Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"The Ballot or the Bullet"

In Cleveland, Ohio, on April 3, 1964, Malcolm X delivers “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech. He brings a new interpretation of the meaning civil rights with the philosophy of Black Nationalism. Malcolm’s purpose was uniting African Americans to vote, become politically mature, making sure that the candidate’s promises towards the African Americans are being fulfilled and demanding equality. Malcolm X’s empowering tone rallies African Americans to begin to take action in politics to get obtain equality by any means necessary.

“Ballot” or “bullet,” two terms that Malcolm X demands in his empowering tone for the African American community to “wake up” and take action. Malcolm exploits that “All of us have suffered here, in this country, political oppression at the hands of the white man, economic exploitation at the hands of the white man, and social degradation at the hands of the white man.” He depicts the actions of how the “white man,” overall white people, affects the African Americans and illustrates the problem. Now is the time to take action, according to Malcolm, “It isn't that time is running out -- time has run out!” 1964 was a political year and threatens to be an explosive year for Americans. He describes this year for white politicians to come to the community and bring their false hopes, false promises, and their trickery to gain the African American’s vote. Resulting from this Malcolm states “now we have the type of black man on the scene in America today… who just doesn’t intend to turn the other cheek any longer.” In Malcolm’s view, “I am one who doesn’t believe in deluding himself.” He rather take action than wait for a change to happen and needs the African Americans to do the same. To further emphasize his point, he states, “They don’t have to pass civil-rights legislation to make a Polack and American.”

Fig. 1. Malcolm X displays his empowering tone through his delivery. 3 Apr. 1964. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2010.

“I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don't see any American dream; I see an American nightmare,” continues Malcolm about our political system. He further continues with his empowering tone to let it be known that it was of the ignorance of the “black man’s vote” that put the present administration in Washington D.C. He clarifies to the audience that they are not faced with a “segregationist conspiracy” but with a “government conspiracy,” and justifies that “This government has failed the Negro.” He reminds the audience that the term “ballot” he means “freedom” and believes that “the ballot is more important than the dollar.” Poor nations can come together with voting power plus everyone has an equal vote. If this is to fail then the next action to take is the “bullet,” now this necessarily does not mean for violence, as he further explains himself, “should never be nonviolent unless you run into some nonviolence.” He then shows the empowering meaning of “by any means necessary” by stating that “But when you drop that violence on me, then you've made me go insane, and I'm not responsible for what I do” followed by, “that's the way every Negro should get.” He wants them to know their rights, know within their moral rights, and within law, once that is established than you can die for what you believe. Malcolm wants them to take a stand; if they do not their children will look at them in shame.

Without Malcolm X’s empowering tone, this speech would not be close to successful. He is addressing an audience of brothers, sisters, friends, and even enemies, to take action now not later. Even with his tone he criticizes Martin Luther King’s March on Washington, claiming it was just a march without any action. He explains that “the black nationalists aren't going to wait” and just as speech title, “it’s the ballot or the bullet.”

Works Consulted

Eldenmuller, Micheal E. “Top 100 Speeches.” American Rhetoric. N.p., 2002. Web. 4 Oct. 2010. .

Work Cited

Malcolm X. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Oct. 2010. .

Sustar, Lee. “Legacy of a Revolutionary.” Malcolm X. N.p., 15 Feb. 2005. Web. 4 Oct. 2010. .