck the economic blood of our community.

And being in a position to suck the economic blood of our community, they control the radio programs that cater to us, they control the newspapers, the advertising, that cater to us. They control our minds. They end up controlling our civic organizations. They end up controlling us economically, politically, socially, mentally, and every other kind of way. They suck our blood like vultures.

And when you see the Blacks react, since the people who do this aren’t there, they react against their property. The property is the only thing that’s there. And they destroy it. And you get the impression over here that because they are destroying the property where they live, that they are destroying their own property. No. They can’t get to the man, so they get at what he owns. [Laughter]

This doesn’t say it’s intelligent. But whoever heard of a sociological explosion that was done intelligently and politely? And this is what you’re trying to make the Black man do. You’re trying to drive him into a ghetto and make him the victim of every kind of unjust condition imaginable. Then when he explodes, you want him to explode politely! [Laughter]


1. On July 16, 1964, a 15-year-old Black youth, James Powell, was shot and killed by a New York police officer. Two days later, a demonstration at a central Harlem police station demanding the officer’s arrest was broken up by police, and the organizers were arrested. Police then rampaged through the area, beating, arresting, and shooting residents, killing one. For five days, police battled residents of Harlem and the predominantly Black community of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn.
 
 
Related articles:
FRANCE: Unrest spreads among youth, workers of African descent
Gov’t declares state of emergency, orders curfews
Rosa Parks: cadre of working-class movement that ended Jim Crow  
 
 
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