By Any Means Necessary

Rhetoric that advocates violence, is typically viewed to be unacceptable on the grounds that is inhumane, immoral, and counterproductive. Generally, I too oppose support for violence to achieve an ultimate goal. However, in the case of 1964 America, in which blacks continued to endure the relentless clutches of racism, established by slavery, Malcolm X’s idea to launch a guerrilla struggle against this system, seems reasonable for the time.

Malcolm X’s appeal– by the ballot or the bullet– may seem to be be illogical, and even irresponsible given the possible consequences, yet I would argue that his appeal rouse blacks, and shake America’s politics. More than a hundred years after slavery, the black struggle to insert themselves into mainstream politics had gained little ground. Policies surrounding housing, interracial marriage, and voting rights, were tailored by racist whites to the detriment of blacks, with little opposition from blacks. It is for these reasons that Malcolm X worked to recruit blacks his cause of black nationalism, in which blacks would create a capable political machine. Through this, Malcolm X believed blacks would be able to assert themselves. Malcolm X pronounces, “If a black man can’t move his store into a white community, you tell me why a white man should move his store into a black community. The philosophy of black nationalism involves a re-education program in the black community in regards to economics”.

The environment of 1964, excluded blacks from mainstream politics to the point that it flat out didn’t recognize blacks American citizens. This disturbing truth to me, serves as the cornerstone of Malcolm X’s appeal to blacks, as he It is this issue that motivated Malcolm X to ultimately advocate for a guerrilla insurgency. X argues,“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 I hypocrisy”. Malcolm X’s argument that blacks were victims, was a tactic to rouse blacks to his cause. By making blacks feel like victims, Malcolm X believed it would make blacks angry yet inspired to rise up and more actively demand their rights, by any means necessary.

Furthermore, Malcolm X isn’t simply advocating for a violent revolution, but also an insurrection through the vote. Malcolm X purposefully describes guerrilla warfare for his audience using a number of examples, from Indochina (Vietnam) to various Latin American nations, to present to his audience that a violent insurrection is a viable option, one with a recently high success rate. Malcolm X affirms, “Nowhere on this earth does the white man win in a guerrilla warfare. It’s not his speed…you’ve got to be mighty naive, or you’ve got to play the black man cheap, if you don’t think some day he’s going to wake up and find that it’s got to be the ballot or the bullet”. Yet, I think that Malcolm X ultimately wanted the black cause to be realized through the vote, as he saw this as the true gateway to black freedom and political power. I’m interested in learning your opinions on this charged speech. Thoughts? 

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5 Responses to By Any Means Necessary

  1. paranpi says:

    I think ultimately, blacks would have faced exclusion, if not further persecution, if the movement focused around using violence and guerrilla tactics. Relying solely on violence to portray a social groups issues and wants, I think, is detrimental, because it might cause other groups to view that group as overtly violent and politically uncompromising. I am not saying that Malcolm X was wrong in advocating for ballot or the bullet, I am saying that you need to advocate for ballot (the peaceful alternative), while using violence as an ultimatum in order for a movement to work.

  2. andycraft says:

    In response to your post, I would have to say that Malcolm X is justified in saying sometimes violence is needed to drive a certain initiative or goal. He says, “It isn’t that time is running out-time has run out!” Knowing that many blacks have participated in elections through voting in the United States, he makes it explicitly clear that it is not working even with the possession of the ability to vote. Their cause is being downplayed by the legislators. They already have the one part of the option and that is the ballot, but it lacks expediency and progress. He says, “they get all the Negro vote, and after they get it, the Negro gets nothing in return.” This has infuriated X and is the reason why he introduces the other option of the bullet.
    Because he is speaking for the cause, X thinks that anyone who takes away what is rightfully yours as a human being is immediately deemed a criminal. He is absolutely correct. This is where violence ought to be warranted. When someone denies you of a right guaranteed by God and Country, you are protected under the law to rectify the wrong.
    X brings up a culminating point that really drives his argument toward completion and concision. He says that men (especially black men) are dying over seas for the American cause of justice. If that violence is justified to protect the American people and if blacks do not even have a right to vote, how is such violence abroad justified when at home “America does not even have free elections for all its members.” In a simple, but profound statement, X says that with all this violence and prejudice for a group of people living in America, how backwards it is that legislation is needed to allow the black man to vote, that a bill is required to define an American.

  3. a15haddad says:

    To me, Malcolm X’s speech entitled “The Ballot or the Bullet” is essentially asking black Americans to wake up and utilize the power that they have through the ballot. He talks about how all the recent political elections were extremely close and therefore if black Americans organize themselves into a bloc they can swing any election and wield enormous power. Black Americans must be smarter about how they use their voting power in order to suit their interests and not be seduced by the fake promises of white politicians. If black Americans are unable to use this power effectively or are prevented from using this power by discrimination, Malcolm X argues, than the only other option is violence. As he very intelligently points out, the law is on their side; the Constitution guarantees them the right to vote. When the police or the government tries to withhold blacks’ rights, they have every right to fight back with violence because they are fighting in the name of the law.

  4. jakmel says:

    A blog post I made last week touched on this idea of using violence to achieve equality for African Americans. It seemed that at this point in his life Malcolm X had given up all faith in the non-black community and the only viable options he saw were the use of violence or complete separation. First, off I do not think this approach was viable. Although Malcolm X had a lot of followers, people like MLK drew bigger audiences and MLK was preaching a very different message than Malcolm, which was strictly non-violence.

    Secondly, I do not think a violent response was necessary just yet. Even Malcolm X later in his life accepted this and started to take a different position on the matter. However, I do think if legislation such as the civil rights act of 1964 was not passed, a violent response might have been appropriate, because by that time the African-American community would be exhausted almost all of its resources.

  5. eakunne5 says:

    This speech is terrific for alot of reasons. My favorite idea is that Malcolm tries to relay to his fellow African Americans that they indeed have the qualities and the talents needed to prosper, and that they should too themselves for help. They shouldnt rely on the white man to be nice to themk or help them from their plights, but to do whats right for thier ownselves and their families. To strip their dependecy on whites was one of his keys to true equality.

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