Home Deliberation Malcom X : An Answer To White Racial Supremacy And Benevolent Colonialism

Malcom X : An Answer To White Racial Supremacy And Benevolent Colonialism

Malcolm X clarifies that the Black community is not into judging the Whites because they are white and, for the Blacks, the worst evil is judging based on someone's colour.


This article is a collaborative review of two of the most powerful speeches by Malcolm X. The undeniable significance of these addresses is that both were delivered prior to his assassination in 1965. “Not just an American Problem, but a world problem” and “Why I am not an American” sum up Malcolm X’s entire political career. The names by which the speeches have become known are  two remarkable dialogues during the speeches. It essentially informs what his cause was all about and why necessarily he dedicated his time and energy to something. The speeches aim at discussing racism and black nationalism, if taken in a holistic way.

Towards the beginning of one of his speeches, he quotes his experience of being prevented by the French government to enter their country. He dwells into the question of what made them turn him away, as France is known to be a very liberal country. Trying to analyze this instance and the reason that prompted such an action, he made a point that United States, England and France are tensed to have a less-publicized common problem today. In order to understand this, he explains who is an Afro-American. Afro-Americans are anybody of African ancestry living in the continent of America; in the Western hemisphere that stretches from the northernmost tip of North America to the southernmost tip of South America. To further understand this ‘common problem’, he points to four spheres of influence which concerns the black people, in terms of their areas of colonizing. These are namely Spanish, French, British and the rest being United States. The area that was colonized by Spain is commonly known as Latin America, with a considerable number of dark-skinned population. The area colonized by the French in the Western Hemisphere is known as French West Indies, and the area colonized by the British is called as British West Indies, and the last one being the American state. This would lead to four different classifications of Black people. Due to favourable economic conditions of England and France, many Black people from the British West Indies have been migrating to Britain; and similar conditions in France made Black people from French West Indies to migrate to France. Spain, losing its influence on world economy, hasn’t attracted many Black people from the Spanish sphere of influence.

Malcolm X virtually draws all of these statistical data to his audience to explain that there is a common problem haunting the three major allies of United States, Britain, and France. Also, the African continent had been witnessing democratic revolutions for the past decade.[1] The change in the political awakening which necessarily led these countries to Independence had also altered the kind of ‘mood’[2] of the Black people in the Western Hemisphere into a certain political consciousness. So, these people started posing a problem to the countries they migrate to, and they posed a greater threat to the United States because of the twenty-two million population already there. Malcolm X recognises that the only difference between these major allies, with regard to the concerns of the Black community, is that many Black leaders have already risen up in the States to also frighten the American Whites with so much of militancy.

The string of gaining Independence in the African continent, which did not allow any colonial powers to stay there any longer, had been so strong that, in Malcolm X’s words, “they were able to burn and sting anything that got in its path.”[3] Nevertheless, this bright flame did not stop itself in the continent, rather it was spread steadfastly into Western Hemisphere and instilled Black nationalism in the minds of a large community of Blacks, who were separated from the African continent for almost four centuries. He observed a new spirit in the Black men of not letting themselves to be oppressed anymore, and to indulge in activities of tit-for-tat that came out of defense mechanism against the oppressor.

Despite all these radical makings of history, the European colonial powers did not want to leave the continent. Instead, America had to replace these huge colonizers as to continue with the structure of oppression. But, the Afro-Americans had already been planted with a sense of nationalism as a result of the rapid turn out of events. Therefore, Malcolm X asserted, the States came up with a different strategy to maintain a structure of systemic oppression that was internationally deemed important by the Colonial powers – the friendly approach. He uses the term ‘benevolent colonialism’ to refer to a kind of disguised colonialism which starts off with the oppressor trying to persuade the oppressor into convincing them that they aren’t going to oppress the latter.

Malcolm X called Ghana one of the most progressive nations on the African continent, also because the then President Kwame Nkrumeh was engaged in what could be called a paradigm shift of the African image. By making the African proud of the African image, he is restoring the same. Consequently, the Afro-Americans started to increasingly associate themselves with this emerging image of Africa. This eventuality had the potential to work against the colonizer in a way that the White Americans knew that maintaining the negative image of Africa was a way to rule over them, which was no longer the case.

Moving on the topic of elitism within the Black community, Black people in the good books of White Americans raised suspicion amongst others. Any Black man will not be commended remarkable by the Americans if he is actually working for the betterment of the Black community. Tokenism, in this particular context, was designed to protect the benefits of a negligible number of handpicked Negroes. These people were used by the oppressor to show the international community of the progress the Black community were making. He accuses this handful of Negroes of getting well along with the majoritarian White community, while the rest were surviving in the ghettos.

Malcolm X calls himself a victim of America and ‘Americanism’. He stresses on how whatever the White American does cannot be related with by the Black.; and whatever is pointed to as the American ‘dream’ is nothing but an American ‘nightmare’ for twenty-two millions of Afro-Americans. When he went to Nigeria once, he was given a new name – Omowale – which meant that ‘the child has returned’. All of these added to the reasons that made him famously convey that being from America does not make him an American. He continues to say that America is a colonial power and that second class citizenship is being used to cover the reality of slavery. As he emphasizes, “What is second class citizenship if nothing but twentieth century colonialism?”[4]

Dismissing the concerns over reverse-racism, Malcolm X clarifies that the Black community is not into judging the Whites because they are white and, for the Blacks, the worst evil is judging based on someone’s colour. This fight will be against Whites as long as the supremacist community continues to hold and practice oppression, segregation, or discrimination against the Afro-Americans. Standing in the platform of Organisation of Afro-American Unity[5], Malcolm X urges all African leaders in the African continent to forget the differences between them to work in a united platform for the better good of the Afro-Americans. The problems faced by the community in both the continents needed to be understood mutually, and that the Afro-Americans are their long-lost family. He critically refers to them being Afro-Americans as something that happened “not by choice, but only by a cruel accident in our history”[6].

The Press contributed to the spread of hate against the Black community. For the racists to gain their popularity and acceptance, Malcolm X emphasizes, the White made use of the Press to portray the Afro-Americans as violent. He says, “We’re not for violence. We’re for peace. But, the people we’re up against are for violence. You can’t be be peaceful when you’re dealing with them.”[7]

In order to carry out the White supremacy over the Blacks, the Americans have developed their criminal processes into a science. The Press has manipulated the existence of small anti-racism gangs into anti-White gangs when Malcolm X has already dismissed the question of reverse racism. When the Americans want to unleash their suppression on the Black community, they take the statistics and publish it to the masses and make it look like the crimes sponsored by the Black community is larger than anything else. This science of ‘image-making’[8] is used to convince the rest of the marginal population of non-racist White community about this structure of oppression, so that the structure remains intact. Taking the example of a riot that happened in Harlem[9], he critiques the way in which the Press portrays Blacks as hoodlums and criminals, because they abducted properties. Malcolm X does not outrule that accusation of property destruction, but rather he clarifies what Blacks did and the causes for the same. The Black community does not own any means of property, but is in turn exploited economically and politically. This frustration which is institutionalized within this oppressive system causes the Black men to destroy whatever economic property that is around them but is not theirs. Malcolm X directs his conclusion at the Whites in the same speech saying, “He wants to get at you, but you’re not there.” Harlem is also one of the villages which is called ‘rebel-held’ by the Press, because of the Black majority population there.

Malcolm X concludes both his speeches in a similar, but not identical, way that the question of the civil and political rights of the Afro-Americans was never a Negro problem or simply that of an American problem. It had to be contested on humanitarian grounds and had to be dealt with internationally. Also, ‘civil rights’ being under the jurisdiction of the government prevent others in the United States to address the problem as one such problem. Therefore, they resort to calling it a ‘human rights’ grievance so that it comes under a charter of the United Nations. Finally, he says that knowing the oppressor and the oppression for four centuries has made the community assert their right to self-defense by any means necessary.


[1] This time reference is with regard to the time that the speech was delivered.

[2] Malcolm X uses the term ‘mood’ to refer to the change in the political awakening thought.

[3] Malcolm X’s address titled ‘Not Just An American Problem, But A World Problem’, delivered at the Corn Hill Methodist Church Rochester, New York, February 1965.

[4] Malcolm X’s address titled ‘Why I Am Not An American’, delivered at the University of Ghana, 1964.

[5] OAAU was founded by Malcolm X in 1964, and is patterned after the letter and spirit of the organisation. This was after he left the Nation of Islam, and founded the organisation of Muslim Mosque.

[6] This was when Malcolm X was appealing to the leaders of the African states, in his address at the University of Ghana, 1964.

[7] Malcolm X’s address titled ‘Not Just An American Problem, But A World Problem’, 1965.

[8] Malcolm X employs the term ‘image-making’ to refer to the manipulation of facts by the oppressive Whites against the Afro-Americans.

[9] Harlem is referred to as ‘little Africa’ by the Whites, as Malcolm X puts it, because of the remarkable population of the Afro-American community there.

Also read Violence And Self: Malcolm X As A Muslim Revolutionary