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Whether two-tierism takes the forms of racism, sexism, seasonalism or any-otherism, one can often find parallels and similarities between them, the reason being, that they are just different forms of the same thing. JB

Malcolm X discusses human rights v civil rights.
The following is condensed from the closing portion of Malcolm X's speech at the Corn Hill Methodist Church, Rochester, New York on the evening of 16th February 1965, just five days prior to his assassination.

Not just an American problem (extract).

Malcolm X

Before Hitler went on the rampage, a Black man couldn't even work in a factory. We were digging ditches on WPA. Our food came from the welfare, stamped "not to be sold." I got so many things from the store called "not to be sold," I thought that was a store someplace.

We were confined to menial tasks. When the war started, they wouldn't even take us into the army. You couldn't join the navy. They wouldn't even draft you. They only took white folk. They didn't start drafting us until the Negro leader opened up his big mouth, talking about, "If white folk must die, we must die too." The Negro leader got a whole lot of Negroes killed in World War II who never had to die.

So when America got into the war, she was faced with a manpower shortage. Until the war, you couldn't get inside of a plant. I lived in Lansing, where Oldsmobile's was and Reo's. There was about three in the whole plant and each had a broom. They had education, had gone to school, one had gone to college, but he was a "broomologist."

When times got tough and there was a manpower shortage they let us in the factory. Not through any effort of ours and not through any moral awakening on their part. They needed manpower, any kind of manpower and they got desperate, so they opened up the factory door and let us in.

Then we began to learn how to run the machines, when they needed us. Put our women in as well as our men. We began to make more money, were able to live in a little better neighborhood, went to a little better school, got a little better education and got in a better position to get a little better job.

It wasn't a change of heart or a sudden awakening of moral consciousness. It was Hitler. It was Tojo. It was Stalin. It was pressure from the outside, at the world level, that enabled you and me to make a few steps forward.

Why wouldn't they draft us into the army in the first place? They had treated us so bad, they were afraid that if they gave us a gun and showed us how to shoot it - they feared that they wouldn't have to tell us what to shoot at. And probably they wouldn't have had. It was their conscience.

So it wasn't a change of heart on Uncle Sam's part. It was world pressure, the threat and danger from outside that occupied his mind and forced him to permit you and me to stand a little taller. Not because he wanted it, but because he was forced to.

And when you analyze what opened the doors to the degree that they were cracked open, you'll better understand your position today and the strategy that you need today. Any kind of movement for freedom of Black people based solely within the confines of America is absolutely doomed to fail.

All you'll get as allies is fellow Americans. As long as you call it civil right's it's a domestic problem within the jurisdiction of the U.S. government. And the government consists of segregationists, racists. The most powerful men in the government are racists. Of the thirty-six committees that govern the foreign and domestic directions and temperament of the country in which we live, twenty three of them are in the hands of racists, outright, stone-cold, dead segregationists.

This is what you and I are up against, a society where the power is in the hands of those who are the worst breed of humanity. How are we going to get justice in a Congress, or a Senate, or a White House that they control?

You say, "Look at the beautiful decision that the Supreme Court handed down." These men on the Supreme Court are masters not only of law, but legal phraseology. They could easily have handed down a desegregation decision that no one could have gotten around, but there's all kind of loop holes in it. They knew what they were doing. They pretend to give you something, knowing all the time you can't utilize it.

They came up last year with a civil rights bill, publicized all around the world as if it would lead us into the promised land of integration. Oh Yeah! Just last week the Right Reverend Dr, Martin Luther King came out of the jailhouse and went to Washington D.C., saying he's going to ask every day for new legislation to protect voting rights for Black people in Alabama. Why? You just had legislation. You mean to tell me that that highly publicized civil rights bill doesn't even give the federal government enough power to protect Black people in Alabama who don't want to do anything but register? Why, it's another foul trick, the same as you've tricked us year in and year out.

I don't want you to think I'm teaching hate. I love everyone that loves me. But I sure don't love those who don't love me.

The young generation of Blacks can see that as long as we wait for the Congress, the Senate, the Supreme Court and the President to solve our problems, you'll have us going in circles for another thousand years.

I used to see African Diplomats at the UN crying out against the injustices against Black people in Mozambique, in Angola, the Congo and South Africa.

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I wondered how they could go back to their hotels and turn on the TV and see dogs biting Black people right down the block, policemen crushing the skulls of Black people with their clubs right down the block, and putting water hoses on Black people with pressure so high it tears our clothes off, right down the block. And I wondered how they could talk all that talk about what was happening in Angola and Mozambique and all those other violent states and see it happen right down the block and get up on the podium in the UN and not say anything about it.

So I discussed it with some of them. And they said that as long as the Black man in America calls his struggle a struggle of civil rights, then it's domestic and it remains within the jurisdiction of the United States. And if any of them opens their mouths about it, it's a violation of the laws and rules of protocol. And the difference with the other people was that they called them human rights grievances. "Civil rights" are within the jurisdiction of the government where they are involved. But "human rights" is part of the Charter of the United Nations.

All of the nations that signed the Charter of the UN came up with the Declaration of Human Rights, and anyone who classifies his grievances under the label of human rights violations, those grievances can be brought into the United Nations and be discussed by people all over the world. For as long as you call it "civil rights," your only allies can be the people in the next community, many of whom are responsible for your grievance. But when you call it "human rights," it becomes international. And then you can take your troubles into the World Court. And anybody anywhere on this earth can become your ally.

So one of the first steps that we became involved in, in the Organization of Afro-American Unity was to come up with a program that would make our grievance international and to make the world see that our problem was no longer a Negro or an American problem, but a human problem and a problem which should be attacked by all elements of humanity. A problem so complex, that it was impossible for Uncle Sam to solve it himself. And therefore we want to get into a body or conference of people who are in such a position that they can help us get some kind of adjustment for this situation before it gets so explosive that no one can handle it.
Thank you.


A complete transcription of this speech can be found in the book; February 1965 - The Final Speeches - Malcolm X, edited by Steve Clark and published by Pathfinder.
The version on this page contains some paraphrasing in the interest of brevity. The Final Speeches is certainly an inspiring book and I would recommend it to anyone. The source material for this page is protected by copyright and is used here under what I believe to be "fair usage". JB

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Aug 2004