Speech at The Oxford Union
Mr. Chairman, tonight is the first night that I’ve ever had an opportunity to be as near to conservatives as I am. [Laughter] And the speaker who preceded me—First, I want to thank you for the invitation to come here to the Oxford Union. The speaker who preceded me is one of the best excuses that I know to prove our point concerning the necessity, sometimes, of extremism in the defense of liberty, why it is no vice, and why moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. I don’t say that about him personally, but that type is the—[Laughter and applause]He’s right. X is not my real name. But if you study history, you’ll find why no Black man in the Western Hemisphere knows his real name. Some of his ancestors kidnapped our ancestors from Africa and took us into the Western Hemisphere and sold us there, and our names were stripped from us and so today we don’t know who we really are. I’m one of those who admit it, and so I just put X up there to keep from wearing his name.And as far as this apartheid charge that he attributed to me is concerned, evidently he has been misinformed. I don’t believe in any form of apartheid. I don’t believe in any form of segregation. I don’t believe in any form of racialism. But at the same time, I don’t endorse a person as being right just because his skin is white. And ofttimes, when you find people like this—I mean that type—[Laughter] when a man whom they have been taught is below them has the nerve or firmness to question some of their philosophy or some of their conclusions, usually they put that label on us, a label that is only designed to project an image which the public will find distasteful.
I am a Muslim. If there is something wrong with that, then I stand condemned. My religion is Islam. I believe in Allah. I believe in Muhammad as the apostle of Allah. I believe in brotherhood of all men, but I don’t believe in brotherhood with anybody who’s not ready to practice brotherhood with our people. [Applause] I don’t believe in brotherhood—I just take time to make these few things clear, because I find that one of the tricks of the West—and I imagine my good friend, or at least that type [Laughter] is from the West—one of the tricks of the West is to use or create images. They create images of a person who doesn’t go along with their views, and they make certain that this image is distasteful, and that anything that that person has to say from there on in is rejected. This is a policy that has been practiced, pretty much, by the West. It perhaps would have been practiced by others had they been in power, but during recent centuries the West has been in power, they’ve created the images, and they’ve used these images quite skillfully and quite successfully. That’s why today we need a little extremism in order to straighten a very nasty situation out. Or a very extremely nasty situation out. [Laughter]
I think the only way one can really determine whether or not extremism in defense of liberty is justified, is not to approach it as an American or a European or an African or an Asian, but as a human being. If we look upon it as different types, immediately we begin to think in terms of extremism being good for one and bad for another, or bad for one and good for another. But if we look upon it, if we look upon ourselves as human beings, I doubt that anyone will deny that extremism in defense of liberty, the liberty of any human being, is no vice. Anytime anyone is enslaved or in any way deprived of his liberty, that person, as a human being, as far as I’m concerned he is justified to resort to whatever methods necessary to bring about his liberty again. [Applause]
But most people usually think in terms of extremism as something that’s relative, related to someone whom they know or something that they’ve heard of. I don’t think they look upon extremism by itself or all alone. They apply it to something. A good example, and one of the reasons that it can’t be too well understood today: many people who have been in positions of power in the past don’t realize that the power—centers of power—are changing. When you’re in a position of power for a long time, you get used to using your yardstick, and you take it for granted that because you’ve forced your yardstick upon others, that everyone is still using the same yardstick. So that your definition of extremism usually applies to everyone.
But nowadays times are changing, and the center of power is changing. People in the past who weren’t in a position to have a yardstick, or use a yardstick of their own, are using their own yardstick now. And you use one and they use another. In the past, when the oppressor had one stick and the oppressed used that same stick, today the oppressed are sort of shaking the shackles and getting yardsticks of their own. So when they say extremism, they don’t mean what you do. And when you say extremism, you don’t mean what they do. There’s entirely two different meanings. And when this is understood, I think you can better understand why those who are using methods of extremism are being driven to them.
‘They turn the victim into the criminal’
A good example is the Congo.1 When the people who are in power want to use—again, create an image to justify something that’s bad, they use the press, and they’ll use the press to create a humanitarian image for a devil, or a devil image for a humanitarian. They’ll take a person who’s the victim of the crime and make it appear he’s the criminal, and they’ll take the criminal and make it appear that he’s the victim of the crime. And the Congo situation is one of the best examples that I can cite right now to point this out. The Congo situation is a nasty example of how a country, because it is in power, can take its press and make the world accept something that’s absolutely criminal.
They take American-trained—they take pilots that they say are American-trained—and this automatically lends respectability to them, [Laughter] and then they will call them anti-Castro Cubans. And that’s supposed to add to their respectability [Laughter] and eliminate the fact that they’re dropping bombs on villages where they have no defense whatsoever against such planes, blowing to bits Black women—Congolese women, Congolese children, Congolese babies. This is extremism. But it is never referred to as extremism, because it is endorsed by the West, it’s financed by America, it’s made respectable by America, and that kind of extremism is never labeled as extremism. Because it’s not extremism in defense of liberty. And if it is extremism in defense of liberty, as this talk has just pointed out, it’s extremism in defense of liberty for the wrong type of people. [Applause]
I’m not advocating that kind of extremism. That’s cold-blooded murder. But the press is used to make that cold-blooded murder appear as an act of humanitarianism.
They take it one step farther and get a man named Tshombe, who is a murderer. They refer to him as the premier or the prime minister of the Congo to lend respectability to him. He’s actually the murderer of the rightful prime minister of the Congo. [Applause] They never mention that this man—I’m not for extremism in defense of that kind of liberty or that kind of activity. They take this man, who’s a murderer. The world recognizes him as a murderer. But they make him the prime minister. He becomes a paid murderer, a paid killer, who is propped up by American dollars. And to show the degree to which he is a paid killer, the first thing he does is go to South Africa and hire more killers and bring them into the Congo. They give them the glorious name of mercenary, which means a hired killer; not someone that’s killing for some kind of patriotism, or some kind of ideal, but a man who is a paid killer, a hired killer. And one of the leaders of them is right from this country here. And he’s glorified as a soldier of fortune, when he’s shooting down little Black women and Black babies and Black children.
I’m not for that kind of extremism. I’m for the kind of extremism that those who are being destroyed by those bombs and destroyed by those hired killers are able to put forth to thwart it. They will risk their lives at any cost. They will sacrifice their lives at any cost against that kind of criminal activity.
I’m for the kind of extremism that the freedom fighters in the Stanleyville regime are able to display against these hired killers, who are actually using some of my tax dollars, that I have to pay up in the United States, to finance that operation over there. We’re not for that kind of extremism.
And again, I think you must point out that the real criminal there is the—or rather one of the [Malcolm laughs]—one of those who are very much involved, as accessories to the crime, is the press. Not so much your press, but the American press, which has tricked your press into repeating what they have invented. [Laughter and applause]
But I was reading in one of the English papers this morning, I think it’s a paper called the [Daily] Express. And it gave a very clear account of the type of criminal activity that has been carried on by the mercenaries that are being paid by United States tax dollars. And it showed where they were killing Congolese, whether they were from the central government or the Stanleyville government. It didn’t make any difference to them, they just killed them. They had it fixed where those who had been processed had to wear a white bandage around their head. And any Congolese that they saw without that white bandage, they killed him. This is clearly pointed out in the English papers. If they had printed it last week, there would have been an outcry, and no one would have allowed the Belgians and the United States, and the others who are in cahoots with each other, to carry on the criminal activity that they did in the Congo, which I doubt anybody in the world, not even here at Oxford, will accept. Not even my friend. [Laughter]
Interjection: Point of [Inaudible].
Malcolm X: Yes?
Same person: I wonder what—exactly what sort of extremism you would consider killing of missionaries to be? [From the audience: Hear, hear! Applause.]
Malcolm X: I’d call it the type of extremism that was involved when America dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and killed 80,000 people, or over 80,000 people, both men, women, children, everything. It was an act of war. I’d call it the same kind of extremism that happened when England dropped bombs on German cities, and Germans dropped bombs on English cities. It was an act of war. And the Congo situation is war. And when you call it war, then anybody that dies, they die a death that is justified. But those who are—[Protests from audience: For shame! ] But those who are in the Stanleyville regime, sir, are defending their country. Those who are coming in, are invading their country, and some of the refugees that were questioned on television in this city a couple days ago pointed out that had the paratroopers not come in, they doubted that they would have been molested. They weren’t being molested until the paratroopers came in. [Applause]
I don’t encourage any acts of murder, nor do I glorify in anybody’s death, but I do think that when the white public uses its press to magnify the fact that there are the lives of white hostages at stake—they don’t say hostages, every paper says white hostages—they give me the impression that they attach more importance to a white hostage and a white death than they do the death of a human being despite the color of his skin. [Applause]