“Never Cross a Man Not Afraid to
Die”
Malcolm X
“I seek the truth”
• “Here is a black man caged behind bars,
probably for years, put there by the white
man. Usually the convict comes from among
those bottom-of-the-pile Negroes, the
Negroes who throughout their entire lives
have been kicked about, treated like
children—Negroes who have never met one
white man who didn’t either try to take
something from them or do something to
them.” (211)
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• “You don’t even know who you are,” Reginald
had said. “You don’t even know, the white devil
has hidden it from you, that you are from a race
of people of ancient civilizations, and riches in
gold and kings.” (186)
– History & education
• Slavery
• Opium war
– “History had been ‘whitened’” (187)
– “This ‘Negro’ had been taught to worship an alien God
having the same blond hair, pale skin, and blue eyes as
the slavemaster.” (188)
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This History of Yacub
• ‘Muslim’ used to refer both to members of the
Nation of Islam and followers of orthodox
Islam
• “The humans resulting, he knew, would be, as
they became lighter, and weaker, progressively
also more susceptible to wickedness and evil.”
– Affirmation of blackness
– Devaluation of whiteness
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Conversion
• “If you will take one step toward Allah—Allah
will take two steps toward you.” (181)
• “I was going through the hardest thing, also
the greatest thing, for any human being to do;
to accept that which is already within you, and
around you.” (189)
• “The very enormity of my previous life’s guilt
prepared me to accept the truth.” (189)
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Ordering
• “I had never dreamed of anything like that
atmosphere among black people who had
learned to be proud they were black, who had
learned to love other black people instead of
being jealous and suspicious”
• Prayer, ablution, family order
• “Even the children spoke to other children” with
“mutual respect and dignity…. Beautiful!” (224)
– Order, cleanliness, & respect
– The problem is not with us...
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A New Self
• For me, my “X” replaced the white slavemaster
name of “Little” which some blue eyed devil
named Little had imposed upon my paternal
forebears.” (229)
– Break with the past
– Rejection of whiteness
• “Think of hearing wives, mothers, daughters
being raped! And you were too filled with fear of
the rapist to do anything about it?” (232)
– Fear, power, & violence
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The whole point in a joke
• “’Do you know what white racists call black
Ph.D’s? He said something like, “I believe I
happen to not be aware of that”—you know,
one of these ultra-proper talking Negroes.
And I laid the word down on him, loud:
Nigger!” (327)
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• “If Malcolm X were not a Negro, his autobiography
would be little more than a journal of abnormal
psychology, the story of a burglar, dope pusher, addict,
and jailbird—with a family history of insanity—who
acquires messianic delusions and sets forth to preach
an upside-down religion of ‘brotherly’ hatred.”
Saturday Evening Post, Sept. 12, 1965
– “For the white man to ask the black man if he hates him, is
just like the rapist asking the raped, or the wolf asking the
sheep, ‘Do you hate me?’ The white man is in no moral
position to accuse anyone else of hate!” (277)
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• “The Jew will never forget that lesson [of the
Holocaust]… they used violence to force the
British to help them take Palestine, “and then
the Jews set up Israel, their own country—the
one thing that every race of man in the world
respects, and understands.” (320)
– Why is this something universally understood?
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• “I think there are plenty of good people in
America, but there are also plenty of bad people
in America and the bad ones are the ones who
seem to have all the power and be in these
positions to block things that you and I need.
– Because this is the situation, you and I have to
preserve the right to do what is necessary to bring an
end to that situation, and it doesn't mean that I
advocate violence, but at the same time I am not
against using violence in self-defense.
• I don't even call it violence when it's selfdefense, I call it intelligence.”
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The Transformative Power of Truth
• The soteriological potential of the Truth over
fact
– Asceticism
– Order
– Transformation
• Nation of Islam’s 6-step recovery program
• 1. Admit you’re a junkie
– Usually “fished” by a converted friend & former
junkie, overcoming distrust & suspicion
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• 2. Understand why you’re a junkie
– “Narcotizing themselves against being a black man
in the white man’s America.” Helps to “prove”
inferiority of the black man. (300)
– “What’s a black man buying Whitey’s dope for but
to make Whitey richer—killing yourself!”
– “The Muslim often collects audiences of junkies.
They listen only because they know the clean-cut
proud Muslim had earlier been like them.” (299)
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• 3. The way to quit drugs is through the message of the
Nation of Islam
– Brought to a Muslim restaurant, “the addict hears himself
called, genuinely, ‘Brother,’ ‘Sir,’ and ‘Mr.’ No one cares
about his past.”
• 4. The message of the Nation gives lets the addict
realize that he has the inner strength to change.
– “For the first time he is feeling the effect of black selfpride. That’s a powerful motivation for a man who has
been existing in the mud of society. In fact, once he is
motivated no one can change more completely than the
man who has been at the bottom. I call myself the best
example of that.”
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• 5. Voluntarily go cold turkey
– When the ordeal is over, “he will never forget these
brothers who stood by him during this time. He will
never forget that it was the Nation of Islam’s program
which rescued him from the special hell of dope.”
(301)
• 6. The convert in turn goes “fishing”
– “The ex-addict, when he is proud, clean, renewed, can
scarcely wait to hit the same junkie jungle he was in,
to ‘fish’ out some buddy and salvage him!” (301)
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• “The only thing that anybody… could ever find
me guilty of, was being open-minded. I said I
was seeking for the truth…” (428)
– Deep commitment to truth
– His faith in the Hon. Elijah Muhammed was the
core of his being
• “It felt as though something in nature had failed, like
the sun, or the stars.” (351)
• Who is he now?
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The last conversion
• Takes the Hajj
– On the Hajj, “You could be a king or a peasant and no
one would know.”
– “Everything about the pilgrimage atmosphere
accented the Oneness of Man under one God” (380)
– Kindness & brotherhood with all Muslims, even those
who would be white
– “The holy city of Mecca had been the first time that I
had ever stood before the Creator of All and felt like a
complete human being.” (420)
• Double consciousness
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• White & black people not the problem, whiteness
and blackness are the problem
– “That morning was when I first began to reappraise
the ‘white man.’ It was when I first began to perceive
that ‘white man,’ as commonly used, means
complexion only secondarily; primarily it described
attitudes and actions. In America, ‘white man’ meant
specific attitudes and actions toward the black man,
and toward all other non-white men.” (383)
• Whiteness is essentially defined in US by rejection of &
dominance over non-whites
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• While approach to race changes, militancy does not
– Racial cooperation
• “I don’t mind shaking hands with human beings. Are you one?” (418)
– Black militancy
– Not black nationalism, but black inter-nationalism
• “To come right down to it, if I take the kind of things in
which I believe, then add to that the kind of temperament
that I have, plus the one hundred percent dedication I have
to whatever I believe in—these are the ingredients which
make it just about impossible for me to die of old age.”
(435)
• “If I can’t be safe among my own kind, where can I be?”
(497)
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Ossie Davis’ Eulogy
• “Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy,
controversial and bold young captain—and we will smile.
Many will say turn away—away from this man; for he is not
a man but a demon, a monster, a subverter and an enemy
of the black man—and we will smile. They will say that he is
of hate—a fanatic, a racist—who can only bring evil to the
cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say
to them:
– Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him
or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did
he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with
violence or any public disturbance? For if you did, you would
know him. And if you knew him, you would know why we must
honor him: Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black
manhood!”
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Ossie Davis’ Eulogy
• “However we may have differed with him—or with
each other about him and his value as a man—let his
going from us serve only to bring us together, now.
– Consigning these mortal remains to earth, the common
mother of all, secure in the knowledge that what we place
in the ground is no more now a man—but a seed—which,
after the winter of our discontent, will come forth again to
meet us.
• And we will know him then for what he was and is—a
prince—our own black shining prince!—who didn’t
hesitate to die, because he loved us so.”
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• Why did you eulogize Malcolm X?
– “You may anticipate my defense somewhat by considering the
following fact: no Negro has yet asked me that question. (My
pastor in Grace Baptist Church where I teach Sunday school
preached a sermon about Malcolm in which he called him a
"giant in a sick world.") Every one of the many letters I got from
my own people lauded Malcolm as a man, and commended me
for having spoken at his funeral.
• At the same time-and this is important most of them took
special pains to disagree with much or all of what Malcolm
said and what he stood for. That is, with one singing
exception, they all, every last, black, glory-hugging one of
them, knew that Malcolm—whatever else he was or was
not—Malcolm was a man!”
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Ossie Davis’ Eulogy
• “White folks do not need anybody to remind them that
they are men. We do! This was his one incontrovertible
benefit to his people.
– Protocol and common sense require that Negroes stand
back and let the white man speak up for us, defend us, and
lead us from behind the scene in our fight. This is the
essence of Negro politics.
• But Malcolm said to hell with that! Get up off your
knees and fight your own battles. That’s the way to
win back your self-respect. That’s the way to make the
white man respect you. And if he won’t let you live like
a man, he certainly can’t keep you from dying like
one!”
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Ossie Davis’ Eulogy
• You can imagine what a howling, shocking nuisance
this man was to both Negroes and whites. Once
Malcolm fastened on you, you could not escape.
– He was one of the most fascinating and charming men I
have ever met, and never hesitated to take his
attractiveness and beat you to death with it. Yet his
irritation, though painful to us, was most salutary. He
would make you angry as hell, but he would also make you
proud.
• It was impossible to remain defensive and apologetic
about being a negro in his presence. He wouldn’t let
you. And you always left his presence with the sneaky
suspicion that maybe, after all, you were a man!”
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• “I knew the man personally, and however much I disagreed
with him, I never doubted that Malcolm X even when he
was wrong, was always that rarest thing in the world
among us Negroes: a true man.
– And if, to protect my relations with the many good white folks
who make it possible for me to earn a fairly good living in the
entertainment industry, I was too chicken, too cautious, to
admit that fact when he was alive, I thought at least that now,
when all the white folks are safe from him at last,
• I could be honest with myself enough to lift my hat for one
final salute to that brave, black, ironic gallantry, which was
his style and hallmark; that shocking zing of fire-and-bedamned-to-you, so absolutely absent in every other Negro
man I know, which brought him, too soon, to his death.”
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