Malcolm X: Why Africa is Not Free
Up until 1959 Africa was dominated by the colonial powers. And by the colonial powers of Europe having complete control over Africa, they projected the image of Africa negatively. They projected Africa always in a negative light: jungles, savages, cannibals, nothing civilized. Why then naturally it was so negative [that] it was negative to you and me, and you and I began to hate it. We didn't want anybody telling us anything about Africa, much less calling us Africans. In hating Africa and in hating the Africans, we ended up hating ourselves, without even realizing it. Because you can't hate the roots of a tree and not hate the tree. You can't hate your origin and not end up hating yourself. You can't hate Africa and not hate yourself.
You show me one of these people over here who have been thoroughly brainwashed, who has a negative attitude toward Africa, and I'll show you one that has a negative attitude toward himself. You can't have a positive attitude toward yourself and a negative attitude toward Africa at the same time. To the same degree that your understanding of and attitude toward Africa becomes positive, you'll find that your understanding of and your attitude toward yourself will also become positive. And this is what the white man knows. So they very skillfully made you and me hate our African identity, our African characteristics.
You know yourself -- and we have been a people who hated our African characteristics. We hated our hair, we hated the shape of our nose -- we wanted one of those long, dog-like noses, you know. Yeah. We hated the color of our skin, hated the blood of Africa that was in our veins. And in hating our features and our skin and our blood, why, we had to end up hating ourselves.
And we hated ourselves. Our color became to us a chain. We felt that it was holding us back. Our color became to us like a prison, which we felt was keeping us confined, not letting us go this way or that way. We felt that all of these restrictions were based solely upon our color. And the psychological reaction to that would have to be that as long as we felt imprisoned or chained or trapped by Black skin, Black features, and Black blood, that skin and those features and that blood that was holding us back automatically had to become hateful to us. And it became hateful to us. It made us feel inferior; it made us feel inadequate; it made us feel helpless.
And when we fell victims to this feeling of inadequacy or inferiority or helplessness, we turned to somebody else to show us the way. We didn't have confidence in another Black man to show us the way, or Black people to show us the way. In those days we didn't. We didn't think a Black man could do anything but play some horn -- you know, some sounds and make you happy with some songs and in that way. But in serious things, where our food, clothing, and shelter was concerned and our education was concerned, we turned to the man. We never thought in terms of bringing these things into existence for ourselves, we never thought in terms of doing things for ourselves. Because we felt helpless. What made us feel helpless was our hatred for ourselves. And our hatred for ourselves stemmed from our hatred of things African.
Along about 1955 they had the Bandung Conference in Indonesia. And at that time the Africans, the Asians, the Arabs, all of the nonwhite people got together and agreed to de-emphasize their differences and emphasize what they had in common, and form a working unity. And it was the working unity -- the spirit of Bandung created a working unity that made it possible for the Asians, who were oppressed, the Africans, who were oppressed, and others who were oppressed to work together toward gaining independence for these other people. And it was the spirit of Bandung that brought into existence this working unity that made it possible for nations that didn't have a chance to become independent to come into their independence. And most of this began along in 1959.
After 1959 the spirit of African nationalism was fanned to a high flame, and we then began to witness the complete collapse of colonialism. France began to get out of French West Africa; Belgium began to make moves to get out of the Congo; Britain began to make moves to get out of Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, Nigeria, and some of these other places. And although it looked like they were getting out, they pulled a trick that was colossal.
In that -- when you're playing basketball and they get you trapped, you don't throw the ball away, you throw it to one of your teammates who's in the clear. And this is what the European powers did. They were trapped on the African continent, they couldn't stay there; they were looked upon as colonial, imperialist. So they had to pass the ball to someone whose image was different, and they passed the ball to Uncle Sam.
When the ball was passed to the United States, it was passed at the time when John Kennedy came into power. He picked it up and helped to run it. He was one of the shrewdest backfield runners that history has ever recorded. He surrounded himself with intellectuals -- highly educated, learned, and well-informed people. And their analysis told him that the government of America was confronted with a new problem. And this new problem stemmed from the fact that Africans were now awakened, they were enlightened, and they were fearless, they would fight. So this meant that the Western powers couldn't stay there by force. And since their own economies, the European economy and the American economy, was based upon their continued influence over the African continent, they had to find some means of staying there. So they used the "friendly" approach. They switched from the old, open colonial, imperialistic approach to the benevolent approach. They came up with some benevolent colonialism, philanthropic colonialism, humanitarianism, or dollarism. Immediately everything was Peace Corps, Crossroads, Pick up on that.
The approach that was used by the administration right on up until today -- see, even the present generation -- was designed skillfully to make it appear that they were trying to solve the problem when they actually weren't. They would deal with the conditions, but never the cause. They only gave us tokenism. Tokenism benefits only a few. It never benefits the masses, and the masses are the ones who have the problem, not the few. That one who benefits from tokenism, he doesn't want to be around us anyway -- that's why he picks up on the token.
By Malcolm X
Malcolm delivered this speech at Ford Auditorium on February 14, 1965 the very night that his home in New York was firebombed.
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