Detroit, 14 February 1965
‘More African than American’ Malcolm X (1925—65) was born in Nebraska, the son of a radical Baptist minister who was murdered by the Klu Klux Klan, and raised in Michigan and Boston. His name, he said, symbolized his life – ex-smoker, ex-drinker, ex-Christian, ex-s/are. He became a pimp and hustler and was jailed for drug pushing and burglary in 1946. In 1952 he discovered the Nation of Islam and became a Black Muslim minister reaching vengeance against the ‘white devil” and advocating violence and black separation. He was suspended from the Black Muslims in 1963 after a conflict with their leader Elijah Muhammad and traveled to Mecca. He realized that orthodox Muslims preached racial equality, abandoned his attach on the white devils and founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity.
He was the most articulate Black Muslim of the early1960s. He delivered this speech to the Afro-American Broadcasting Company on the evening after his house had been bombed by Black Muslims enraged by his change of heart. What effect did the struggle over Africa have on black Americans, he asked?
Aweek later, as he began another speech in New York, he was assassinated.
Why should the black man in America concern himself since he’s been away from the African continent lot three or four hundred years? Why should we concern ourselves? What impact does what happens to them have upon us? Number one, you have to realize that up until 1959 Africa was dominated by the colonial powers. Having complete control over Africa, the colonial powers of Europe projected the image of Africa negatively. They always project Africa in a negative Light: jungle savages, cannibals, nothing civilized. Why then, naturally it was so negative that it was negative to you and me, and you and I began to hate it. We didn’t want anybody telling us anything about Africa, much less calling us Africans, In hating Africa and n hating the Africans, we ended up hating ourselves, without even realizing it. Because you can’t hate the roots of a tree, and not hate the tree. You can’t hate your origin and not end up hating yourself. You can’t hate Africa and not hate yourself.
You show me one of these people over here who has been thoroughly brainwashed and has a negative attitude toward Africa, and I’ll show you one who has a negative attitude toward himself. You can’t have a positive attitude toward yourself and a negative attitude toward Africa at the same time. To the same degree that your understanding of and attitude toward Africa becomes positive, you’ll find that your understanding of and your attitude toward yourself will also become positive. And this is what the white man knows, So they very skillfully make you and me hate our African identity, our African characteristics.
You know yourself that we have been a people who hated our African characteristics. We hated our heads, we hated the shape of our nose, we wanted one of those long doglike noses, you know; we hated the color of our skin, hated the blood of Africa that was in our veins. And in hating our features and our skin and our blood, why, we had to end up hating ourselves. And we hated ourselves. Our color became to us a chain — we felt that it was holding us back4 our color became to us like a prison, which we felt was keeping us confined, not letting us go this way or that way. We felt that all of these restrictions were based solely upon our color, and the psychological reaction to that would have to be that as long as we felt imprisoned or chained or trapped by black skin, black features, and black blood, that skin and those features and that blood holding us hack automatically had to become hateful to us. And it became hateful to us.
It made us feel inferior; it made us feel inadequate, made us feel helpless. And when we fell victims to this feeling of inadequacy or inferiority or helplessness, we turned to somebody else to show us the way We didn’t have confidence in another black man to show us the way, or black people to show us the way. In those days we didn’t. We didn’t think a black man could do anything except play some horns — you know, make some sound and make you happy with some songs and in that way. But in serious things, where our food, clothing, shelter, and education were concerned, we turned to the man. We never thought in terms of bringing these things into existence for ourselves, we never thought in terms of doing things for ourselves. Because we felt helpless. What made us feel helpless was our hatred for ourselves. And our hatred for ourselves stemmed from our hatred for things African.
One of the things that made the Black Muslim movement grow was its emphasis upon things African. This was the secret to the growth of the Black Muslim movement. African blood, African origin, African culture, African ties. And you’d be surprised — we discovered that deep within the subconscious of the black man in this country, he is still more African than he is American. He thinks that he’s more American than African, because the man is jiving him, the man is brainwashing him every day. He’s telling him, ‘You’re an American, you’re an American.’ Man, how could you think you’re an American when you haven’t ever had any kind of an American meal over here? You have never, never. Ten men can be sitting at a table eating, you know, dining, and I can come and sit down where they’re dining. They’re dining; I’ve got a plate in front of me, but nothing is on it. Because all of us are sitting at the same table, are all of us diners? I’m not a diner until you let me dine. Just being at the table with others who are dining doesn’t make me a diner, and this is what you’ve got to get in your head here in this country.
Just because you’re in this country doesn’t make you an American. No, you’ve got to go farther than that before you can become an American. You’ve got to enjoy the fruits of Americanism. You haven’t enjoyed those fruits. You’ve enjoyed the thorns. You’ve enjoyed the thistles. But you have not enjoyed the fruits, no sir. You have fought harder for the fruits than the white man has, but you’ve enjoyed less. When the man put the uniform on you and sent you abroad, you fought harder than they did. Yes, I know you — when you’re fighting for them, you can fight...
Brothers and sisters, let me tell you, I spend my time out there in the streets with people, all kinds of people, listening to what they have to say. And they’re dissatisfied, they’re disillusioned, they’re fed up, they’re getting to the point of frustration where they begin to feel, What do we have to lose?’ When you get to that point, you’re the type of person who can create a very dangerously explosive atmosphere. This s what’s happening in our neighborhoods, to people.
I read a poll taken by Newsweek magazine this week saying Negroes are satisfied, Oh, yes, Newsweek, you know, supposed to a top magazine with a top pollster, talking about how satisfied Negroes are. Maybe I haven’t met the Negroes he met. Because know he hasn’t met the ones that I’ve met. And this is dangerous. This is where the white man does himself the most harm. He invents statistics to create an image, thinking that that image is going to h things in check. You know why they always say Negroes are lazy. Because they want Negroes to be lazy. They always say Negroes can t unite, because they don’t want Negroes to unite. And or they put this thing in the Negro’s mind; they feel that he tries fulfill their image. If they say you can’t unite black people, and then you come to them to unite them, they won’t unite, because it’s bee said that they’re not supposed to unite. It’s a psycho that they work and it’s the same way with these statistics.
When they think that an explosive era is coming up, then they grab their press again and begin to shower the Negro public to make it appear that all Negroes are satisfied. Because if you know you’re dissatisfied all by yourself and ten others aren’t, you play it cool; but if you know that all ten of you are dissatisfied, you get with it. This is what the man knows. The man knows that if these Negroes find out how dissatisfied they really are — even Uncle Tom is dissatisfied, he’s just playing his part for now — this is what makes the m frightened. It frightens them in France and frightens them in England and it frightens them in the United States.
And it is for this reason that it is so important for you and me start organizing among ourselves, intelligently, and try to find ‘What are we going to do if this happens, that happens or the next thing happens?’ Don’t think that you’re going to run to the man and say, ‘Look, boss, this is me.’ Why, when the deal goes down, you look just like me in his eyesight; I’ll make it tough for you. Yes, when the deal goes down, he doesn’t look at you in any better light he looks at me…
I say again that I’m not a racist, I don’t believe in any form of segregation or anything like that. I’m for brotherhood for everybody, but I don’t believe in forcing brotherhood upon people who don’t want it. Let us practice brotherhood among ourselves, and then if hers want to practice brotherhood with us, we’re for practicing it with them also. But I don’t think that we should run around trying to love somebody who doesn’t love us.