The Ballot or the Bullet

At this week’s CSULA Philosophy Club meeting we will be engaging in an open discussion on Malcom X’s speech “The Ballot or the Bullet,” in which he explores the notion that life consists of either liberty or death, peace or violence, but never both.

He goes on to describe that the correct type of philosophy to have is one similar to that of Black Nationalism, a “self-help” philosophy as he refers to it.

Malcom X states,

“Black nationalism is a self-help philosophy. What’s is so good about it? You can stay right in the church where you are and still take black nationalism as your philosophy. You can stay in any kind of civic organization that you belong to and still take black nationalism as your philosophy.You can be an atheist and still take black nationalism as your philosophy. This is a philosophy that eliminates the necessity for division and argument. ‘Cause if you are black you should be thinking black, and if you are black and you not thinking black at this late date, well I’m sorry for you. Once you change your philosophy, you change your thought pattern. Once you change your thought pattern, you change your attitude. Once you change your attitude, it changes your behavior pattern and then you go on into some action. As long as you gotta sit-down philosophy, you’ll have a sit-down thought pattern, and as long as you think that old sit-down thought you’ll be in some kind of sit-down action. They’ll have you sitting in everywhere. It’s not so good to refer to what you’re going to do as a sit-in. That right there castrates you. Right there it brings you down. What goes with it? Think of the Image of someone sitting. An old woman can sit. An old man can sit. A chump can sit. A coward can sit. Anything can sit. Well you and I been sitting long enough, and it’s time today for us to start doing some standing, and some fighting to back that up.”

What I ask myself, and what we will discuss hopefully during this week’s meeting, are the following questions:

How much of what Malcom X claims can still be applicable to today’s society?

Does a “self-help” notion exist in other areas of social, political, and economic philosophies?

Can all social, political, and economic philosophies be considered a “self-help” philosophy?

These are only a few of the questions that might arise in your minds as you browse through his speech. Please come to the meeting with comments, questions, thoughts, objections, etc!  Link to the entire speech pdf is below.

The Ballot or the Bullet

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