The Ballot or The Bullet

If you can find me a 67% percent white majority township, city, community or neighborhood with a black Mayor, black police chief, black police force and an all white city council then I’ll march.

– Dr. Claud Anderson

The Speech

Malcolm X began his speech by acknowledging that he was still a Muslim, but he quickly added that he didn’t intend to discuss religion or any other issues that divide African Americans. Instead, he was going to emphasize the common experience of African Americans of all faiths:
It’s time for us to submerge our differences and realize that it is best for us to first see that we have the same problem, a common problem — a problem that will make you catch hell whether you’re a Baptist, or a Methodist, or a Muslim, or a nationalist. Whether you’re educated or illiterate, whether you live on the boulevard or in the alley, you’re going to catch hell just like I am.

The Ballot:
Malcolm X noted that 1964 was an election year, a year “when all of the white political crooks will be right back in your and my community … with their false promises which they don’t intend to keep”.[7] He said that President Johnson and the Democratic Party claimed to support the civil rights bill, and the Democrats controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but they had not taken genuine action to pass the bill. Instead, he said, the Democrats blamed the Dixiecrats, who were “nothing but Democrat[s] in disguise”. He accused the Democrats of playing a “political con game”, with African Americans as its victims.

Malcolm said that African Americans were becoming “politically mature” and recognizing that, through unity and nonalignment, they could be the swing vote in the coming elections and elect candidates who would be attentive to their concerns:

What does this mean? It means that when white people are evenly divided, and Black people have a bloc of votes of their own, it is left up to them to determine who’s going to sit in the White House and who’s going to be in the dog house.

Malcolm described how potent a weapon the ballot could be, if it was exercised with care:
“A ballot is like a bullet. You don’t throw your ballots until you see a target, and if that target is not within your reach, keep your ballot in your pocket.”

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