Malcolm X "The Man and His Times

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Communication and Reality
(quotes from a Malcolm X speech to the Domestic Peace Corps. December 12, 1964.) 

"First, I want to let you know I am very thankful for the invitation to speak here this afternoon. Number one, before a group such as this, and number two, I always feel more at home in Harlem than anywhere else I've ever been. The topic we are going to discuss in a very informal way is Africa and the African Revolution and its effect on the Afro-American.

I take time to mention that because I am one who be­lieves that what's happening on the African continent has a direct bearing on what happens to you and me in this country: The degree to which they get independence, strength, and recognition on that continent is inseparable from the degree to which we get independence, strength, and recognition on this continent, and I hope before the day is over to be able to clarify that.

First, I would like to point out that since it is my under­standing that most of you are training to be leaders in the community, the country, and the world, some advice that I would give is that whenever you occupy a position of responsibility never accept images that have been created for you by someone else. It is always better to form the habit of learning how to see things for yourself, listen to things for yourself, and think for yourself; then you are in a better position to judge for yourself.

We are living in a time when image-making has become a science. Someone can create a certain image and then use that image to twist your mind and lead you right up a blind path. An example: A few weeks ago, I was on a plane traveling from Algiers to Geneva. There were two white Americans sitting beside me, one a male, the other a female. I had met the male in the airport and we had struck up a conversation. He was an interpreter for the United Nations and was based in Geneva. The lady was with the American Embassy in Algeria. So we conversed for about forty minutes between Algiers and Geneva, a nice human conversation. I don't think they were trying to be white and they weren't trying to prove they weren't white. They weren't particularly trying to prove anything. It was just a conversation between three human beings. I certainly wasn't trying to make them think I wasn't black; race just didn't come into the conversation.

So, after we had this quiet, objective, friendly, and very informative conversation for about forty minutes, the lady looked at my briefcase and said, "I want to ask you a personal question. What kind of last name could you have that begins with an 'X'?" This was bugging her. I said, "That's it, 'X,'" like that. So she said, "Well, what's your first name?" I said, "Malcolm." She waited about ten minutes and said, "You're not Malcolm X?" and I said, "Yes." She said, "But you're not what I was looking for." I told her right then and there about the danger of believing what she hears someone else say or believing what she reads that someone else has written and not keeping herself in a position to weigh things for herself.

So I just take time to mention that because it is very dangerous for you and me to form the habit of believing completely everything about anyone or any situation when we only have the press as our source of information. It is always better, if you don't want to be completely in the dark, to read about it. But don't come to a conclusion until you have an opportunity to do some personal, firsthand investigation for yourself.

The American press, in fact the FBI, can use the American press to create almost any kind of image they want of anyone on the local scene. And then you have other police agencies of an international stature that are able to use the world press in the same manner…”

(Complete speech found in book, Malcolm X, The Man and His Times, by John Henrik Clarke, pg.307.)

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