|Malcolm X Analysis
9th November 1963 (I’ll term this Doc1)
Look at the American Revolution in 1776. That revolution was for what? For land. Why did they want land? Independence. How was it carried out? Bloodshed. Number one, it was based on land, the basis of independence. And the only way they could get it was bloodshed. The French Revolution - what was it based on? The landless against the landlord. What was it for? Land. How did they get it? Bloodshed. Was no love lost, was no compromise, was no negotiation. I'm telling you - you don't know what a revolution is. Because when you find out what it is, you'll get back in the alley, you'll get out of the way.
The Russian Revolution - what was it based on? Land; the landless against the landlord. How did they bring it about? Bloodshed. You haven't got a revolution that doesn't involve bloodshed. And you're afraid to bleed. I said, you're afraid to bleed.
As long as the white man sent you to Korea, you bled. He sent you to Germany, you bled. He sent you to the South Pacific to fight the Japanese, you bled. You bleed for white people, but when it comes to seeing your own churches being bombed and little black girls murdered, you haven't got any blood. You bleed when the white man says bleed; you bite when the white man says bite; and you bark when the white man says bark. I hate to say this about us, but it's true. How are you going to be nonviolent in Mississippi, as violent as you were in Korea? How can you justify being nonviolent in Mississippi and Alabama, when your churches are being bombed, and your little girls are being murdered, and at the same time you are going to get violent with Hitler, and Tojo, and somebody else you don't even know?
If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black 'women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us and make us violent abroad in defense of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defense of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.
So I cite these various revolutions, brothers and sisters, to show you that you don't have a peaceful revolution. You don't have a turn-the-other-cheek revolution. There's no such thing as a nonviolent revolution. The only kind of revolution that is nonviolent is the Negro revolution. The only revolution in which the goal is loving your enemy is the Negro revolution. It's the only revolution in which the goal is a desegregated lunch counter, a desegregated theater, a desegregated park, and a desegregated public toilet; you can sit down next to white folks - on the toilet. That's no revolution. Revolution is based on land. Land is the basis of all independence. Land is the basis of freedom, justice, and equality.
April 20 1964(I’ll term this Doc2)
Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and the overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as practiced by people of all colors and races here in this Ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all other prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.
I have been blessed to visit the Holy City of Mecca. I have made my seven circuits around the Ka'ba, led by a young Mutawaf named Muhammad. I drank water from the well of Zem Zem. I ran seven times back and forth between the hills of Mt. Al-Safa and Al-Marwah. I have prayed in the ancient city of Mina, and I have prayed on Mt. Arafat.
There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue eyed blonds to black skin Africans. But we were all participating in the same rituals, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had lead me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.
America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have considered 'white' -- but the 'white' attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.
You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to re-arrange much of my thought patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experiences and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.
During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept in the same bed, (or on the same rug) -- while praying to the same God -- with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the same words and in the actions and in the deeds of the 'white' Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.
We were truly all the same (brothers) -- because their belief in one God had removed the 'white' from their minds, the 'white' from their behavior, and the 'white' from their attitude. I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man -- and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their differences in color.
With racism plaguing America like an incurable cancer, the so-called 'Christian' white American heart should be more receptive to a proven solution to such a destructive problem. Perhaps it could be in time to save America from imminent disaster -- the same destruction brought upon Germany by racism that eventually destroyed the Germans themselves.
Each hour here in the Holy Land enables me to have greater spiritual insights into what is happening in America between black and white. The American Negro never can be blamed for his racial animosities -- he is only reacting to four hundred years of conscious racism of the American whites. But as racism leads America up the suicide path, I do believe, from the experience that I have had with them, that the whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, will see the handwriting on the wall and many of them will turn to the spiritual path of truth -- the only way left to America to ward off the disaster that racism inevitably must lead to.
Never have I been so highly honored. Never have I been made to feel more humble and unworthy. Who would believe the blessings that have been heaped upon an American Negro? A few nights ago, a man who would be called in America a 'white' man, a United Nations diplomat, an ambassador, a companion of kings, gave me his hotel suite, his bed. By this man, His Excellency Prince Faisal, who rules this Holy Land, was made aware of my presence here in Jedda. The very next morning, Prince Faisal's son, in person, informed me that by the will and decree of his esteemed father, I was to be a State Guest.
The deputy Chief of Protocol himself took me before the Hajj Court. His Holiness Sheikh Muhammad Harkon himself okayed my visit to Mecca. His Holiness gave me two books on Islam, with his personal seal and autograph, and he told me that he prayed that I would be a successful preacher of Islam in America. A car, a driver, and a guide, have been placed at my disposal, making it possible for me to travel about this Holy Land almost at will. The government provides air conditioned quarters and servants in each city that I visit. Never would I have even thought of dreaming that I would ever be a recipient of such honors -- honors that in America would be bestowed upon a King -- not a Negro.
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all the Worlds.
El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X)
On the thirteenth of April, 1964, Malcolm X left the United States on a personal and spiritual journey, “hajj”, through the middle east. In Mecca, X experienced what he termed as an epiphany. He determined that the authentic Islam was not one in which all whites were inherently evil, but one in which the expiating power of Islam was a means of unity. Spike Lee’s portrayal of this change in perspective is one of great accuracy; however, fundamental fact changes were made to Malcolm X’s life and history as to make this transition of ideologies more dramatic and obvious to the viewer. While Lee regularly rearranged characters and the events in the book, using artistic license, he maintained the integrity of the message in Malcolm’s memoirs.
Lee maintained Malcolm's message of illustrating the effect of racism on his life. Lee’s movie opens up with the Malcolm X line “I charge the white man with being the greatest murderer, the greatest kidnapper, the greatest robber, the greatest enslaver.” Such is the overarching tone that Lee develops of Malcolm prior to his Hajj to Mecca. Lee’s portrayal of Malcolm X was a violent one which said that black people were superior to white people, and that the demise of the white race was imminent. While the civil rights movement fought against racial segregation, Malcolm X advocated the complete separation of African Americans from white people. Malcolm X also rejected the civil rights movement's strategy of nonviolence, and instead advocated that black people use any necessary means of self-defense to protect themselves. “There's no such thing as a nonviolent revolution, he said. “ The only kind of revolution that is nonviolent is the Negro revolution. The only revolution in which the goal is loving your enemy is the Negro revolution. It's the only revolution in which the goal is a desegregated lunch counter, a desegregated theater, a desegregated park, and a desegregated public toilet; you can sit down next to white folks - on the toilet. That's no revolution.” In general, Lee’s accurate portrayal of Malcolm does him justice. Prior to Mecca, Malcolm very much believed a violent revolution may have been necessary to the revolution of blacks. However Lee’s dramatization of certain aspects of Malcolm’s life such as his encounter with the white woman, help to create the stark contrast between pre and post Mecca Malcolm.
Malcolm’s autobiography tells how his mother, pregnant with him, confronted Ku Klux Klansmen when they surrounded the family's house in Omaha, looking for Malcolm's father, Earl Little. But according to an interview Malcolm's mother gave another biographer, the incident never happened. While both the autobiography and Lee portray Mr. Little as a political militant who was killed by white racists, other biographies depicts him as a violent man who beat his wife and children and died when he was run over by a trolley as he tried to board. In Malcolm’s autobiography, he states when "this little white college girl ...demanded, right up in my face, "Don't you believe there are any good white people?"" Malcolm said, "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"” In the movie the girl's lines were, "Excuse me, Mr. X, I've read some of your speeches and I honestly believe that a lot of what you have to say is true. I'm a good person in spite of what my ancestors did. And I wanted to ask you, what can a white person like myself, who isn't prejudiced, what can I do to help you and further the cause?" And Malcolm answered, "Nothing." Malcolm was less interested in protecting the girl's feelings in Lee's version. In both the book and the movie, "She burst out crying and ran". Lee included the incident in the film because it had a great effect on Malcolm in his post Mecca life. However, Lee plays down the fact that Malcolm did not want to hurt her feelings. Similarly, Lee’s dramatization of X’s “chickens coming to roost” comment helps to show this stark transformation. Lee portrayed Malcolm as more harsh and less sympathetic because he wanted to exaggerate the final transformation of Malcolm from Malcolm X to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.
After his hajj, Malcolm returns very much a changed man. His transformation in the movie is explicated through his letters from Mecca to his wife, Betty. In document two, a letter to Betty, Malcolm describes the “brotherhood” he felt with “all participating in the same rituals, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had lead (him) me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.” Spike Lee’s dramatization of this transformation is not far off from the truth. Soon after Mecca, Malcolm began to preach of greater integration. He accepted help and aid from non-violent organizations such as King’s SCLC. Malcolm continued to advocate for what he called “rifle clubs” in which Afro-Americans would be trained in defensive use of arms; however, he discontinued his policy of violent aggression in a revolution against all whites.
Lee’s portrayal of Malcolm skimps over the fundamental fact that Malcolm still believed that violence may be necessary to the revolution of Afro Americans. Lee’s idolization of X contributes to this omission of detail. However, as a whole, Lee’s work is historically accurate, and while sometimes a dramatization, an important film of American history.