(El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz)
Excerpted from a Speech by Malcolm X
New York, 1965
The press whips up hysteria in the white public. Then it shifts gears and starts working trying to get the sympathy of the white public. And then it shifts gears and gets the white public to support whatever criminal action they’re getting ready to involve the United States in.
Remember how they referred to the hostages as “white hostages.” Not “hostages.” They said these “cannibals” in the Congo had “white hostages.” Oh, and this got you all shook up. White nuns, white priests, white missionaries. What’s the difference between a white hostage and a Black hostage? What’s the difference between a white life and a Black life?
You must think there’s a difference, because your press specifies whiteness. “Nineteen white hostages” cause you to grieve in your heart.
During the months when bombs were being dropped on Black people by the hundreds and the thousands, you said nothing. And you did nothing. But as soon as their lives became involved, you got concerned.
I was in Africa during the summer when they — the mercenaries and the pilots were shooting down Black people in the Congo like flies. It wouldn’t even get mentioned in the Western press. It wasn’t mentioned. If it was mentioned, it was mentioned in the classified section of the newspaper. Someplace where you’d need a microscope to find it.
And at that time the African brothers, at first, they weren’t taking hostages. They only began to take hostages when they found that these pilots were bombing their villages. And then they took hostages, moved them into the village, and warned the pilots that if you drop bombs on the village, you’ll hit your own people. It was a war maneuver. They were at war. They only held a hostage in a village to keep the mercenaries from murdering on a mass scale the people of those villages.
They weren’t keeping them as hostages because they were cannibals. Or because they thought their flesh was tasty. Some of those missionaries had been over there for forty years and didn’t get eaten up. If they were going to eat them they would have eaten them when they were young and tender. Why you can’t even digest that old white meat on an old chicken.
It’s imagery. They use their ability to create images and then they use these images that they’ve created to mislead the people. To confuse the people and make the people accept wrong as right and reject right as wrong. Make the people actually think that the criminal is the victim and the victim is the criminal.
Even as I point this out, you may say, “What does this all have to do with the Black man in America? And what does it have to do with the Black and white relations here in Rochester?
You have to understand it. Until 1959, the image of the African continent was created by the enemies of Africa. Africa was a land dominated by outside powers. A land dominated by Europeans. And as these Europeans dominated the continent of Africa, it was they who created the image of Africa that was projected abroad. And they projected Africa and the people of Africa in a negative image, a hateful image.
They made us think that Africa was a land of jungles, a land of animals, a land of cannibals and savages. It was a hateful image.
And because they were so successful in projecting this negative image of Africa, those of us here in the West of African ancestry, the Afro-American, we looked upon Africa as a hateful place. We looked upon the African as the hateful person. And if you referred to us as an African it was like putting us as a servant, or playing house, or talking about us in the way we didn’t want to be talked.
Why? Because those who oppress know that you can’t make a person hate the root without making them hate the tree. You can’t hate your own and not end up hating yourself. And since we all originated in Africa, you can’t make us hate Africa without making us hate ourselves. And they did this very skillfully.
And what was the result? They ended up with 22 million Black people here in America who hated everything about us that was African.
We hated the African characteristics.
We hated our hair…
We hated our nose, the shape of our nose, and the shape of our lips, the color of our skin. Yes we did. And it was you who taught us to hate ourselves simply by shrewdly maneuvering us into hating the land of our forefathers and the people on that continent.
As long as we hated those people, we hated ourselves. As long as we hated what we thought they looked like, we hated what we actually looked like. And you call me a hate teacher. Why, you taught us to hate ourselves. You taught the world to hate a whole race of people and have the audacity now to blame us for hating you simply because we don’t like the rope that you put around our necks.
When you teach a man to hate his lips, the lips that God gave him, the shape of the nose that God gave him, the texture of the hair that God gave him, the color of the skin that God gave him, you’ve committed the worst crime that a race of people can commit. And this is the crime that you’ve committed.
Our color became a chain, a psychological chain. Our blood — African blood — became a psychological chain, a prison, because we were ashamed of it. We believe — they would tell it to your face, and say they weren’t; they were! We felt trapped because our skin was black. We felt trapped because we had African blood in our veins.
This is how you imprisoned us. Not just bringing us over here and making us slaves. But the image that you created of our motherland and the image that you created of our people on that continent was a trap, was a prison, was a chain, was the worst form of slavery that has ever been invented by a so-called civilized race and a civilized nation since the beginning of the world.
You still see the result of it among our people in this country today. Because we hated our African blood, we felt inadequate, we felt inferior, we felt helpless. And in our state of helplessness, we wouldn’t work for ourselves. We turned to you for help, and then you wouldn’t help us. We didn’t feel adequate. We turned to your for advice and you gave us the wrong advice. Turned to you for direction and you kept us going in circles.
But a change has come about. In us. And what from?
Back in ’55 in Indonesia, at Bandung, they had a conference of dark-skinned people. The people of Africa and Asia came together for the first time in centuries. They had no nuclear weapons, they had no air fleets, no navy. But they discussed their plight and they found that there was one thing that all of us had in common — oppression, exploitation, suffering. And we had a common oppressor, a common exploiter.
If a brother came from Kenya and called his oppressor an Englishman; and another came from the Congo, he called his oppressor a Belgian; another came from Guinea, he called his oppressor French. But when you brought the oppressors together there’s one thing they all had in common, they were all from Europe. And this European was oppressing the people of Africa and Asia.
And since we could see that we had oppression in common and exploitation in common, sorrow and sadness and grief in common, our people began to get together and determined at the Bandung Conference that it was time for us to forget our differences. We had differences. Some were Buddhists, some were Hindus, some were Christian, some were Muslim some didn’t have any religion at all. Some were socialists, some were capitalists, some were communist, and some didn’t have any economy at all.
But with all of the differences that existed, they agreed on one thing, the spirit of Bandung was, from there on in, to de-emphasize the areas of difference and emphasize the areas that we had in common.
And it was the spirit of Bandung that fed the flames of nationalism and freedom not only in Asia, but especially on the African continent. From ’55 to ’60 the flames of nationalism, independence on the African continent, became so bright and so furious, they were able to burn and sting anything that got in its path. And that same spirit didn’t stay on the African continent. It somehow or other — it slipped into the Western Hemisphere who supposedly had been separate from the African continent for almost 400 years.
But the same desire for freedom that moved the Black man on the African continent began to burn in the heart and the mind and the soul of the Black man here, in South America, Central America, and North America, showing us we were not separated. Though there was an ocean between us, we were still moved by the same heartbeat.
The spirit of nationalism on the African continent — It began to collapse; the powers, the colonial powers, they couldn’t stay there. The British got in trouble in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, and other areas of the continent. The French got in trouble in the entire French Equatorial North Africa, including Algeria. Became a trouble spot for France. The Congo wouldn’t any longer permit the Belgians to stay there. The entire African continent became explosive from ’54-’55 on up to 1959. By 1959 they couldn’t stay there any longer.
It wasn’t that they wanted to go. It wasn’t that all of a sudden they had become benevolent. It wasn’t that all of a sudden they had ceased wanting to exploit the Black man of his natural resources. But it was the spirit of independence that was burning in the heart and mind of the Black man. He no longer would allow himself to be colonized, oppressed, and exploited. He was willing to lay down his life and take the lives of those who tried to take his, which was a new spirit.
The colonial powers didn’t leave. But what did they do? Whenever a person is playing basketball, if –you watch him — the players on the opposing team trap him and he doesn’t want to get rid of, to throw the ball away, he has to pass it to someone who’s in the clear, who’s on the same team as he.
And since Belgium and France and Britain and these other colonial powers were trapped — they were exposed as colonial powers — they had to find someone who was still in the clear, and the only one in the clear so far as the Africans were concerned was the United States. So they passed the ball to the United States. And this administration picked up and ran like mad ever since.
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