We recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther Kings’ I have a dream speech. The speech was a powerful speech. I would wager that more Americans, black or white, can quote the catch phrase of that speech — I have a dream — than any other words spoken by any other African American any where or any time.
The speech is inspirational, soaring, perhaps even transformational, but another black man in another city, speaking other words less than eight months later, gave blacks the more important, and in President Barack Hussein Obama’s America, the vitally more critical message:
Why does it look like it might be the year of the ballot or the bullet? Because Negroes have listened to the trickery and the lies and the false promises of the white man now for too long, and they’re fed up. They’ve become disenchanted. They’ve become disillusioned. They’ve become dissatisfied. And all of this has built up frustrations in the black community that makes the black community throughout America today more explosive than all of the atomic bombs the Russians can ever invent. Whenever you got a racial powder keg sitting in your lap, you’re in more trouble than if you had an atomic powder keg sitting in your lap. When a racial powder keg goes off, it doesn’t care who it knocks out the way. Understand this, it’s dangerous.
And in 1964, this seems to be the year. Because what can the white man use, now, to fool us? After he put down that March on Washington – and you see all through that now, he tricked you, had you marching down to Washington. Had you marching back and forth between the feet of a dead man named Lincoln and another dead man named George Washington, singing, “We Shall Overcome.”
He made a chump out of you. He made a fool out of you. He made you think you were going somewhere and you end up going nowhere but between Lincoln and Washington.
So today our people are disillusioned. They’ve become disenchanted. They’ve become dissatisfied. And in their frustrations they want action. And in 1964 you’ll see this young black man, this new generation, asking for the ballot or the bullet. That old Uncle Tom action is outdated. The young generation don’t want to hear anything about “the odds are against us.” What do we care about odds?
No, Malcolm X did not think much of Dr. King’s speech and, nearly half-a-century later I think Malcolm’s words are the more important. His The Ballot Or The Bullet speech was the more prophetic, the more insightful, the more meaningful, and, come next April, on the 50th anniversary of Malcolm’s words in Detroit’s King Solomon Baptist Church, in an all-important primary season as the membership of the Congress is reset, all Americans, disenfranchised by money and power and privilege, ought to remember this speech.