Malcolm X and the Psychosis of Race in America

As part of the series of posts on race relations in America in this blog, I am listening with new ears, diving into the psychosis of this kind of rhetoric (and I mean that phrase in the technical definitions). I listened to Malcolm X’s speech entitled “The Ballot or the Bullet” delivered April 12, 1964 in Detroit, MI, and watched the 3hr. 21min. “Malcom X” film by Spike Lee.

What I share below are some of the things I’m am perceiving, as well as learning about this particular figure and his movement.

Malcom X (photo taken at a different occasion)

Malcolm X (photo taken at a different occasion)

Malcolm X the movie by Spike Lee, 1992

Malcolm X the movie by Spike Lee, 1992


At face value, the discussion of “Black Nationalism” followed by statements of accusation that Billy Graham is preaching “white nationalism,” (i.e. the structure of the church) is concerning. It appears that Malcolm’s global classification of another race seems to be the very kind of evil that he is fighting against. His labeling of others as “devil” and “hypocrites” is a vehement rhetoric that simply inflames the issue, rather than quells it. It is an “eye for eye” response that, as history has taught us, only exacerbates the evils that exist.

Now, it must be said, that the impulse to speak in that manner, and the anger from which this kind of discussion comes can be greatly understood in light of the history of racism in this country. One must validate that the KKK, white supremacy, segregation, preferential treatment, etc., all go a long way towards doing massive damage to a people’s sense of identity and humanity. Anyone mis-treated instinctively counter-acts.

But what I saw in the life of Malcolm, was an ability to change and adapt. If the quotes are correct, there was a rescinding in Malcolm’s later years of some of his approaches to the issues at hand. Being a contemporary of Martin Luther King Jr., this posed a tension in the Black community (religiously and philosophically) as to the best ways to approach the injustices they were facing. But his willingness to grow, mature, and see things from new lights must be applauded. Though his methods were not always conventional or wise, his striving for truth, and a betterment, not only of society, but of himself is an ethic we all ought to live by and value.

How did this come about for him? It appears, from Wikipedia and the movie, that it was his pilgrimmage travels that opened his eyes to a new kind of thinking and solutions to the problems we find here in America.

The principle?

CONTRAST. In everything in life, what we know about ourselves and our situation is discovered through contrasting it to something else. The follow-up principle of that is EXPOSURE. We must be willing to expose ourselves to different ways of thinking, and different streams of philosophy in order to really, and truly understand our own. And this is the catch-22 of racism, and perhaps one of the simplest and most profound solutions to the issue. Are we willing to recognize the differences of culture and race in our world, and are we willing to open up our hearts and engage at a deep level, relationally with other people groups? Racism says no. The solution to racism is simply saying “yes.”

About VIA


  1. Dennise

    You are one of my heros and you made history for me a African American Strong Young Lady…………..

    • Anabel

      This is for the “Strong young lady”…how did Malcolm X help you?talk to me about Martin Luther King and then i’ll believe you.What’s your point???How is he a hero??!!

      • Jon

        Why does she need to talk to you about MLK to be believed? MX was a hero because he showed the white establishment the errors of their ways in no uncertain terms. To many, the non-violent posture of MLK was Uncle Tom. Both men were great, and tried to uplift their race from oppression. They each had a different way of doing it. MX had every right to say if you treat us violently, we will return in kind.

      • Joe

        You need too relax my friend! Malcolm X is the best nigger round ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. AJa Greene

    im only 13 n the 7th grade and i luv Malcolm X he is 1 of my heros along with MLK n a bunch of other black leaders made history for me and alot of other people.Luv it as a black teen!!!!

  3. marisa

    dis web site looks tight guud work

  4. Anonymous

    malcolm was a great mind that was wrongly applied

  5. Anonymous

    I never saw the movie but I know that it is a very great movie to watch. because it tells about the history of someone so great and what he have done to this country.

  6. madison

    malcolm x rocks! he is my hero! thanks for the post!

  7. Jon

    Read Malcolm’s autobiography to understand the growth of this incredible man as well as the struggle of African-Americans in the 20th century. The movie was incredible, but take the time to read the book to understand the life of one of the most influential leaders in modern history. Thanks for the thoughtful and well written article.

  8. i love malcom x bcause hes a real powerful man and i dont know wat i would do wit out him

  9. i love malcom x because he spoke how he felt and i respect that the people that killed him i think they was ma

  10. ebony

    malcom x was m idol i respect him

  11. i think malcolm x is a hero to me he is a hard worker and many other reason actually i don’t know him lolz BYE!!!!!!!!!!!! i wrote this at school lolz BYE PEEPS!!!!!!!!!!

  12. k. cyusa lambert

    malcom is a hero of humanity!!

  13. Malcolm X was violent. Billy Graham didnt preach ‘white nationlism’ he is an evangelist.

  14. eric

    how u don’t have a biography of this movie ???

  15. Malcolm X pushed FOR violence, which is why violent people like him, MLK on the other hand didnt push violence, which is why he was WAY MORE effective.

  16. Cynthia

    themadjewess, your handle alone explains your simple minded comment. and to Joe, yes you would call him a nigger but you would do it thesame way your coward behind is doing it now , safe behind a computer screen. Before you comment about something that you don’t have a clue about, read a book. I’m sure that you two can manage that. I Love Malcolm and Martin, but I lean towards Malcolm’s earlier way of thinking. You attack me , I attack you back. You think that you have a right to dislike a person because of the color of their skin, guess what? so do I. Some of you think that Blacks don’t have aright to have Hero’s oh well keep thinkinh that.

  17. SIERRA

    That was the best example of a life well lived. He did the best by giving his best of attention to his generation. The strong output of Malcolm had a great impact in worldwide change. The Legend lives on and on…

  18. jeannie

    Malcolm kept it real. Hero? Not really but he did talk alot about leaving your religion at home. It has no place in politics. Religion being alot of our problems today!

  19. jeannie

    he was not violent……Violence was his means for self defense…Period. Listen to The Ballot or the Bullet speech in Detroit, 1964.

  20. lou

    joe u are a fag fuck u bitch

  21. gfan

    the movie is rily great and very empowering esp to ose hu are still bng luked down upon and made to believe they are useless esp coz of their skin colour…I salut u Malcolm x

  22. You know it’s interesting to look at this article again in light of recent problems.
    This article is surprising short & simple for what I have come to expect from this blog.
    I think this highlights how uncomfortable people feel with what they perceive as extreme ideologies…but was he really so extreme? And why do we think so?

    The ending statement is not a valid logical syllogism & it doesn’t make sense.
    It doesn’t show how excepting other people REMOVES racism.
    Especial if you accept racism as a systemic & mental issue (one which Malcolm addressed frequently) it is so easy to think colorblind… till you realize people aren’t treated that way.
    Malcolm X was powerful and perhaps even violent speaker, but that is no reason to overlook his arguments, just because you are alienated by a person words doesn’t dimish their power or their relevance, as anyone can see from his unique stance on issues.

  23. mmmm…. You do know after Malcolm X left Elijah Poole’s cult, he went on a spiritual pilgrimage and renounced the views on race and segregation while a member of NOI.

    โ€œI feel like a man who has been asleep somewhat and under someone elseโ€™s control. I feel that what Iโ€™m thinking and saying is now for myself. Before it was for and by the guidance of Elijah Muhammad. Now I think with my own mind, sir!โ€ โ€” Malcolm X

    โ€œI am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.โ€ โ€” Malcolm X

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