Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheelchair of the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states and the world kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the president and the vice president; I've forgotten what those telegrams said. I'd received a visit and a letter from the governor of New York, but I've forgotten what that letter said.
But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter and I'll never forget it. It said simply, "Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School." She said, "While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I'm a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I'm simply writing you to say that I'm so happy that you didn't sneeze."
And I want to say tonight, I want to say tonight that I, too, am happy that I didn't sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream and taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy, which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in interstate travel.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around here in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can't ride your back unless it is bent.
If I had sneezed, if I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering. I'm so happy that I didn't sneeze.
And they were telling me. Now it doesn't matter now. It really doesn't matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane–there were six of us–the pilot said over the public address system: "We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we've had the plane protected and guarded all night."
And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out, or what would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers.
Well, I don't know what will happen now; we've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter to with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life–longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I'm happy tonight; I'm not worried about anything; I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
“The Ballot or the Bullet Speech” by Malcolm X, April, 1964
The government has failed us. You can't deny that. Any time you're living in the 20th century, 1964, and you're walking around here singing “We Shall Overcome,” the government has failed us. This is part of what's wrong with you. You do too much singing. Today, it's time to stop singing and start swinging. You can't sing up on freedom, but you can swing up on some freedom. Cassius Clay can sing. But singing didn't help him to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World. Swinging helped him.
This government has failed us. The government itself has failed us, and the white liberals, who have been posing as our friends, have failed us. And once we see all these other sources to which we've turned have failed, we stop turning to them and turn to ourselves. We need a self-help program, a do-it-yourself philosophy, a do-it-right-now philosophy, a it's-already-too-late philosophy. This is what you and I need to get with. The only time, the only way we're going to solve our problem is with a self-help program. Before we can get a self-help program started, we have to have a self-help philosophy.
Black nationalism is a self-help philosophy. What's so good about it, you can stay right in the church where you are, and still take Black nationalism as your philosophy. You can stay in any kind of civic organization that you belong to, and still take Black nationalism as your philosophy. You can be an atheist and still take Black nationalism as your philosophy. This is a philosophy that eliminates the necessity for division and argument because if you're black, you should be thinking black. And if you're black, and you're not thinking black at this late date, well, I'm sorry for you.
Once you change your philosophy, you change your thought pattern. Once you change your thought pattern, you change your attitude. Once you change your attitude, it changes your behavior pattern. And then you're going into some action. As long as you've got a sit-down philosophy, you'll have a sit-down thought pattern, and as long as you think that old sit-down thought, you'll be in some kind of sit-down action. They'll have you sitting in everywhere.
It's not so good to refer to what you're going to do as a sit-in. That, right there, castrates you. Right there, it brings you down. What goes with it? Think of the image of someone sitting. An old woman can sit. An old man can sit. A chump can sit. A coward can sit. Anything can sit. Well, you and I have been sitting long enough, and it's time today for us to start doing some standing, and some thinking to back that up.
When we look at other parts of this earth upon which we live, we find that black, brown, red, and yellow people in Africa, in Asia, are getting very independent. They're not getting it by singing We Shall Overcome. No, they're getting it through nationalism.
It is nationalism that brought about the independence of the people in Asia. Every nation in Asia came to its independence through the philosophy of nationalism. Every nation on the African continent that has gotten its independence brought it about through the philosophy of nationalism. And it will take Black nationalism to bring about the freedom of 22 million Afro-Americans here in this country where we have suffered colonialism for the past 400 years. America is just as much a colonial power as England ever was. America is just as much a colonial power as France ever was. In fact, America is more so a colonial power than they. Because she's a hypocritical colonial power behind it.
What do you call second-class citizenship? Why, that's colonization. Second-class citizenship is nothing but 20th century slavery. How are you going to tell me you're a second class citizen? They don't have second class citizenship in any other government on this earth. They just have slaves and people who are free. Well, this country is a hypocrite. They try and make you think they set you free by calling you a second-class citizen. No, you're nothing but a 20th-century slave.
Just as it took nationalism to remove colonialism from Asia and Africa, it will take Black nationalism today to remove colonialism from the backs and the minds of 22 million Afro-Americans here in this country. And 1964 looks like it might be the year of the ballot or the bullet.
Why does it look like it might be the year of the ballot or the bullet? Because Negroes have listened to the trickery and the lies and the false promises of the white man now for too long, and they're fed up. They've become disenchanted, they've become disillusioned, they've become dissatisfied, and all of this has built up frustrations in the black community. This makes the Black community throughout America, today, more explosive than all of the atomic bombs the Russians can ever invent. Whenever you've got a racial powder keg sitting in your lap, you're in more trouble than if you had an atomic powder keg sitting in your lap. When a racial powder keg goes off, it doesn't care who it knocks out the way. Understand this. It's dangerous.
And in 1964, this seems to be the year. Because, what can the white man use now to fool us? That's when he put down that march on Washington, and you see all through that, now. He tricked you, had you marching down to Washington. Yes, had you marching back and forth between the feet of a dead man named Lincoln and another dead man named George Washington, singing We Shall Overcome. He made a chump out of you. He made a fool out of you. He made you think you were going somewhere, and you end up going nowhere but between Lincoln and Washington.
So today, our people are disillusioned. They've become disenchanted. They've become dissatisfied. And in their frustrations, they want action. And in 1964, you'll see this young black man, this new generation asking for the ballot or the bullet. That old Uncle Tom action is outdated. The young generation don't want to hear anything about the odds are against us. What do we care about odds?
When this country here was first being founded, there were 13 colonies. The whites were colonized. They were fed up with this taxation without representation, so some of them stood up and said, "Liberty or death."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRNciryImqg Malcolm X 13:20