Instead of speaking about the Civil Rights movement, which is an American phrase, which upon examination means nothing at all. Let us pretend: I stand before you, as a witness to, and a survivor of, the latest slave rebellion.
I put it that way, because Malcolm X was doing a debate with a very young sit-in student, and the radio station called me to moderate this discussion which I did. I was not needed, I must tell you. Malcolm was one of the most beautiful and one of the most gentle men I met in all my life. He asked the boy a question which I now present to you: If you are a citizen, why do you have to fight for your civil rights? If you’re fighting for your civil rights, that means you’re not a citizen. In fact, the legality of this country has never had anything to do with its former slaves. We are still governed by the slave codes.
Now, when I say a slave rebellion, I mean that what is called a civil rights movement was really insurrection. It was co-opted. Now the late Edgar Hoover is in his grave-“God bless him.” A lot of what I knew, and many other people knew during those years, and only a fraction of what we knew during all those years can now be more or less discussed. So I can say that the latest slave rebellion was brutality put down. We all know what happened to Medgar. And it was not some lunatic to happened to be wandering around with a gun. The ONE lunatic in Mississippi at that moment happened to have a gun somewhere. And by some odd coincidence shot Medgar Egars in the comfort of his home, in the sight and hearing of his wife and children. And Medgar was 37. The lunatic was carried into the front door visibly of a nursing home, and out the back door, and that was that. We all know what happened to Malcolm. We all know what happened to Martin. We all know what happened to Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, and so many more. Honey, don’t tell me, the list is long. That is the result of a slave rebellion.
Now, I’m saying that, since we are the survivors of it, a brutal thing must be said: the intentions of this melancholy country, as concerns Black people, and anyone who doubts me can ask any Indian, have always been genocidal.
They needed us for labor and for sport. Now, they can’t get rid of us. We cannot be exiled, and we cannot me accommodated. Now, something’s got to give. The machinery of this country operates day in and day out, hour by hour, until this hour, to keep a nigger in his place. A whole lot of things we used to do we aren’t needed for no more. On the other hand, we’re here.
It is true that this is going to be a very difficult Summer. In every city in this nation now, Black father is standing in the street watching Black son, they are watching each other, and neither one of them got no place to go. That is not their fault. That has nothing to do with their value, merit, capabilities. There maybe nothing worse under heaven, there may be no greater crime, than to attack a man’s integrity; to attempt to destroy that man. I know in spite of the American Constitution, despite of all the “born-again” Christians, I know that my father was not a mule and not a thing, and that my sister was not born to be the plaything of white sheriffs. What am I saying? I am saying we find ourselves in a hard place. (1)