Moderator: Eric P. Goldman, Guests: Mr. Monroe Berger, Mr. Kenneth B. Clark, Mr. Richard Haley, Mrs. Constance B. Motley, Mr. Malcolm X
Mr. Goldman: In the years since World War II, unquestionably the most dramatic and most important development in internal American affairs has been the upward lunge of the Negro. In no uncertain terms these 20 million Americans have been making themselves heard. As the agitation and as the advances have gone on, observers have more and more joined in one type of comment. They’ve been saying there is a new Negro in America, a new mood, a new emphasis in the programs and demands of the Negro. Today we’re going to inquire into statements of this kind, and, I hope, in the course of the inquiry, we will answer candidly such questions as, What does the Negro really want today? Is he, to any significant degree, dissatisfied with the leadership of organizations like the NAACP? And is he really developing a new identity, both in terms of his inner reactions and in term of his relationships with Africa?
Our panel, here to my right: Mrs. Constance Baker Motley, associated with Thurgood Marshall as assistant counsel of the Legal Defense Fund of the NAACP, who is just back from defending civil rights cases in Mississippi.
Mr. Richard Haley, Field Secretary of CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality, which has led the sit-ins and Freedom Rider activities in the South.
Mr. Monroe Berger, Associate Professor of Sociology at Princeton University, whose expertness in the subject under discussion today is a double one. He wrote the volume entitled Equality by Statute, a highly praised study of efforts to bring more equality into American life by legislation. Mr. Berger’s sociological studies have also taken him into the Middle Eastern field where he has been interested in the ties that are being asserted today between the American Negro and the Muslims of Africa.
Mr. Malcolm X, Minister of the Temple of Islam No. 7 in New York City, and one of the national leaders of the Black Muslim movement in America.
And Mr. Kenneth B. Clark, Professor of Psychology at the College of the City of New York, author of a historic study on which the Supreme Court, in part, rested its 1954 school desegregation decision, consultant to the NAACP, and winner of the 1961 Spingarn Medal for his work in advancing race relations.
Mr. Clark, would you begin us with a comment on this general question. Is there, to your mind, a really “new Negro” in America?
Mr. Clark: Well, I think the term “new Negro” is a catch phrase and one that catches the imagination of people, but actually, I don’t think there’s a new Negro. I think the Negro in America today is pretty much the way he has been in the past. In terms of his desires, his wants, I think the Negro today wants exactly what the Negro in the Reconstruction period wanted, namely, full, unqualified equality as an American citizen. There are some differences today. I think that the Negro today is more direct, more forthright, more impatient, if you will, as he approaches his goal. He becomes less patient with things which hold him back.
Mr. Goldman: Matters of mood rather than of program?
Mr. Clark: And of goal. I think that there is no question that the Negro today has exactly the same goal that the Negro had fifty years ago, seventy years ago, a hundred years ago, probably during slavery, namely, a desire to be free.
Mr. Goldman: Mrs. Motley?
Mrs. Motley: I think that’s about it, Kenneth. I think also that what’s new today are the techniques
that Negro groups have developed for speeding their full participation in American life. The techniques of the sit-ins and the Freedom Rides have helped to accelerate the pace toward full participation on the part of American Negroes in American life. And I think that these techniques have been dramatic and successful and give the appearance of presenting a new Negro.
Mr. Goldman: Mr. X, you seem to be a little restless with all this.
Malcolm X: Yes, I think there is a new so-called Negro. We don’t recognize the term “Negro” but I really believe that there’s a new so-called Negro here in America. He not only is impatient. Not only is he dissatisfied, not only is he disillusioned, but he’s getting very angry. And whereas the so-called Negro in the past was willing to sit around and wait for someone else to change his condition or correct his condition, there’s a growing tendency on the part of a vast number of so-called Negroes today to take action themselves, not to sit and wait for someone else to correct the situation. This, in my opinion, is primarily what has produced this new Negro. He is not willing to wait. He thinks that what he wants is right, what he wants is just, and since these things are just and right, it’s wrong to sit around and wait for someone else to correct a nasty condition when they get ready.
Mr. Goldman: Does he want anything different in your opinion, Mr. X?
Malcolm X: In the past he wanted to identify himself with the American way of life, but after a hundred years of begging and a hundred years of waiting, I think there’s a growing tendency on the part of the so-called Negro to have reached the conclusion that he can never be recognized as a human being in America as other humans are recognized. So in my opinion, and according to the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, I think a growing number of Negroes today are beginning to see, since they can’t get it here, that they might as well try elsewhere or try some other form of solution than the ones that have been put in front of us.
Mr. Goldman: Mr. Haley, do I note puzzlement over there?
Mr. Haley: Puzzlement, no. But I’m not altogether in agreement. It is unfortunately true, I think, as Mr. X says, that the history of the Negro in America, particularly since Reconstruction, has given us every reason to feel that we can never be accepted in America as human beings. There’s a great deal to make one feel this way. Nevertheless, I’m not so quick, even after a hundred years, to give up my belief in man’s potentiality to overcome his biggest obstacle, himself. And this is what both the whites and to some extent the Negroes too must overcome.
Mr. Goldman: Mr. Berger?
Mr. Berger: If we look back historically to the early period, we find that there’s a great deal to be said for the possibility of the Negro becoming a full citizen in this country and I mean in the most intimate relations with white people. If you look at the periods during slavery and especially immediately afterward, you will find that there were extraordinarily intimate relations between the Negroes and white people, a tendency almost immediately to accept in some places the advances of the Negro. But the defeat of this effort just after the Civil War pushed the whole movement in a rearward direction. If we look at what has happened since then, if we think of American Negro-white relations only in the last forty or fifty years when this consolidation of segregation has taken place, we might be pessimistic. If we look at an earlier period, far from becoming pessimistic, I think we have reasons to be optimistic.
Mr. Goldman: Whether we’re pessimistic or optimistic, I detect a fundamental clash here in the area of what the Negro wants. Am I correct in saying that everyone around the table except Mr. X is saying that the Negro wants integration into American life, and that you are not saying that? Is that fair, Mr. X?
Malcolm X: It is not a case of integration into the American way of life, nor is it a question of not integrating. The question is one of human dignity and integration is only a method or tactic or role that many of the so-called Negroes are using to get recognition and respect as human beings. And many of these Negroes have gotten lost on the road. They’re confusing the objective with the method. Now if integration is the objective, then what will we have after we get integration? I think that the black man in America wants to be recognized as a human being and it’s almost impossible for one who has enslaved another to bring himself to accept the person who used to pull his plow, who used to be an animal, subhuman, who used to be considered as such by him, it’s almost impossible for that person in his right mind to accept that person as his equal.
Mr. Clark: Mr. X, you sound to me as if you are preaching a doctrine of complete and utter despair. Are you?
Malcolm X: No, I’m facing facts. If you try and swim the Atlantic Ocean and after several attempts you find you don’t make it, well, if your objective is the other side, what are you going to do? It’s not a case of having utter despair. You have to go back to shore and try and find another method of getting across if that’s where you want to go. Now the so-called Negro in America, a hundred years after Lincoln issued the so-called Emancipation Proclamation, is still knocking on the White House door and still begging practically every white politician who is running for office to pass legislation to bring about an opportunity for the so-called Negro in America to be recognized as a human being—not as a citizen, but as a human being. They can’t get recognition as human beings, much less as citizens.
Mrs. Motley: You recognize, don’t you, that they have made some progress and that there has been greater dignity accorded the American Negro? We don’t disagree on that, do we? Don’t you think that the Negro today is substantially better off than he was at the end of slavery and that through our own efforts and the efforts of other members of our society we have made progress, and we are continuing to make progress?
Malcolm X: As a lawyer, I’m sure you’ll agree that if you put a man in prison illegally and unjustly, one who has not committed a crime, and after putting him there you keep him in solitary confinement, it’s doubly cruel. Now if you let him out of solitary into the regular prison yard, you can call that progress if you want, but the man was not supposed to be put in prison in the first place.
Now you have 20 million black people in America who are begging for some kind of recognition as human beings and the average white man today thinks that we’re making progress. He cannot justify the fact that he made us slaves in the first place, which was contrary not only to man’s law, contrary not only to God’s law, but also contrary to nature’s law. I don’t call that progress until we have gotten everything we originally had. If a man robs a bank he can’t jump up and say: “Well, I’m sorry I’ve been a robber.” He has to make restitution. Here you have 20 million black people who have worked for nothing for 310 years and then for the past hundred years we have been deprived of practically everything a human being needs to exist and keep his morale up. I just can’t bring myself to accept the few strides that we’ve made as any kind of progress. And I think...
Mr. Goldman: May I get this discussion off Mr. X specifically and off the Black Muslim movement specifically for a few minutes. I was much struck, on an Open Mind program on which Mr. X appeared earlier, by some remarks of Mr. James Baldwin, the well-known Negro novelist. Let me read to you a few of the statements Mr. Baldwin made on that program. Mr. Baldwin speaking: “I do realize from my own vantage point, I’m a boy from Harlem too, how desperately and how deeply Negroes hate white people.” He went on to emphasize the point. “Most Negroes, most black people, do not trust white people and most Negroes hate white people.” And then, on the basis of that, he said, “I personally, speaking only for myself now, I can’t imagine anything this country can offer me that I any longer want.” Now I take all this to be a skepticism about the value of integration, even if you could get it. Is there a real trend among Negro intellectuals toward this kind of thinking?
Mr. Clark: I think we must put statements of that sort, and Mr. X’s statements, in a broader perspective. As a psychologist, I feel that hate is an extremely difficult emotion to sustain over a prolonged period of time. Certainly, I myself have felt a great deal of bitterness many times. Every time I observe an arbitrary form of racial injustice I feel bitter, but like most emotions hate cannot be sustained longer than my organism can tolerate it. Negroes, like other human beings, naturally feel hate, despair, bitterness. This, however, has not stopped the Negro from the kind of intelligent planning, organization, and exploitation of all the resources of this government to obtain his goal, namely, fully and unqualified equality as an American citizen. The thing that bothers me, Mr. X, is that you put me in a position that requires me to take a position—defending the American system—which I’m not particularly comfortable with. I would like...
Malcolm X: Why aren’t you comfortable taking that position? If it’s a just position, if it’s even psychologically just, why be uncomfortable?
Mr. Clark: Because it’s not complete. And neither is your position complete.
Malcolm X: I think, sir, you’ll find that when you have two different people, one sitting on a hot stove, one sitting on a warm stove, the one who is sitting on the warm stove thinks progress is being made. He’s more patient. But the one who is sitting on the hot stove, you can’t let him up fast enough. You have the so-called Negro in this country, the upper-class Negro or the so-called high-class Negro, as Franklin Frazier calls them, the “black bourgeois.” They aren’t suffering the extreme pain that the masses of black people are. And it is the masses of black people today, I think you’ll find, who are the most impatient, the most angry, because they’re the ones that are suffering the most.
Mr. Berger: That’s interesting. I don’t know if they’re the most angry of all the Negroes but certainly I think there’s a new Negro in the sense that these are people who have never articulated their demands or made themselves heard to the extent that they are doing now. This is what gives the impression of great militancy, the idea of the new Negro, that is, people lower down in the socioeconomic scale, people of low incomes, are fighting. They are fighting for two things, it seems to me, and I would say that, although there may not be a new Negro in the sense that they’re looking for new things, I think they have a different priority and a different urgency about the things that they want. Two of the things they definitely want are jobs and housing. The important thing that the masses of Negroes now feel is they have got to break out of this box of discrimination and employment and they’ve got to break out of the Negro ghettos, and these two things have got to happen quickly. This is what I believe is meant when I hear about the new Negro.
Mr. Goldman: Mrs. Motley?
Mrs. Motley: I think we’re in basic agreement, Mr. X, that the condition of the Negro here has been very bad and is still bad in many areas. I think the only respect in which we might disagree is whether there is any need to continue the struggle which we have been making to equalize the situation in our country and we probably disagree on the techniques for achieving this.
Mr. Goldman: There’s one thing that’s coming out in this discussion, an agreement on the impatience of the Negro. But does this not include impatience with organizations with which you, Mrs. Motley, and you, Mr. Clark, are associated? For example, Mr. X is quoted as calling your colleague, Mr. Thurgood Marshall, “a twentieth-century Uncle Tom.” And Mr. Louis Lomax, the Negro journalist, says that there is a Negro “revolt in America, dwelling underground for the past two decades, which means the end of the traditional Negro leadership class,” which I suspect means you, and you, and you.
Mr. Clark: I think these are exaggerated statements and I think that the present impatience of the Negroes is paradoxically a function of the effectiveness of Negro leadership in the past. I’d like to point out that Mr. X says that the masses of Negroes are in the vanguard of the present civil rights movement. I frankly don’t think this is true.
Malcolm X: Not in the civil rights movement.
Mr. Clark: It might be sentimental and it might play up to the masses to say that the masses are in the vanguard of the movement, but I think accuracy requires us to recognize that the Negro who has been trained, the Negro who has been exposed to more advantages than the average Negro has been permitted to have in America, is the one you are likely to find in the vanguard of the movement. I say this with all due respect to our.
Malcolm X: You mean eleven students in a school in Atlanta, Georgia, that’s progress?
Mr. Goldman: Let me be unpleasant here for a moment, let me bore in on this point. There’s an article in the current Harper’s by a woman writer about the young Negro rebels. What the article says is that we really have two Negro groups in America...I’m paraphrasing...one group, the less educated, the socially lower class, who are very much behind the Freedom Riders and similar activities. They’re the agitators. And then there are the successful, professional bourgeois, the lawyers and professors and so forth, with a quite different attitude. The author talks about going to Howard University with Freedom Riders, she says Howard is the Harvard of Negro colleges, and she says there wasn’t much interest in the Freedom Riders there, which surprises her a great deal. A very suave young Negro student said that his group entirely lacked Negro radicalism. Here you see the Negro elite. These students couldn’t care less how Negroes travel on buses. After all, they drive home in their cars.
Mr. Clark: I find that incredible. I think that’s a woeful oversimplification and I personally think it’s a fabrication. I’m glad I don’t know the name of the lady who wrote the article. I’m an alumnus of Howard University and I’m now on its board and I go to Howard quite frequently. I would personally like to find the student who would say that to a reporter. I think these attempts to simplify the problem by saying this group of Negroes believes this, that group of Negroes believes that, I think all of this misses the point.
Mr. Goldman: Mr. X, don’t you agree with some of this, though? I recall your saying on Open Mind that, after all, the traditional Negro leadership is always in the Waldorf-Astoria. That’s where you see Roy Wilkins, Thurgood Marshall, and so forth. You suggested that they’re not out among the Negro people and perhaps don’t understand them.
Malcolm X: I couldn’t dispute you because the opportunities I’ve had to shake their hands would be in that vicinity.
Mr. Clark: Then you were there too, weren’t you, Mr. X?
Malcolm X: Definitely.
Mrs. Motley: I think you shook Mr. Marshall’s hand in a courtroom.
Malcolm X: In the courtroom corridor.
Mrs. Motley: He’s usually found. ..
Malcolm X: And I would like to comment on the remark Mr. Goldman made earlier about my saying that Marshall was a twentieth-century Uncle Tom. At the time, a few years back, Marshall made a speech at Princeton, at which time he allowed others to put words in his mouth, very derogatory words, about the Muslims. So that what I said was a reply, but I think that the main thing that all of the black people in America today have to do is that which was done in Bandung by the Africans and Asians in 1955. We have to get together and forget our differences. We’re not going to agree on everything but we will agree that all of us are oppressed, all of us are exploited, and the only way we’re going to get to our objective is to have some kind of cooperation with each other.
Mr. Goldman: Suppose a lot of white people agree that Negroes are oppressed. Mr. X, do you agree with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad when he says, “It is impossible for Negroes and whites to live together. I hate the few drops of white blood that is already in me. There is no intelligent black man who wants integration.”?
Malcolm X: Yes, I believe in everything that Mr. Muhammad says, and when he says that in the first part that he hates the few drops of black blood that are in him, or rather the few drops of white blood that’s...
Mr. Clark: That’s an interesting slip.
Malcolm X: I think. ..
Mr. Goldman: Do you say that as a psychologist, Mr. Clark?
Mr. Clark: I say it as a psychologist.
Mr. Berger: What color is Mr. Elijah Muhammad?
Malcolm X: He’s light and I think if you go back during slavery, most of the slaves who got white blood got it by having their mothers raped or ravished by the slave master. It would be impossible for me today to carry the blood of a rapist in me and not hate that blood. Secondly, when he said it is impossible for white and black to live together in peace, the history of America proves that. Most of your white liberals who profess to love Negroes and who profess to be pushing for this integration thing, they themselves live as a rule in lily-white neighborhoods and sometimes they’re the first ones to put the FOR SALE sign on their door when a Negro who has fallen for this integration thing moves into their neighborhood. I think that it’s very hypocritical today for me as a black man and the white man to sit down with each other and profess that there is a great deal of love between us. I have to look at the white man as the son of the man who kidnapped my people and brought them here and enslaved them and he has to look at me as someone to whom he has done wrong. Always his guilt complex will have him on guard around me. I think that we can solve our problems better by looking at the condition of the black men in America as a collective thing, not individual, but collective. We’re in this condition collectively; we’re second-class citizens. Collectively, we’re the last hired and the first fired. Okay, since we suffer collectively the one who benefits, the white man, benefits collectively. If a white individual were to murder a man he would be a murderer. Lynching is a murder. For the past four hundred years our people have been lynched physically but now it’s done politically. We’re lynched politically, we’re lynched economically, we’re lynched socially, we’re lynched in every way that you can imagine. And we look upon the white man, the American white man, as a criminal. He has committed a crime against 20 million black people. For me to be segregated is a crime. For me not to have any rights, that’s a crime.
Mrs. Motley: Mr. X, let me ask you this: Does Mr. Muhammad mean by integration simply social intermingling with whites? Or does he mean something else? When you spoke I got the impression that you were emphasizing merely a sort of social intermingling with whites in their houses and that sort of thing and intermarriage. But I think integration may have another definition which ought to be emphasized more today. What the Negro seeks is not some sort of social intermingling per se with whites or intermarriage. What they really seek is to have the situation in the country equalized more than it is at the present time. Now does Mr. Muhammad mean this by integration?
Malcolm X: No. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us that you, a poor man, can’t integrate with a rich man. You can’t take a man who has factories and tell him he must hire Negroes. You can’t take a man who has schools that he has set up himself and tell him he must admit Negroes. Mr. Muhammad says this: The black people of America should get together among themselves and do for themselves the same things that the white has done for himself. Do you realize white immigrants have come to this country poor and with no education, and they saved their money and handled it wisely? They set up businesses and provide jobs for their children. They set up factories and industry to create opportunity for their children. Now the black man in America has been so-called free a hundred years. The purchasing power of the black people of America is 20 billion dollars a year. If our people are equal, why haven’t our leaders, our professional people, gotten together in some way or another like the white man has done, and set up factories to provide job opportunities, set up housing to provide housing opportunities for Negroes, instead of sitting around here begging the white man for a second-hand house in his neighborhood or demanding that the white man give them a job?
Mr. Goldman: Mr. Clark, is that frown a psychological or an ideological frown?
Mr. Clark: Well, it’s a frown of perplexity. I’m perplexed. As I listen to Mr. X it seems to me he is asking for the ultimate in segregation. He’s asking for segregated factories.
Malcolm X: No, separate. There is a difference between segregation and separation. Segregation is forced upon an inferior community by a superior community. Separation is done voluntarily by two peoples.
Mr. Clark: Let me take up just one point that you’re making. You said, why should the black man ask or beg the white man to be admitted into his schools. I think the question as you pose it is based on a false premise. The schools are not the white man’s schools. The schools are public schools. Negroes are an integral part of America’s economy. Negroes pay taxes, Negroes are involved in any crisis which faces this nation. Someone has sold you the mistaken notion that white people own the public schools in America. White people do not own the public schools. Public schools are owned by the public. Twenty million Negroes contribute significantly to the vitality of the country and are now asking that they share equally in all of the benefits, just as they’ve shared in all of the liabilities of the country.
Mr. Berger: I think that what Mr. Clark is saying, is of course, true. But I think, if I may speak for Mr. Malcolm X for a moment, not that he doesn’t speak well for himself, I think that his answer would be, how can you call these schools public schools when they’re run by and for the whites and the Negroes have been excluded. There is a point to that and I think that this mood of the Negro favors the kind of thing that Mr. Malcolm X is saying. For the first time in a long while, Negro leaders are saying openly what many Negroes have said to one another for a long time. This is the first time in a long while that the white community is able, so to speak, to eavesdrop on what goes on among Negroes. This brings me to the question of hate. I think hate is not only something difficult to sustain but I think it is often very useful. What has happened on this question of hate is that we have gotten a glimpse into the Negro community, whereas the Negro community has always had a glimpse into the white community. They always knew what the whites were thinking from being servants and so on, from being among whites. The whites have not known what the Negroes were thinking and now they’re beginning to find out something about this. The consequence is that white people are beginning to find that Negroes are very critical, very bitter, and many of them hate whites, as Baldwin says. But this is something that we can carry a bit too far. If you eavesdrop on any community and listen to what people are saying to one another, you can get very depressed. If you listen to good friends of yours talk about you, I think you might become depressed. If Jews listen to what Christians say about them, if Christians listen to what Jews say about them, if all these communities heard everything that everybody said about one another in jest or seriously, I think that all of the groups would be at odds with one another. So I’m not sure that although the Negroes speak that way to one another in this mood of hatred...I’m not so sure that this necessarily represents their mood more accurately than the moderate Negro leaders who speak out without hatred. The fact that people say these things, I don’t think means that they always believe them.
Mrs. Motley: Mr. X, you said a while ago, nobody should tell a white man that he must hire a Negro in his factory. I think that a lot of people have said the same thing in effect with respect to the laws, for example, prohibiting discrimination in employment. What the law does is not to say to the white man, you must hire a Negro in your factory. The law says to the owner of the factory that you should not discriminate against a qualified Negro solely on account of his race and color.
Malcolm X: But this type of approach of the present so-called Negro leadership keeps the Negro in a begging category. In my contention, the white people have gotten together and established some kind of economy that provides job opportunities and housing for their own kind. And since our leadership has failed to do so, has failed to get together and provide something for the masses of our people, it puts them on a spot today when someone begins to point these factors out.
Mr. Clark: This is the fallacy in your thinking that bothers me. You keep saying white people have gotten together but there is no industry in America that has been built without Negro labor, Negro consumers, Negro money involved. There is no such thing as a white.
Malcolm X: A horse can pull the plow. A horse is the one that’s actually plowing the field. Does the horse get the benefits? No, even the horse can’t say that it’s his farm. He’s a part of the property on that farm. That’s the capacity that you and I have been in in America for the past four hundred years. It was subhuman. The United States Constitution classified us as three fifths of a man, subhuman. That is the United States Constitution.
Mr. Clark: The United States Constitution as interpreted, especially by the May 17, 1954, decision, declares that you are a complete man and that no state can make any law which abrogates your rights as an American citizen based solely upon color.
Mr. Goldman: We only have about twelve minutes left and I don’t want us not to touch on this. Of course, if there is a new Negro, one of the things that people are commenting on most are his supposed ties, intellectual and emotional, to Africa and to what is going on in Africa. Now, is that important? If so, what is it really? What is this influence that Africa is having?
Mrs. Motley: I think that the Negro has found Africa as a place with which he might identify in the broadest sense. Negroes have been for years without a country or homeland, so to speak, of which they could be proud, from their point of view. Africa has always been looked upon as the dark continent. Now Africa is rising and the Negro in America sees young African leaders who are able and articulate and who are leading their people in the struggle for freedom. And so the American Negro can now look to his homeland, so to speak, and identify with people who are strong and who are respected and looked up to. This has given a new impetus, let us say, to the drive on the part of young Negroes in this country to do something.
Mr. Clark: I think it’s possible to exaggerate the African impact upon American Negroes. Certainly there are some dramatic aspects of it. The Negro is certainly happy and proud when he sees an articulate Negro from one of these new nations in the UN. But my own feeling is that the impact of the legal staff of the NAACP and the votes that Negroes in large urban centers in the United States use to elect congressmen and senators and to influence national politics are more likely to have a direct effect upon the rapidity of changes in the status of the Negro in America than what happens in Africa. Now it may be that I am speaking only in terms of a personal idiosyncratic inability to identify with Africa. I confess, I identify with America. I’m American and I want my rights as an American.
Mr. Goldman: Mr. Haley, are you agreeing with Mr. Clark?
Mr. Haley: It’s possible to underrate the impact of Africa just as it is possible to overrate it. The big problem, I suppose, is how to estimate it accurately since it’s so hard to measure. But one can, just on the basis of his own experience, point out what he has seen, and it does seem to me that many Negroes with whom I’ve had contact tie themselves or feel a tie not just with emergent Africa but with that whole side of the world, which is just bubbling over with all types and colors and sizes and nationalities of various colored peoples.
Mr. Goldman: Mr. X, let me hold you back for just a moment. There is of course the possibility that to the extent that the Negro is turning to Africa he is turning to a leadership which, on the one hand, is one of frenetic racism, a possibility that Mr. Louis Lomax raises in his book, and on the other hand, playing into the hands of Nasser. Now, having said that, Mr. X knows where I’m going, namely to the frequent statement made that you and your Black Muslim movement are in close contact with Nasser, are becoming a part of his worldwide machinery, etc., etc. And having said that, I will let you and Mr. Berger take up the point.
Malcolm X: Number one, the distorted picture that the black men in America have had in the past of Africa is all a part of the crime that the American white man has committed in distorting that picture purposely. Number two, it is true that the emergence of African nations probably isn’t impressive to the big Negro in America, but the masses of black people in America are impressed. Number three, you can’t say that the emergence of Africa doesn’t affect the condition of the black people here.
John F. Kennedy himself a couple of months ago issued practically an ultimatum to the whites in Maryland and Virginia not to Jim Crow the Africans who are in this country. Despite the fact that the Negroes provided the balance to get him in office, he can open up his mouth and eliminate the barriers that the Africans run into, but the American so-called Negro is still begging for an integrated cup of coffee.
Mr. Goldman: Just a minute, Mr. X. May I get directly to this point? A number of people state that Negro Muslim-ism is a way of tying a number of American Negroes into Mr. Nasser’s imperialist purposes.
Malcolm X: Number one, we’re not Negroes. Number two, there’s no such thing as Muslim-ism. It’s Islam, and that religion is practiced by 725 million non-white people in Africa and in Asia. I think it’s absurd to connect us with any one geographic area when the Muslim world stretches from China right up to the shores of West Africa. Everyone in the Muslim world is our brother and we are brothers to them and considered brothers by them. Now because Nasser probably poses a threat to Israel and the people of Israeli descent have a lot of power and influence over the public media in America, they put out the propaganda concerning the danger of our people here getting connected with someone over there. We’re not connected with anybody but our feeling is all dark people today should get together and toss aside the shackles of a common oppressor and that common oppressor is that man who has been sitting up there in Europe. I think you’ll find that not only are the Arabs, who are dark people, getting together but they’re getting together throughout Africa and Asia. That’s why you’re having such a problem now in the United Nations. And· this is not something that you should blame on the Muslims. The white man should examine his own record and he can see that his record, the seeds that he has sown, are coming up today. He doesn’t like the crop that he planted.
Mr. Goldman: Mr. Berger, do you want to comment on this potential tie?
Mr. Berger: I don’t believe that the Black Muslims in this country are or will be deeply involved with the propaganda machine of any foreign country. I don’t believe that that’s so from what I’ve been able to observe. I do think also that Nasser particularly would have a great deal of difficulty if he tried to associate himself with the Black Muslims. Not only the difficulty that the Black Muslims would give him, but also the difficulty that, to borrow a phrase, the so-called white Muslims in this country might give him. I don’t think that they want to be, these so-called white Muslims in this country, want to be associated with the Black Muslims in this country. This is another reason why I would discount those claims of foreign influence on the Black Muslims.
Mr. Goldman: Mr. Haley, a word?
Mr. Haley: I must again dissent. I think this preoccupation with Muslims or Africa takes us away from the main point, namely, the Negro in America.