Eleanor Fischer: Malcolm X, the minister of the Black Muslim community in New York City and national representative of Elijah Muhammad, the spiritual leader of the Black Muslim movement. Mr. Malcolm, may I ask you to tell us something about the Black Muslim movement in America? What is it? What does it stand for?
Malcolm X: Well, it’s a—number one, it primarily is a religious movement here in America that’s designed to reform the black man or the so-called Negroes, reform us—reform us morally and enable us to stand on our own two feet and do something for ourselves. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, our religious leader, teaches us the importance of doing something for ourselves now, rather than trying to continue to force ourselves into the white community or upon the white man. He teaches us that if we would do something for ourselves, clean up ourselves, morally, intellectually and otherwise, and then try and do something for ourselves economically, we would be recognized and accepted by others. But as long as we try and force ourselves in upon others now, without having done nothing to prove that we are on any kind of equal basis with them, that there will always be this race tension and race problem.
Eleanor Fischer: When you say force yourselves upon others, upon the white community, how exactly do you mean that?
Malcolm X: Well, any form of integration, forced integration, any effort to force integration upon whites is actually hypocritical. It is a form of hypocrisy involved. If a white man puts his arm around me voluntarily, that’s brotherhood. But if you hold a gun on him and make him embrace me and pretend to be friendly or brotherly toward me, then that’s not brotherhood, that’s hypocrisy. And what America is trying to do is pass laws to force whites to pretend that they want Negroes into their schools or in their places of employment. Well, this is hypocrisy, and this makes a worse relationship between black and white, rather than if this could be brought about on a voluntary basis. So the Honorable Elijah Muhammad says that what should happen is the black man himself should learn how to develop himself, in the same sense that the white man has developed himself. Then they can both come together and recognize each other as equals.
Eleanor Fischer: Well, how can the black man develop himself as a separate society?
Malcolm X: Well, it’s easy, he’s separate already. The fact that you have Harlem, the fact that you have the Negro ghetto and the so-called Negro slum, he’s already separate. The fact that he’s a second-class citizen is a political separation. The fact that he’s the last hired and the first fired, there’s an economic separation. Only in this form of separation, the black man is exploited. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad says that we should be separate, all right, but in this separate state or separate existence, the black man should be given the opportunity and the incentive to do for himself what the white man has done for himself. If you have an all-white neighborhood you don’t call it a segregated neighborhood. But you call an all-black neighborhood a segregated neighborhood. And why? Because the segregated neighborhood is the one that’s controlled from the outside by others, but a separate neighborhood is a neighborhood that is independent, it’s equal, it can stand on its own two feet, such as the neighborhood. It’s an independent, free neighborhood, free community. They’re not trying to force themselves upon anyone, socially or otherwise. But the Negro neighborhood, which is inferior, is begging for a chance to integrate itself into that which is superior, which is not going to happen. It’s going to cause trouble.
Eleanor Fischer: Well, in other words then, you think the Negro has first to raise himself to a status of equality with the white community.
Malcolm X: Yes.
Eleanor Fischer: Now, what happens—assuming that he can do that, would you then be in favor of integration, let’s say, in the schools or anyplace else?
Malcolm X: When you are equal with another person, the problem of integration doesn’t even arise. It doesn’t come up. The Chinese in this country aren’t asking for integration. The Japanese aren’t asking for integration. The only minority in America that’s asking for integration is the so-called Negro, primarily because he is inferior, not inherently inferior, but he’s economically, socially, politically inferior. And this exists because he has never tried to stand on his own two feet and do something for himself. He has filled the role of a beggar.
Eleanor Fischer: Well, how can a minority group in this country, so-called, stand on its own two feet?
Malcolm X: Well, I can give you this example, by explaining the difference between segregation and separation. Segregation is that which is forced upon an inferior by a superior. Separation is done voluntarily by two equals. If I have children and they live in my house, I care for them, they’re dependent upon me. And their dependence upon me puts me in a position to regulate their lives, control their lives, tell them where to go, where they can’t go. That’s a form of segregation. But when those children become of age and they think they’re equal with me, they leave my home. And when they leave my home and begin to set up a home for themselves, provide clothing, food and shelter for themselves, that makes them independent of me. It puts them out of my jurisdiction. And the fact that they can do for themselves, that which I have done for myself, makes me have to recognize that they are equals with me. And now, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad says that the black man in America, for the past 400 years, has been like a boy in the white man’s house, begging the white man for a job, for food, clothing and shelter. And then after the white man provides him with all of these things, he turns around and get—has the nerve to get angry at the white man when the white man tries to
control his life.
Eleanor Fischer: But how, from a practical point of view, can the Negro be self-sufficient?
Malcolm X: The Honorable Elijah Muhammad says number one, he must have a knowledge of himself. And this gives him confidence in himself. He has been brainwashed by the educational system that exists here in America to the point where he feels he was a savage in the jungle before he was brought here. And this destroys his morale. So, the number one thing that has to be done, he has to be retaught, be given—he has to be re-educated and made to know that he’s a man, like anyone else, and then he can stand on his own two feet, like others have done. I might add, the whites who came here only, say, 50 years ago as immigrants have come into this country, they have set up businesses. They’ve developed these businesses into an industry. Some of them came here as poor immigrants, uneducated. And yet today they’re economically independent. Now, the black man here was so-called freed by Lincoln 100 years ago. The black man in America has a purchasing power of 20 billion dollars now, and he’s educated. If the white man can come here uneducated and as an immigrant, and within 10 or 15 years set up an industry that provides job opportunities and educational opportunities for black people, then if the black man, the black leadership, who has access to all of this money and has all of these degrees today, can’t use his talent and his know-how to set up business opportunities, job opportunities, housing opportunities for the black people the same as the white leaders have done for white people, then these black leaders need to get off the boat. They’re not leading our people toward any kind of independence, but they’re using their positions and their education and their talent to exploit our people worse than the slave master did during slavery.
Eleanor Fischer: Are you advocating a state within a state for the Negro community?
Malcolm X: Not a state within a state, but the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is saying that the black man, since the white man, has found it impossible to bring about integration, other than on a token basis, and which proves that the two of us, the ex-slave and the master, can’t live in the same house as equals. And, at the same time, then what Mr. Muhammad says is, they should take their Navy and their Merchant Fleet and ship us back where they got us. And that’s not deportation, that’s returning stolen property to its proper owner. Now, since the government doesn’t want to do that, then they—and they have already proven that they can’t bring about peaceful relations on an integrated basis in this country, give us some separate territory in this country where our people can go and do something for ourselves and provide us with everything that we need to keep that new territory going, until we are self-sufficient. And this should not be too hard to understand that the government should do it, because if this government can send 20 billion dollars to Latin America to some peasants who have never fought for this country or worked for this country and is sending hundreds of millions of dollars to Africa and Asia to try and buy friendship of people who will never be friendly toward them, then they should be even more quick to spend some—whatever amount of money is necessary, to get inside of their house straight, before it’s too late. So we don’t think that we’re begging for anything. We think we’re demanding what is ours by right. And all we’re asking for is an opportunity to do something for ourselves, rather than to sit around as a beggar, begging for jobs and begging for education from someone else for the rest of our lives.
Eleanor Fischer: Well, many sociologists say that the reason why the Negro in the United States is, quote, ‘inferior,’ unquote, if you want to use that expression, is because of what the white man has done with segregation. And they, therefore, see the answer to the dilemma to be in doing away with segregation and everything that this implies. Now, apparently, your philosophy is the complete antithesis of this particular idea.
Malcolm X: Well, I don’t know whether you would call it the antithesis. We’re primarily interested in solving the problem of 20 million black people. And if integration is going to solve the problem tomorrow, then let’s integrate. But since the Supreme Court issued its desegregation decision seven years ago, and you only have about six or seven percent integration now, on an educational level, that means that the black man trying to use integration as a means of solving his problem will be another 100 years just getting integration on an educational level. And what the white man in America needs to realize is there’s a new thinking among black people today which makes them not willing to sit around and wait for five years to get this problem solved, much less a hundred years. And since integration is so slow, and the white man knows the problem must be solved, the only thing that he can do tomorrow is separate, because we’re already separated.
Eleanor Fischer: Mr. Malcolm, what do you think of Martin Luther King?
Malcolm X: I think that any black man who teaches black people to turn the other cheek and suffer peacefully after they’ve been turning the cheek and suffering peacefully for 400 years in a land of bondage, under the most cruel, inhuman and wicked slave master that any people have ever been under, he is doing those people an injustice, and he’s a traitor to his own people. Nobody should teach the black man in America to turn the other cheek, unless someone is teaching the white man in America to turn the other cheek. And no one should advocate any peaceful suffering to black people, unless the white man is going to practice the same kind of peaceful suffering. What Martin Luther King is doing is disarming the black people of America of their God-given right and of their natural right. And the law of nature gives a man the right to defend himself when he’s attacked. And God’s law itself gives a man the right to defend himself when he’s attacked. So, peaceful suffering and passive resistance and all of that stuff is all right maybe in India somewhere, where the people in India outnumber the whites—about a million to one. But here in America, when you tell a—that’s like an elephant sitting down on a mouse—in India with Gandhi. But in America you have the mouse now trying to sit down on the elephant, thinking that he’s going somewhere. And it’s absurd.
Eleanor Fischer: Don’t you think that perhaps the idea of non-violent resistance is a tactic which disarms the white community as much, if not more, than it does the Negro?
Malcolm X: No. You don’t disarm any white community by confining yourself to any particular method. If you want freedom, then you should get freedom like Patrick Henry said, by whatever method is necessary. If you are not willing to pay the price for freedom, you don’t deserve freedom.
Eleanor Fischer: Well, it seems to me that, actually, the basis of distinction here is one, the distinction of goals. Dr. King’s goals are quite different from yours. He believes in integration—
Malcolm X: Well—
Eleanor Fischer:—complete integration in society. Right?
Malcolm X: No, well that’s where Dr. King is mixed up. His goals should be the solution of the problem of the black man in America, now. Not integration. Integration is the method toward obtaining that goal. And what the Negro leader has done is gotten himself wrapped up in the method and has forgotten what the goal is. The goal is the dignity of the black man in America. He wants respect as a human being. He wants recognition as a human being. Now, if integration will get him that, all right. If segregation will get him that, all right. If separation will get him that, all right. But after he gets integration and he still doesn’t have this dignity and this recognition as a human being, then his problem is still not solved.
Eleanor Fischer: Well, isn’t this exactly what Dr. King is looking towards, and that is the day when the Negro will be treated with dignity? Wasn’t this, after all, a result of the Montgomery bus boycott?
Malcolm X: No, because I don’t think you can— having an opportunity to ride either on the front or the back or in the middle of someone else’s bus doesn’t dignify you. When you have your own bus, then you have dignity. When you have your own school, you have dignity. When you have your own country, you have dignity. When you have something of your own, you have dignity. But whenever you are begging for a chance to participate in that which belongs to someone else, or use that which belongs to someone else, on an equal basis with the owner, that’s not dignity. That’s ignorance. If I may add, for instance, King and these others will say that they are fighting for the Negro to have equal job opportunity. How can a group of people, such as our people, who own no factories, have equal job opportunities competing against the race that owns the factories? The only way the two can have equal job opportunities is if black people have factories as white people have factories. And then we can employ whites or we can employ blacks, just like they can employ whites or they can employ blacks. But as long as the factories are in the hands of the whites, the housing is in the hands of the whites, the school system is in the hands of the whites, you have a situation where the blacks are constantly begging the whites: can they use this or can they use that. That’s not any kind of equality of opportunity, nor does it lend toward one’s dignity.
Eleanor Fischer: Well, would you not admit that the situation in the South today for the Negro is better than it was, let’s say, 10 years ago?
Malcolm X: No, because 10 years ago the black man knew what his condition was and today, because of the world revolution that’s taking place all over this earth, the black man would be fighting for what he knows is his by right, but the movement on the part of King and the others had done nothing but slow down the militancy that is inherent in the nature of the black man. All over this world people are standing up for freedom. In this country, these Negro leaders have Negroes sittin’—sitting down, thinking that there’s dignity towards sitting in. I might add, ma’am, how in the world can you say, or can anyone say, that it will dignify the American Negro to beg in or wait in or plead in when the people in Hungary didn’t beg in? They were freedom fighters. And they fought for their freedom. And they came to this country and they were Hungarians, they were Communists from a Communist country. And right now those Hungarian freedom fighters can get jobs that student sit-ins can’t get. They can go and sleep and live in hotels that Martin Luther King himself can’t live in. So they are recognized and respected because they are fighters, not because they are sit-iners or freedom riders.
Eleanor Fischer: Well, would you advise the Negro in the South then to take up arms and get control of the factories this way?
Malcolm X: No, no. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us the religion of Islam, which is a religion of peace. And he says that the way to solve this problem is for the white man to give us some territory of our own. And then our people—we have technical know-how, we have agricultural know-how, we have been working for the white man in his business. In every phase of his government we work. And instead of working for him and helping him hold up a government that continues to suppress us socially and exploit us economically and oppress us politically, let us go and enter our own territory and use our own talents to uplift ourselves by our own bootstraps. And then he will recognize us for what we are.
Eleanor Fischer: Yes, but suppose you don’t get this territory, which seems quite likely, then what are you going to do? How are you going to accomplish your goals?
Malcolm X: No, that’s not our problem, that’s America’s problem. If the average American knew the trouble that Uncle Sam is in all over this earth, they could see that we are closer toward getting a separate territory in this country than the integrationists are toward getting integration. You have a race problem that must be solved, or else you will alienate every non-white person on this earth within the next few years, or within the next few months. Uncle Sam right now is forcing integration only because he’s trying to impress the people abroad that he’s morally qualified to be the leader of the world. And if he can’t do this, then it will alienate them. And all of the hundreds of millions of dollars or billions of dollars that he has sent abroad trying to buy the friendship of the dark world will go right down the drain. He’s not sending 20 billion dollars to South America because he loves those people down here. He’s sending it to them because he needs their friendship, he needs their allegiance. And why should he send 20 billion dollars down there, which is going to go down the drain every time you have a racial incident in this country? Solve the race problem here, and once you solve the race problem here, you don’t have to send these billions of dollars abroad.
Eleanor Fischer: Mr. Malcolm, how many adherents does your movement have, about?
Malcolm X: I’ve never heard the Honorable Elijah Muhammad say how many there are. But I think as an intelligent person you would agree that when you are teaching among oppressed people that they should be relieved of their oppression not 100 or 10 years from now, but right now, you’re going to find your talk is going to fall upon sympathetic ears.
Eleanor Fischer: Then you feel that you have many more supporters than, let’s say, figures that once were printed in The New York Times, would indicate.
Malcolm X: The main part of the tree is the root, and the root is always beneath the ground. It never is brought out into the light.
Eleanor Fischer: Would you say then that the average Negro, particularly in the South, who, we are told, follows and believes in Dr. King’s philosophy, really does not believe in this philosophy, at least deep down in his heart, and would be just as willing to follow you?
Malcolm X: Well, all you have to do is go back to slavery days, and there were two types of slaves, the house slave and the field slave. The house slave was the one who believed in the master, who had confidence in the master and usually was very friendly with the master. And usually he was also used by the master to try and keep the other slaves pacified. And the other slaves in the field never let that house slave know what they were really thinking. If the house slave said, well one of these days all of us will live in the plantation, they said, uh huh. They went along with him. But if you came up to them and said, let’s go, they would be gone just like that. And in America you have the same situation now. You have the vast masses who are still slaves. Then you have the upper class Negroes who are the modern day Uncle Toms or the 20th century Uncle Toms. They don’t wear a handkerchief anymore. They wear top hats. They’re called Doctor, they’re called Reverend, but they play the same role today that Uncle Tom played on the plantation.
Eleanor Fischer: Are you likening Dr. King to the house slave of slavery days?
Malcolm X: If you read the history of slavery and see the part that the Uncle Tom played in the plantation, and then you see how the white man today has changed his tactics, but he still occupies the same position, in that same context you find Uncle Tom. He has changed his tactics but he still occupies the same position. His job is to pacify the slaves, keep them willing to suffer peacefully, keep them willing to love their enemy and to pray for those who use them despitefully. That’s the same thing that Uncle Tom did on the plantation before Lincoln issued the so-called Emancipation Proclamation.
Eleanor Fischer: And do you think that’s what King is doing today?
Malcolm X: Well, if he fills that role, he fills that role. I don’t know—I have no thinking on the matter. But he’s teaching the black people to suffer peacefully, patiently, until the white man makes up his mind that you’re a human being the same as he. But the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is teaching the black man, you’re a human man right now. All you have to do is dignify yourself. You don’t have to wait for any white man to recognize you. Recognize yourself. Love each other. Practice harmony and brotherhood among your own kind. Do something for yourself, and then you will be recognized by the entire world as a man who has done for himself what others have done for themselves.
Eleanor Fischer: Do you think that Dr. King is sincere in what he’s saying and doing, or do you think perhaps that he’s being rather opportunistic in his own way, but his way just happens to be wrong?
Malcolm X: He’s wrong, and I’m inclined to believe that most Negro leaders, professional Negroes are professional Negroes. Being a Negro is their professional, and being a leader is their profession. And usually they say exactly what the white man wants to hear them say. They never let the white man know exactly what black people are thinking, period. And most of them whose existence or whose position of leadership depends upon the subsidy or crumbs from the white man’s table, will only say what that white man wants to hear. When they get behind the door they talk a different language. And I think that they do the white man more harm and do America more harm than the Muslims do who let the white man know exactly what we think and what black people think, in general.
Eleanor Fischer: Is there any leadership in the Negro community, outside that of the Black Muslim movement, which you would approve of?
Malcolm X: Whoever is standing up telling the white man that his position is unjust and that the black people should not have to wait for any Supreme Court, Congress or Senate to legislate, or even the president to issue any kind of a proclamation to better the condition of our people, if a Negro leader is standing up, making that point clear, then he’s all right with us. But as long as he’s making the white man think that our people are satisfied to sit in his house and wait for him to correct these conditions, he is misrepresenting the thinking of the black masses, and he’s doing the white man a disservice because he’s making the white man be more complacent than he would be if he knew the dangerous situation that is building up right inside his own house. A cat that’s inside of your house that is angry and dissatisfied and hostile is more dangerous to you than a full-grown lion is on the outside.
Eleanor Fischer: Well, you know, getting back to the philosophical point you made there about acceptance, this is one of the arguments that the white community down South gives to the Negroes who claim that they want certain rights, that it’s fine to go to schools and to even sit at lunch counters together, but this question of social equality and social acceptance, actually, is something else, again. The whites don’t want it, and you don’t want it. Now, where is the difference? Aren’t you taking that position in reverse?
Malcolm X: Don’t say…don’t say the whites down South. Whites up North. There’s no difference between whites in the South and whites in the north. Only the whites in the South aren’t hypocritical about it. You don’t find any more inter…there is just as much social intermixing in the South as there is in the North. Only in the South they let you know where they stand, and in the North they take a hypocritical approach or attitude or reaction. And I think, again, that that does the whole problem a disservice. It’s not a case of our wanting to mix socially with whites. What does a black man look like begging for a cup of coffee in a white restaurant, and doesn’t have a job to pay for it when he does get the coffee? It’s putting the cart before the horse. Instead of the Negro leaders having the black man begging for a chance to dine in white restaurants, the Negro leader should be showing the black man how to do something to strengthen his own economy, to give himself an independent economy or to provide job opportunities for himself, not begging for a cup of coffee in a white man’s restaurant.
Eleanor Fischer: Well, you take a situation like that which exists in Atlanta. Now, here, it would seem to me, would be an ideal illustration of your point. In Atlanta you have some of the wealthiest Negroes in the United States. They own insurance companies, banks, beautiful homes. They have their own restaurants, nightclubs. They have some of the best schools that are all-Negro schools. Do you really think that this makes them any better off? Do you think that this gives them any more dignity? I mean, isn’t this the goal towards which you are reaching?
Malcolm X: Yes, this is the goal, the goal in part, but not only do we want our own community, we want our own land, period, the same as the Jews were never satisfied until they had Israel. They wanted a country that they could point toward and a flag that they could point toward. This doesn’t mean that they even went to Israel, but this gave them prestige, it gave them dignity. It gave them something to back them up. And the black man in America’s position is parallel with that of the Jews, especially when the Jews were in bondage under Pharaoh. And at no time did Moses in the Bible ever try and integrate the Hebrews into the Egyptian society or accept any hypocritical offers made by the slave master of that day. Moses taught complete separation and a land of their own flowing with milk and honey. He didn’t teach them anything about any heaven up in the sky, but the only thing that would solve their problem is a land of their own. And the black man in America is the same as the Jews were in bondage under Pharaoh. We are strangers in a land that is not ours. We are rejected by this type of modern Pharaoh or Pharaoh-nic society. And the only way that we are going to solve our problem is to do the same thing today that the Hebrews did under Pharaoh, strike out for ourselves into some land—into a land of our own where we can build a tabernacle to our own God, like the Hebrews did back there. But as long as we sit around here trying to pray to the white man’s God and go to the white man’s church and into the white man’s school, we’ll be brainwashed by the white man, the educational system, and we’ll continue to look down upon ourselves and we’ll continue to be a beggar to him, because we’ll continue to think that he’s superior to us.
Eleanor Fischer: Do you think Muhammad is the natural God of the Negro, the American Negro?
Malcolm X: No, we don’t look upon Muhammad as God. We look upon…just like the Hebrews didn’t look upon Moses as God, they looked upon Moses as their leader. But Moses was God’s spokesman. And we who follow the Honorable Elijah Muhammad don’t look upon him as God, we look upon him as God’s spokesman. We look upon him as God’s representative, as a messenger from God. And the message that he has for us is the same as the message that Moses had for the Hebrews, not integration, ‘cause he told Pharaoh, “let my people go,” which means separate. And the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, whom we look upon as a modern Moses, has the same type of message for us today. We don’t look upon Martin Luther King as any Moses, because Moses never—not a modern Moses or an ancient Moses—because King is advocating love your enemy, Moses didn’t say love your enemy. King is advocating turn the other cheek, Moses didn’t advocate turn the other cheek. Moses told those slaves how to defend themselves. And he taught the slaves how to defend themselves. And had Moses not taught the Hebrews how to defend themselves against their enemies, why those Hebrews would be getting lynched and they’d be second-class citizens and segregated and Jim Crowed, the same as everybody else—the same as the so-called Negro in America is right to this very day.
Eleanor Fischer: Well, and the question there again then comes down to violence. Now, what would you do in a situation in the South, let’s say, if there was a lynching? Would you, as a Negro, take a gun and go after the white person who…
Malcolm X: We would do the same thing that America did when Pearl Harbor was attacked. America defended itself. They said praise the Lord, but they passed the ammunition. And this is a God-given right of any man. Anytime you have a man who is getting lynched, and what are his people supposed to do? Sit around and forgive the lyncher or wait on the United States government to go in and get the lyncher, like the United States government did in the case of Charles Mack Parker, and the FBI found who were the guilty lynchers, and right to this day, the FBI, the highest law enforcement body in the land, has yet to bring the lynchers of Mack Parker to justice? No, if the government can’t give the black man justice, then it’s time for the black man to get some justice for himself, with the help of his God. This doesn’t mean that he’s advocating violence. Can you tell—can you accuse me, if a man is putting a rope around my neck, of being violent, when I violently struggle against this lyncher to try and keep him from putting a rope around my innocent neck? Why, you’d be insane to call me violent. But this is what you’re doing. This is what the white person in America is doing, when the Muslim says that the black man should defend himself. No, it’s the white man who is the one who is being violent. And the government is responsible for the violence, as long as they don’t stop it. And if we have to get violent to protect ourselves, then it’s the government that should be charged with the crime, because we’re only upholding a law that they’ve been unable to uphold
Eleanor Fischer: And I take it you would approve of the tactics of Robert Williams, the Southern NAACP leader, who—I think he was from where, North or South Carolina? North Carolina, yeah.
Malcolm X: I don’t know too much about his tactics, but if he was trying to defend himself, he was within his God-given rights and within—and he was also within his natural right, because the first law of nature is self-preservation. And Martin Luther King has made the Negro in America unnatural. He has taken away from the Negro his God-given right to defend himself. He has them going through—I looked on the television the other night and saw them beating a Negro unmercifully in Mississippi. And this is the result of a brainwashing technique that a certain power structure in the American government has paid these Negro integrationist leaders to perpetuate among our people. But it’s not a good thing, and it will never solve our problem.
Eleanor Fischer: Thank you very much Mr. Malcolm.