Channelling Malcolm: The Ballot or the Bullet
Channeling Malcolm….The Ballot or the Bullet “The Fate of our Community Lies in Our UNITY”
The Ballot or the Bullet was a speech given, April 3, 1964 at a symposium entitled, “The Negro Revolt-What Comes Next? In this speech Malcolm outlines three key areas of focus for the Black community to rebuild ourselves. It’s all about unity!
Political philosophy: Uniting Our Political Power
Black people should control the politics and politicians in their community. Malcolm believed that the “Black man in the black community has to be re-educated into the science of politics so he will know what politics is supposed to bring him in return.
Economic philosophy: Uniting Our Dollars
Black people should control the economics of their community. As Malcolm asserted, the “philosophy of black nationalism involves a re-education program in the black community in regards to economics.
Social philosophy: Uniting Our Social/Community Reach
Black people should unite to eradicate social ills in their communities’ such as drugs and crime and build vibrant and model communities.
Economic Empowerment = Building and Supporting Our Own Businesses
The economic philosophy of Black nationalism only means that we have to become involved in a program of re-education. To educate our people into the importance of knowing that when you spend your dollar out of the community in which you live the community in which you spend your money becomes richer and richer; the community out of which you take your money becomes poorer, and poorer.
And because these Negroes who have been misled and misguided, are breaking their necks to spend their money with the man, the man is becoming richer and richer and you’re becoming poorer and poorer.
And then what happens? The community in which you live becomes a slum; it becomes a ghetto. The conditions become rundown. And then you have the audacity to complain about poor housing, in a rundown community. Why you run it down yourself when you take your dollars out!
And you and I are in a double trap. Because, not only do we lose by taking our money some place else and spending it, when we try and spend our money in our community, we’re trapped because we haven’t had the sense enough to set up stores and control the businesses of our community.
The man who’s controlling the stores in our community is a man who doesn’t look like we do. He’s a man who doesn’t even live in the community. So you and I even when we try and spend our money in the block where we live, or the area where we live we’re spending it with a man who when the sun goes down takes that basket full of money in another part of the town.
So our people not only have to be re-educated to the importance of supporting Black business but the Black man himself has to be made aware of the importance of going into business. And once you and I go into business, we own and operate, at least the businesses in our community, what we will be doing is developing a situation wherein we will actually be able to create employment for the people in the community.
And once you can create some employment in the community where you live it will eliminate the necessity of you and me having to act ignorantly and disgracefully, boycotting and picketing someplace else trying to beg him for a job.
Political Power = A United Political Strategy
The black man in the black community has to be re-educated into the science of politics so he will know what politics is supposed to bring him in return. A ballot is like a bullet. You don’t throw your ballots until you see a target, and if that target is not within your reach, keep your ballot in your pocket.” Thus, political maturity, according to Malcolm X, means African Americans demanding something in return for their vote. “They get all the Negro vote…and after they get it, the Negro gets nothing in return. That’s camouflage, that’s trickery, that’s treachery, window-dressing… you put the Democrats first and the Democrats put you last.”
Malcolm believes that political maturity for African Americans also required them to reexamine their relationship with the Democratic Party. In Malcolm view, as indicated above, the Democrats exploited blacks, making promises, especially as it related to civil rights and failing to make good on those promises. He asserted, “You just can’t belong to that Party without analyzing it.” He therefore calls for a new strategy: “I say again, I’m not anti-Democrat, I’m not anti-Republican, I’m not anti-anything. I’m just questioning their sincerity, and some of the strategy that they’ve been using on our people by promising them promises that they don’t intend to keep. That’s why, in 1964, it’s time now for you and me to become more politically mature and realize what the ballot is for; what we’re supposed to get when we cast a ballot; and that if we don’t cast a ballot, it’s going to end up in a situation where we’re going to have to cast a bullet. It’s either a ballot or a bullet.”
Social Change Starts and Ends with the Work we are willing to do
The social philosophy of black nationalism only means that we have to get together and remove the evils, the vices, alcoholism, drug addiction, and other evils that are destroying the moral fiber of our community. We ourselves have to lift the level of our community, the standard of our community to a higher level, make our own society beautiful so that we will be satisfied in our own social circles and won’t be running around here trying to knock our way into a social circle where we’re not wanted. So I say, in spreading a gospel such as black nationalism, it is not designed to make the black man re-evaluate the white man — you know him already — but to make the black man re-evaluate himself.
What’s Next: Cultural Sankofa by Kwesi
What Next ?
“SANKOFA” Cultural Reclamation
You hearers, seers, imaginers, thinkers, remembers, you prophets called to communicate truths of the living way to a people fascinated unto death, you called to link memory with fore-listening, to join the uncountable seasons of our flowing to unknown tomorrows even more numerous, communicators doomed to pass on truths of our origins to a people rushing deathward, grown contemptuous in our ignorance of our source, prejudiced against our own survival, how shall your vocation’s utterance be heard?
—Ayi Kwei Armah , Two Thousand Seasons
“He who fails to plan plans to fail” I don’t know if this is an exact quote, but the message is sufficiently evident. This wise adage is a directive for individual ambitions primarily. And it works well for those who are progressively pursuing their dreams. In the context of the collective, the plan must be a selfless one formulated for the advancement of a group, community or a nation. It must be a plan necessarily designed by many minds and much wisdom. There are many things to consider, but the commonality must be mutual interest and cooperation. All peoples have a [BLACK]print or a plan for their collective progress and success. They have benefitted as a group by conforming to its tenets, its directions, and its advice.
We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.
Mary McLeod Bethune
We as Africans in America have a plan designed with us in mind but the themes are universal. It is called the Nguzo Saba and it is the results of our wise men who knew we needed a plan. Who knew we had the ingredients and provided us with a recipe. It is a simple recipe that requires us to simply be Africans with a deep and abiding respect for the history of our struggles and the wealth of our heritage, the things we have contributed to the dignity and the upliftment of the African. We have but to study and practice the Nguzo Saba in our daily lives and be proud and firm in whom we are to realize our individual and collective dreams.
“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”
When it comes to education it requires discipline and a good support system. For example, if you’re serious about your education then you should associate with people and resources that are more likely to feed your intellectual prowess. Also, if you are serious about African progress as a group you “MUST” align yourself and engaged in the “African Ideal” known as the “Nguzo Saba”. This is an African term that is rooted in the African spirituals as well as the value systems. In addition, this term often conflict with popular trends and social indulgences. However, this concept fosters collective growth and progress among African people known as the term “One for all and all for one”.
“…there is indeed a great force in the world, a force spiritual and able to shape the physical universe, but that force is not something cut off, not something separate from ourselves. It is the energy in us, the strongest in our working, breathing, thinking together as one people; weakest when we are scattered, confused, broken into individual, unconnected fragments.” ― Ayi Kwei Armah
When practicing this idea, individuals should be aware that they represent the group and not themselves. In part, these terms also, speaks to the individuals abilities to executed things and do them in full consideration. By caring out the idea correctly, it will demonstrate a positive affect among the group progress. This cannot be overemphasized in view of our present dilemmas and in our communities. Furthermore, it should not be about “ME”, instead is should be “WE”. We must present ourselves to others with respect, empowerment, advocacy and discipline on a day-to-day basis. In addition, we should not forget “WHO WE ARE”, and where we are going. Most importantly we must adhere to the beauty and simplicity of “OUR PLAN”,” “THE NGUZO SABA”.
“There is a form of incomplete awakening that looks complete on the surface; it is blindness masquerading as sight. Now, when we awaken, we have healthy bodies inhabited by thinking minds. When many such people with able bodies and thinking minds are united by a shared goal, consciously chosen and embraced, the resulting interaction is powerful, purposeful and loving. That interaction of minds moving toward a shared goal is the closest thing I know to religious power.”
— Ayi Kwei Armah, Our Awakening