The Archives: Malcolm X On Black Self-Sufficiency

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Screen shot from 1960s television interview.

[On Empowerment]

Excerpt from an interview from the 1960s. Reporter unidentified.
Part One.

Reporter: Well how can the Black man develop himself as a separate society?
Malcolm X: Well it's easy, he's separate already. The fact that you have Harlem. The fact that you have the Negro ghetto and the so-called slum. He's already separate.
The fact that he's a second class citizen is a political separation. The fact that he's the last hired and the first fired is an economic separation. Only in this form of separation, the Black man is exploited. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad says we should be separate all right, but in this separate state, or separate existence, the Black man should be given the opportunity and the incentive to do for himself what the White man has done for himself.

You have an all-White neighborhood you don't call it a segregated neighborhood; but you call an all-Black neighborhood a segregated neighborhood. Why? Because the segregated neighborhood is the one that's controlled from the outside by others. But a separate neighborhood is a neighborhood that is independent, it's equal, it can stand on its own two feet.  Such as the White neighborhood. It's an independent, free neighborhood; free community. They're not trying to force themselves upon anyone socially or otherwise. But the Negro neighborhood, which is inferior, is begging for a chance to integrate itself into that which is superior, which is not going to happen, it's going to cause trouble.

Q:  Well in other words then you think that the Negro has first to raise himself to a status of equality with the White community?
A:  Yes.

Q:  Now what happens? Assuming that he can do that, would you then be in favor of integration, let's say of the schools?
A:  When you are equal with another person the problem of integration doesn't even arise. It doesn't come up. I mean, Chinese in this country aren't asking for integration. The Japanese aren't asking for integration. The only minority in America that's asking for integration is the so-called Negro. Primarily because he is inferior, not inherently inferior, but economically, socially, politically inferior. And this exists because he has never tried to stand on his own two feet and do something for himself. He has filled the role of a beggar.

Q: But how, from a practical point of view, can the Negro be self sufficient?
A: The Honorable Elijah Muhammad says, number one, he must have a knowledge of himself, and this gives him confidence in himself. He has been brain-washed by the educational system that exists here in America to the point where he feels he was a savage in the jungle, before he was brought here and this destroys his morale.
So, the number one thing that has to be done, he has to be re-taught, he has to be re-educated and made to know that he's a man like anyone else and then he can stand on his own two feet like others have done.

I might add, the Whites who came here say 50 years ago, as immigrants, they have set up businesses, they have developed these businesses into an industry. Some of them came here as poor immigrants, un-educated and yet today they are economically independent.

Now the Black man here, was so-called freed by Lincoln 100 years ago. The Black man in America has a purchasing power of $20 billion dollars now, and he's educated. If the White man come come here uneducated, and as an immigrant, and within 10 or 15 years set up an industry that provides job opportunities and educational opportunities for Black people, then the Black man, the Black leadership that has access to all of this money and has all of these degrees today, can't use his talent and his know-how to set up businesses and business opportunities, job opportunities, housing opportunities for the Black people the same as the White leaders have done for White people than these Black leaders need to get off the boat.

They're not leading our people towards any kind of independence, but they are using their positions, and their education and their talents to exploit our people worse than the slave masters did during slavery.

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