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(1963) Malcolm X, “Racial Separation”

Image Ownership: Public Domain
On October 11, 1963, Malcolm X gave a speech at the University of California, Berkeley, in which he outlined the philosophy of black nationalism as promoted by the Nation of Islam and declared racial separatism as the best approach to the problems facing black America.  Most of that speech appears below.

Our people in the Negro community are trapped in a vicious cycle of ignorance, poverty, disease, sickness, and death. There seems to be no way out. No way of escape. The wealthy, educated Black bourgeoisie, those uppity Negroes who do escape, never reach back and pull the rest of our people out with them. The Black masses remain trapped in the slums.

And because there seems to be no hope or no other escape, we turn to wine, we turn to whiskey, and we turn to reefers, marijuana, and even to the dreadful needle – heroin, morphine, cocaine, opium – seeking an escape.

Many of us turn to crime, stealing, gambling, prostitution. And some of us are used by the white overlords downtown to push dope in the Negro community among our own people. Unemployment and poverty have forced many of our people into a life of crime. But the real criminal is in the City Hall downtown, in the State House, and in the White House in Washington, D.C. The real criminal is the white liberal, the political hypocrite. And it is these legal crooks who pose as our friends, force us into a life of crime, and then use us to spread the white man's evil vices in our community among our own people.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us that our people are scientifically maneuvered by the white man into a life of poverty. Because we are forced to live in the poorest sections of the city, we attend inferior schools. We have inferior teachers and we get an inferior education. The white power structure downtown makes certain that by the time our people do graduate, we won't be equipped or qualified for anything but the dirtiest, heaviest, poorest-paying jobs. Jobs that no one else wants.

We are trapped in a vicious cycle of economic, intellectual, social, and political death. Inferior jobs, inferior housing, inferior education which in turn again leads to inferior jobs. We spend a lifetime in this vicious circle. Or in this vicious cycle going in circles. Giving birth to children who see no hope or future but to follow in our miserable footsteps.

So we thank God for the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. We who are Muslims saw no way out until we accepted the religion of Islam and the spiritual guidance of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. We saw no solution to our problems. We saw no real leader among our people.

But today the whole world is talking about the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the divine solution he received from the God of our forefathers. Not your God but from the God of our forefathers. Not a temporary solution which will benefit only the hand-picked upper-class Negroes, but a solution divinely designed to solve the plight of the Black masses in this country permanently and forever.

The government does not want our people to listen and understand the solution that God has given the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. The government is against Mr. Muhammad because the government is against our God. In order to trick our people away from God's true solutions, the government is trying to deceive our people with a false solution, a phony solution, a deceitful solution called token integration. I may add, whenever you get on the bus or the subway or the streetcar and you have to use a token, that token is not the real thing but it is a substitute for the real thing. And wherever you have a token, you have a substitute. And wherever you have token integration, you don't have anything but a substitute for integration and there's no real integration anywhere in North America -- North, South, East, or West, not even in San Francisco, Oakland, or Berkeley.

Has the government effort to bribe our people with token integration made our plight better; or has it made it worse? When you tried to integrate the white community in search of better housing, the whites there fled to the suburbs. And the community that you thought would be integrated soon deteriorated into another all-Black slum. What happened to the liberal whites? Why did they flee? We thought that they were supposed to be our friends. And why did the neighborhood deteriorate only after our people moved in?

It is the tricky real estate agents posing as white liberal friends who encourage our people to force their way into white communities, and then they themselves sell these integrated houses at such high prices that our people again are forced to take in roomers to offset the high house notes. This creates in the new area the same overcrowded conditions, and the new community soon deteriorates into the same slum conditions from which we thought we had escaped. The only one who has benefited is the white real estate agent who poses as our friend, as a liberal, and who sells us the house in a community destined by his own greedy schemes to become nothing but a high-priced slum area.

Today our people can see that integrated housing has not solved our problems. At best it was only a temporary solution. One in which only the wealthy, hand-picked Negroes found temporary benefit.

After the 1954 Supreme Court desegregation decision, the same thing happened when our people tried to integrate the schools. All the white students disappeared into the suburbs. Now the caliber of what our people thought was to be an integrated school has fallen to the same level of the slum school from which we thought we had escaped. Just as efforts to integrate housing failed miserably, efforts to integrate schools have been an even more miserable failure.

Having failed to get integrated housing and failed to get integrated schools' now the Negro leaders are demanding integrated jobs. That is they are demanding a certain quota, or percentage, of white people's jobs.

First the Negro leadership demanded the white man's house, and the whites vacated their run-down houses for us and built new homes for themselves out in the suburbs. Then the Negro leaders demanded seats for our children in the white man's schools. The whites evacuated the schools as our children moved in and they built modern schools for themselves in the suburbs. But now the Negro leadership is demanding the white man's job. Can the whites vacate their jobs like they did their homes and their schools and move to the suburbs and create more jobs ? No. Not without violence and bloodshed. The same white liberals who used to praise our people for their patient nonviolent approach have now become openly impatient and violent themselves in defense of their own jobs. Not only in the South but also in the North. Even here in the Bay Area.

For thirty-three years the Honorable Elijah Muhammad has been warning us that the time would come when the white man would not have enough jobs for himself much less enough jobs for our people. So the present demand of our people for more of the white man's jobs must lead to violence and bloodshed. It may even lead to a race war – a bloody race war. And it is the government itself that is now pressing the people of this country into a racial blood bath.

But the white man is misjudging the times and he is underestimating the American so-called Negro because we're living in a new day. Our people are now a new people. That old Uncle Tom-type Negro is dead. Our people have no more fear of anyone, no more fear of anything. We are not afraid to go to jail We are not afraid to give our very life itself. And we're not afraid to take the lives of those who try to take our lives. We believe in a fair exchange.

We believe in a fair exchange. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. A head for a head and life for a life. If this is the price of freedom, we won't hesitate to pay the price.

By trying to oppose the divine solution that God has given to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the American government will actually provoke another Civil War. That is, this government – and especially that present administration in Washington, D.C. — will provoke a civil war among whites by trying to force them to give up their jobs and homes and schools to our people. And our people will provoke a race war by trying to take the white man's jobs and his schools and his home away from him.

This racial dilemma poses a serious problem for white America. Civil war between whites on the one hand, a race war between the whites and their 20 million ex-slaves on the other hand. And the entire dark world is watching, waiting to see what the American government will do to solve this problem once and for all.

We must have a permanent solution. A temporary solution won't do. Tokenism will no longer suffice. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad has the only permanent solution. Twenty million ex-slaves must be permanently separated from our former slavemaster and placed on some land that we can call our own. Then we can create our own jobs. Control our own economy. Solve our own problems instead of waiting on the American white man to solve our problems for us.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us that on our own land we can set up farms, factories, businesses. We can establish our own government and become an independent nation. And once we become separated from the jurisdiction of this white nation, we can then enter into trade and commerce for ourselves with other independent nations. This is the only solution.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad says that in our own land we can establish our own agricultural system. We can grow food to feed our own people. We can raise cattle and use the hides, the leather, and the wool to clothe our people. We can dig the clay from the earth and make bricks to build homes for our people. We can turn the trees into lumber and furnish the homes for our own people.

He says that we can dig the natural resources from the earth once we are in our own land. Land is the basis of all economic security. Land is essential to freedom, justice, and equality. Land is essential to true independence. And the Honorable Elijah Muhammad says we must be separated from the American white man' returned to our own land where we can live among our own people. This is the only true solution.

For just as the biblical government of Egypt under Pharaoh was against Moses because Moses had been directed by God to separate the Hebrew slaves from Pharaoh and lead them out of the house of bondage to a land of their own, today this modern house of bondage under the authority of the American government opposes this modern Moses. Opposes the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's efforts to separate our people, who have been made slaves here in this country, and lead us to a land of our own.

The government opposes the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's efforts to wake us up, clean us up, and stand us on our own feet so we can follow him out of this house of bondage to our own land where we can live among our own people. Just as the government of biblical Egypt was against the God of the Hebrew slaves, today the American government is against the God of her Negro slaves, the God of our forefathers. And just as that Pharaoh tried to trick the Hebrew slaves into rejecting the offers of salvation from their God by deceiving them with false promises through hired magicians and carefully staged demonstrations like the recent ridiculous march on Washington [the 1963 civil rights march and rally at the Lincoln Memorial], today this government is paying certain elements of the Negro leadership to deceive our people into thinking that we're going to get accepted soon into the mainstream of American life.

The government is deceiving our people with false promises so we won't want to return to our own land and people. The government is saying, "Stay here, don't listen to this Muhammad, we will desegregate the lunch counters and the theaters and the parks and the toilets" – meaning this public accommodation thing where you can sit on a toilet with a white person or in a toilet with a white person.

"We'll give you more civil rights bills. We won't give you civil rights, but we'll give you civil rights bills." The government promises our people this only to keep you from listening to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and to stop us from waking up. They know that if we listen to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad long enough, we will begin to do our own thinking. He'll make us see, hear, think, and able to speak for ourselves.

Whenever you become fed up in this country with the white man's brutality and you get set to take matters in your own hands in order to defend yourself and your people, the same government – and again I repeat, especially that Catholic administration in Washington, D.C. – tries to pacify our people with deceitful promises of tricky civil rights legislation that is never designed to be a true solution to our problem. Civil rights legislation will never solve our problems. The white liberals are nothing but political hypocrites who use our people as political footballs only to get bills passed that will increase their own power.

The present proposed civil rights legislation will give the present administration dictatorial powers and make America a legal police state, but still won't solve the race problem. The present administration is only using civil rights as a political football to gain more legislation and power for itself. Our people are being used as pawns in the game of power politics by political hypocrites. They don't want our people to listen to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad because they know he will make them – make us see them as they really are.

So I say in my conclusion, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's message and solution is simple. He says: "Since we are not wanted in this country, let's pack our bags and go home to our own people, to our own land." The propaganda of the American government is skillfully designed to make our people think that our people back home don't want us. Government propagandists tell us constantly, "Africa is a jungle. Africans are savage and backward. They have no modern conveniences and you're too much like us white folks. How could you live comfortably back there?"

This propaganda is government strategy against the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, realizing that his mission is to teach our people the truth about our own kind, clean us up, and then return us to our own land and unite us with our own people.

The American government turns us against our own kind in order to keep us from making a mass exodus out of this country where we can live at home among our own people.

Therefore, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad says, American propaganda is designed to make us think that no matter how much hell we catch here, we're still better off in America than we'd be anywhere else. They want us to think we have no place else to go. And many of our so-called intellectuals who pose as our leaders and spokesmen actually believe that we have no place else to go. So their solution to our problem is that we stay here and continue to catch hell from the American white man.

But the only permanent solution is complete separation or some land of our own in a country of our own. All other courses will lead to violence and bloodshed. It will lead to the destruction of America, and it will also lead to the destruction of our people who fall for it. So his message is flee for your lives and save yourselves. And I thank you.


Sources:

Jill Karson, ed., Great Speeches in History (Farmington Hills, Michigan: Greenhaven Press, 2003).
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