Malcolm X: some great quotes

John M Cox coxj at
Fri Feb 21 14:48:18 MST 2003

I usually send this post out on the anniversary of Malcolm's birthday, as
a small homage, but there's no harm in sending it out twice a year:


"No, I'm not an American. I'm one of the 22 million Black people who are
the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million Black people who are the
victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy. So, I'm not
standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a
flag-saluter, or a flag-waver--no, not I. I'm speaking as a victim of this
American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don't
see any American dream; I see an American nightmare." April 3, 1964

"Revolution is never based on begging somebody for an integrated cup of
coffee. Revolutions are never fought by turning the other
cheek. Revolutions are never based upon love-your-enemy and
pray-for-those-who-spitefully-use-you. And revolutions are never waged
singing 'We Shall Overcome.'...Revolutions are never based upon that which
is begging a corrupt system to accept us into it. Revolutions overturn
systems. And there is no system on this earth which has proven itself more
corrupt, more criminal, than this system that in 1964 still colonizes 22
million African-Americans, still enslaves 22 million
Afro-Americans." April 8, 1964

"We are in a society where the power is in the hands of those who are the
worst breed of humanity." Feb. 16, 1965

"But since the white man, your friend, took your language away from you
during slavery, the only language you know is his language. You know, your
friend's language. So you call for the same God he calls for. When he's
putting a rope around your neck, you call for God and he calls for
God. [laughter] And you wonder why the one you call on never answers
you." Feb. 14, 1965

"Elijah believes that God is going to come and straighten things out. I
believe that too. But whereas Elijah is willing to sit and wait, I'm not
willing to sit and wait on God to come. If he doesn't come soon, it will
be too late. I believe in religion, but a religion that includes
political, economic, and social action designed to eliminate some of thse
things, and make a paradise on earth while we're waiting for the other.
   I believe in brotherhood, but my religion does not blind me to the fact
that I am living in a society where brotherhood cannot exist." Feb. 3,

"As long as we wait for the Congress and the Senate and the Supreme Court
and the president to solve our problems, you'll have us waiting for
another thousand years." Feb. 16, 1965

"It is impossible for capitalism to survive, primarily because the system
of capitalism need some blood to suck....It used to be strong enough to go
and suck anybody's blood whether they were strong or not. But now it has
become more cowardly, like the vulture, and it can only suck the blood of
the helpless. As the nations of the world free themselves, then capitalism
has fewer victims, less to suck, and it becomes weaker and weaker. It is
only a matter of time in my opinion before it will collapse
completely." Jan. 18, 1965 interview

"We're not against people because they're white. But we're against those
who practice racism. We're against those who drop bombs on people because
their color happens to be of a different shade than yours. And because
we're against it, the press says we're violent. We're not for
violence; we're for peace. But the people that we're up against are for
violence. You can't be peaceful when you're dealing with them." 2/16/65

"It is the system itself that is incapable of producing freedom for the
twenty-two million Afro-Americans. It is like a chicken can't lay a duck
egg. A chicken can't lay a duck egg because the system of the chicken
isn't constructed in a way to produce a duck egg; and the political and
economic system of this country is absolutely incapable of producing
freedom and justice and equality and human dignity for the twenty-two
million Afro-Americans." Interview with Robert Penn Warren, March 1964

"For one, when a white man comes to me and tells me how liberal he is, the
first thing I want to know, is he a nonviolent liberal, or the other
kind. I don't go for any nonviolent white liberals. If you are for me and
my problems--when I say me, I mean us, our people--then you have to be
willing to do as old John Brown did." Jan. 7, 1965

"You think you can win in South Vietnam? The French were deeply
entrenched. They had the best weapons of warfare, a highly mechanized
army, everything that you would need. And the guerillas came out of
the rice paddies with nothing but sneakers on and a rifle and a bowl of
rice, nothing but gym shoes and a rifle and a bowl of rice. And you know
what they did in Dien Bien Phu...." Feb. 11, 1965

"I don't want you to think that I came here to make an anti-American
speech. [laughter] I wouldn't come here for that. I  came to make a
speech, to tell you the truth. And if the truth is anti-American, then
blame the truth, don't blame me." Feb. 11, 1965

"(If America were nonviolent), America couldn't continue to exist as a
country. Is American nonviolent in the Congo, or is she nonviolent in
South Vietnam? You can't point to a place where America's nonviolent. The
only people that they want to be nonviolent are American Negroes. We're
supposed to be nonviolent. When the world becomes nonviolent, I'll become
nonviolent." Interview with Claude Lewis, December 1964

"Back during slavery, when Black people like me talked to the slaves, they
didn't kill 'em, they sent some old house Negro aroudn behind him to undo
what he said....There were two kinds of Negroes. There was that old house
Negro and the field Negro. And the house Negro always looked out for his
master. When the field Negroes got too much out of line, he held them back
in check. He put 'em back on the plantation.

The house Negro could afford to do that because he lived better than the
field Negro. He ate better, he dressed better, and he lived in a better
house. He lived right up next to the master--in the attic or the
basement. He ate the same food his master ate and wore his same
clothes. And he could talk just like his master--good diction. And he
loved his master more than the master loved himself. That's why he didn't
want his master hurt.

If the master got sick, he'd say, 'What's the matter, boss, we sick'? When
the master's house caust afire, he'd try to put the fire out. He didn't
want his master's house burned. He never wanted his master's property
threatened. That was the house Negro.

But then you had some fielf Negroes, who lived in huts, had nothing to
lose. They wore the worst kind of clothes. They ate the worst food. And
they caught hell. They felt the sting of the lash. They hated their
master; oh yes, they did.

If the master got sick, they'd pray that the master died. If the master's
house caught afire, they'd pray for a strong wind to come along. This was
the difference between the two. And today you still have house Negroes and
field Negroes." Feb. 3, 1965

"Any time you throw your weight behind a political party that controls
two-thirds of the government, and that party can't keep the promises that
it made to you during election time, and you're dumb enough to walk around
continuing to identify yourself with that political party, you're not only
a chump but you're a traitor to your race." April 12, 1964

Malcolm: "You have to wake the people up first, then you'll get action."
Q: "Wake them up to their exploitation?"
Malcolm: "No, to their humanity, to their own worth, and to their
heritage."  interview in Village Voice, Feb. 1965

"I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and
those that do the oppressing. I belive that there will be a clash between
those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who
want to continue the systems of exploitation. I believe that there will be
that kind of clash, but I don't think that it will be based upon the color
of the skin." Jan. 19, 1965 television interview

Claude Lewis: " When you get old and retire..."

Malcolm: "I'll never get old."

Lewis: "What does that mean?"

Malcolm: "Well, I'll tell you what that means. You'll find very few people
who feel like I fell that live long enough to get old. I'll tell you what
I mean and why I say that. When I say 'by any means necessary,' I mean it
with all my heart, and my mind and my soul. But a black man should give
his life to be free, but he should also be willing to take the life of
those who want to take his. It's reciprocal. And when you really think
like that, you don't live long. And if freedom doesn't come to your
lifetime, it'll come to your children. Another thing about being an old
man, that never has come across my mind. I can't even see myself old."

Lewis: "Well, how would you like to be remembered by your black brothers
and sisters around the world--twenty years from now?"

Malcolm: "Sincere. In whatever I did or do, even if I made mistakes, they
were made in sincerity. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong in sincerity. I think that
the best a person can be--he can be wrong, but if he's sincere you can put
up with him. But you can't put up with a person who's right, if he's
insincere. I'd rather deal with a person's sincerity, and respect a person
for their sincerity than anything else. Especially when you're living in a
world that's so hypocritical." Interview with Claude Lewis, December 1964

James Baldwin, from a 1972 essay (reproduced in "Malcolm X: As They Knew
Him," ed. David Gallen, 1992):

The others were discussing the past or the future, or a country which may
once have existed, or one which may yet be brought into existence--Malcolm
was speaking of the bitter and unanswerable present. And it was
too important that this be heard for anyoen to attempt to soften it.It was
important, of course, for white people to hear it, if they were still able
to hear; but it was of the utmost importance for black people to hear it,
for the sake of their morale. It was important for them to know that there
was someone like them in public life, telling the truth about their

Malcolm considered himself to be the spiritual property of the people who
produced him. He did not consider himself to be their savior, he was far
too modest for that, and gave that role to another; but he considered
himself to be their servant and, in order not to betray that trust, he was
willing to die, and died.

Malcolm was not a racist, not even when he thought he was. His
intelligence was far too complex than that; furthermore, if he had been a
racist, not many in this racist country would have considered him
dangerous. He would have sounded familiaar and even comforting, his
familiar rage confirming the reality of white power, and sensuously
inflaming a bizarre species of guilty eroticism without which, I am
beginning to believe, most white Americans of the more or less liberal
persuasion cannot draw a single breath.

What made him unfamiliar and dangerous was not his hatred for white people
but his love for blacks, his apprehension of the horror of the black
condision and the reasons for it, and his determination so to work on
their hearts and minds that they would be enabled to see their condition
and change it themselves.

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