Malcolm X: Boston Radio Interview, June 25,1964
Man from audience: Sir, I would like to know what your position is on nonviolence.
Malcolm X: Well, nonviolence is one of the things that has disarmed the so-called Negro here in America. And any Negro leader who teaches our people to be nonviolent in the face of the violence that we've been experiencing for the past 400 years is actually doing our people a disservice. In fact, it's a crime for any Negro leader to teach our people not to do something to protect ourselves in the face of the violence that is inflicted upon us by the white people here in America. And whenever you teach a man to turn the other check, or to be nonviolent, what you're actually doing is disarming the victim of white brutality. You're robbing him of his right to defend himself. In fact, the only time it's intelligent to be nonviolent is when you're dealing with someone else who's nonviolent. I'm nonviolent with those who are nonviolent with me. This is intelligent. But just as you see other people doing whatever is necessary to protect themselves, it's time today for the 22 million Afro-Americans to feel free to do whatever is necessary to protect ourselves. Take for an example, in the constitution it gives a person the right to own a rifle or shotgun, and in this country, where the government has proven itself either unwilling or unable to defend Black people, it is time for the Black man to stand up and start defending himself. Not to go out and initiate acts of aggression against whites or initiate acts of aggression against anyone. But in areas where we see that the government will not protect us or defend us, or find those who have brutalized us and made us the victim for the past 400 years, then it is time for us to do whatever is necessary to defend ourselves. And it should be emphasized, that by this I don't mean that we should go out and look for trouble, or start trouble, or initiate acts of aggression. But we should feel that we're within our human rights, our civil rights, and within the rights of intelligence to do whatever is necessary when we are attacked to defend ourselves. In fact, the best thing to teach our people is never to be the aggressor, never to look for trouble, but any time anyone makes any effort to brutalize us, or to inflict wounds upon us, we should feel that we are within our rights to do whatever is necessary to repel them. Do nothing unto anyone but always do whatever is necessary to keep others from doing to you which they've been doing for the past 400 years: Making us the victims of brutality.
Man from audience: But is it not a fact minister, that people like Dr. Martin Luther King who have advocated nonviolence have been successful with their nonviolent moves?
Malcolm X: Well, they've been successful in going to jail. They've been successful in becoming the victims of police dogs, and police clubs, and water hoses. If Dr. Martin Luther King feels that this is the best way to gain freedom, justice, and equality for our people in this country, well and good. I have no criticism of him whatsoever. But I think that the time has come now where the masses of Black people feel that nonviolence shouldn't be taught to us unless it's also taught to the white people in this country. And Black people shouldn't be taught to turn the other cheek unless the white people are taught to turn the other cheek. Now, if Dr. Martin Luther King can be so successful in disarming Negroes, they should send him to Russia and let him disarm the Russians. Let him disarm some of these other countries.
Man from audience: That may sound good in philosophy, minister Malcolm, but I still have to take the stand that Dr. King has been a degree successful with the nonviolence movement. Now let's take the March on Washington for instance. Was this not something that exemplified the feeling of the Negro and made everyone very, very happy.
Malcolm X: It depends on whether or not anything was gotten out of it. In fact, yes, it probably made them happy. Most of the people I saw involved in the March on Washington looked very, very, happy. In fact, they looked too happy to be involved in a Negro revolt. So that, in so far as the March on Washington producing meaningful results, most of the masses of Black people today in this year are beginning to see where nothing came of it other than the fact that it gave many of the bourgeois Negroes a chance to feel that they were doing something without really having to do anything. It became a status symbol just like going to the Kentucky Derby; it's a status symbol for those who know nothing about horses. They like to be able to say they went to the Kentucky Derby, and they can't tell a horse from a cow. Or the Rose Bowl games. They like to be able to say they went to the Rose Bowl games, and they don't know a football from a baseball. But the fact that they can say they went to the Rose bowl game is a status symbol, or the fact that they can say they went to the Kentucky Derby is a status symbol. So many Negroes took the opportunity to say that they were in the March on Washington, not that it produced anything, or not that they really felt that they were involved in a Negro revolution, but it gave them a chance to say, "I was there!" It was a status symbol. But status symbols don't take up out of the alleys, and out of the ghettos, and out of the slums. Status symbols don't remove segregated school systems. Status symbol don't get meaningful civil rights legislation. So when it comes to the March on Washington and all of these other nonviolent approaches, they were good in their day, but this is a new day, and it's a new Negro.
Man from audience: But we will have to agree minister Malcolm, that the March on Washington was the forerunner to the creation of, or at least to the presentment of the civil rights bill. Without this type of approach I doubt seriously that the civil rights bill would have even been entered on to the floor.
Malcolm X: A horse can enter into a race and come so far from the finish line you wont even know that horse was in the race. Since the March on Washington was designed to produce meaningful civil rights legislation, and if I recall, I heard several of the leaders of it point out that "we'll be back if the bill meets with any kind of opposition come September." They said this in August. Now, September passed and the bill didn't even come up. October passed, November passed, December passed, the year passed, everything passed, and the bill hasn't been passed yet.
Man from audience: Are you saying that you feel a more violent approach to it would cause this bill to be passed-
Malcolm X: It's not a case of violence. And I think that our people should never let themselves be trapped intellectually into thinking that whenever they do something to defend themselves against the violence of the white man that they're being violent.
Man from audience: But you're advocating violence!-
Malcolm X: No, we're advocating the necessity of Black people defending themselves against the violence of the white man because the American government has already proven itself either unable or unwilling to defend us as it should do.
Man from audience: Well, the white man hasn't gone out to create any marches, nor has he gone out to do anything that would make the people in the communities feel that he was opposed by law to their thinking.
Malcolm X: No, all he has done is sic his police dogs on innocent Black women and babies. All he has done is put his fire hoses on innocent Black women and children. Or all he has done is shoot Medgar Evers in the back, or he has bombed a church in Birmingham, Alabama, and murdered 4 innocent little girls, or he has shot down young boys from their bicycles as they were riding innocently through the street. That's all he has done.
Man from audience: Well, you feel that this is a cause for the Negro to take on the violent acts?
Malcolm X: It's not a case of the Negro taking on a violent act, but it's a case of the Negro doing what is necessary to defend himself against the violent acts of the whites since the government has refused to defend the Negro. The church was bombed and the government has done nothing about it. Medgar Evers was murdered and the government has done nothing about it. Emmett Till and Charles Mack Parker were murdered and the government has done nothing about it. But at the same time the government is in South Vietnam trying to tell them what to do. The government is in Berlin trying to tell them what to do. The government is in Africa trying to tell them what to do. But it cannot get its own people here in Mississippi, and Alabama, and New York City, and tell them what to do.
Man from audience: ...........
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