A Summing Up: Louis Lomax interviews Malcolm X

Louis Lomax

1963

LOMAX: Minister Malcolm, we are all by now familiar with your basic philosophy; we have heard you speak, seen you on television, and read your remarks in magazines and newspapers. By now, I think, everybody knows your position that the white man is a devil, a man incapable of doing right; you hold that the black man is of God’s divine nature, that he fell from power because of weakness; you hold further that the white man’s rule over the earth was scheduled to end in 1914, but that his end has been delayed because of the need to get the American Negro into the fold of the black brotherhood.

MALCOLM X: Yes, sir, that is what The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us. The white devil’s time is up; it has been up for almost fifty years now. It has taken us that long to get the deaf, dumb, and blind black men in the wilderness of North America to wake up and understand who they are. You see, sir, when a man understands who he is, who God is, who the devil is… then he can pick himself up out of the gutter; he can clean himself up and stand up like a man should before his God. This is why we teach that in order for a man to really understand himself he must be part of a nation; he must have some land of his own, a God of his own, a language of his own. Most of all he must have love and devotion for his own kind.

LOMAX: Wouldn’t you say the Negro has a nation–America?

MALCOLM X: Sir, how can a Negro say America is his nation? He was brought here in chains; he was put in slavery an worked like a mule for three hundred years; he was separated from his land, his culture, his God, his language!

The Negro was taught to speak the white man’s tongue, worship the white God, and accept the white man as his superior.

This is a white man’s country. And the Negro is nothing but an ex-slave who is now trying to get himself integrated into the slave master’s house.

And the slave master doesn’t want you! You fought and bled and died in every war the white man waged, and he still won’t give you justice. You nursed his baby and cleaned behind his wife, and he still won’t give you freedom; you turned the other cheek while he lynched you and raped your women, but he still won’t give you equality. Now, you integration-minded Negroes are trying to force yourselves on your former slave master, trying to make him accept you in his drawing room; you want to hang out with his women rather than the women of your own kind.

LOMAX: Are you suggesting that all of us who fight for integration are after a white woman?

MALCOLM X: I wouldn’t say all of you, but let the evidence speak for itself. Check up on these integration leaders, and you will find that most of them are either married to or hooked up with some white woman. Take that meeting between James Baldwin and Robert Kennedy; practically everybody there was interracially married. Harry Belafonte is married to a white woman; Lorraine Hansberry is married to a white man; Lena Horne is married to a white man.

Now how can any Negro, man or woman, who sleeps with a white person speak for me? No black person married to a white person can speak for me!

LOMAX: Why?

MALCOLM X: Why? Because only a man who is ashamed of what he is will marry out of his race. There has to be something wrong when a man or a woman leaves his own people and marries somebody of another kind. Men who are proud of being black marry black women; women who are proud of being black marry black men.

This is particularly true when you realize that these Negroes who go for integration and intermarriage are linking up with the very people who lynched their fathers, raped their mothers, and put their kid sisters in the kitchen to scrub floors. Why would any black man in his right mind want to marry a lyncher, a murderer, a rapist, a dope peddler, a gambler, a hog eater… Why would any black man want to marry a devil… for that’s just what the white man is.

LOMAX: I have heard you say that a thousand times, but it always jolts me. Why do you call the white man a devil?

MALCOLM X: Because that’s what he is. What do you want me to call him, a saint? Anybody who rapes, and plunders, and enslaves, and steals, and drops hell bombs on people… anybody who does these things is nothing but a devil.

Look, Lomax, history rewards all research. And history fails to record one single instance in which the white man –as a people–did good. They have always been devils; they always will be devils, and they are about to be destroyed. The final proof that they are devils lies in the fact that they are about to destroy themselves. Only a devil–and a stupid devil at that–would destroy himself!

Now why would I want to integrate with somebody marked for destruction?

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us to get away from the devil as soon and as fast as we can. This is why we are demanding a separate state. Tell the slave master we will no longer beg for crumbs from his table; let him give us some land of our own so we can go for ourselves. If he doesn’t give us some land, there is going to be hell to pay. As I said at Howard University and at Queens College, once the white man let the Negro get an education, the Negro began to want what the white man has. But he let Negroes get an education and now they are demanding integration; they want to have exactly what he has. And the white man is not going to give it to them!

LOMAX: But we have made some gains…

MALCOLM X: What gains? All you have gotten is tokenism–one or two Negroes in a job or at a lunch counter so the rest of you will be quiet. It took the United States Army to get one Negro into the University of Mississippi; it took troops to get a few Negroes in the white schools at Little Rock and another dozen places in the South. It has been nine years since the Supreme Court decision outlawing segregated schools, yet less than ten per cent of the Negro students in the South are in integrated schools. That isn’t integration, that’s tokenism! In spite of all the dogs, and fire hoses, and club-swinging policemen, I have yet to read of anybody eating an integrated hamburger in Birmingham.

You Negroes are not willing to admit it yet, but integration will not work. Why, it is against the white man’s nature to integrate you into his house. Even if he wanted to, he could no more do it than a Model T can sprout wings and fly. It just isn’t in him.

Now The Honorable Elijah Muhammad says it would be the easiest thing in the world for the white man to destroy all Black Muslims. We contend that the white man is a devil. If he is not a devil, let him prove it!

He can’t do it, Lomax; it isn’t in him; it is against his nature.

He’ll keep on granting tokenism; a few big Negroes will get big jobs, but the black masses will catch hell as long as they stay in the white man’s house.

The only possible way out for the white man is to give us some land of our own; let us get out, get away from his wicked reign and go for ourselves.

But the white man will not do that, either. He is going to keep you integration-minded Negroes cooped up here in this country, and when you discover that the white man is a trickster, a devil, that he has no intentions of integrating, then you Negroes will run wild. That will be the time…

LOMAX: The time for what?

MALCOLM X: Only The Honorable Elijah Muhammad can answer that!

LOMAX: This is strong gospel, Minister Malcolm; many people, Negro and white, say what you preach amounts to hate, that your theology is actually anti-Semitic. What is your comment to that?

MALCOLM X: The white people who are guilty of white supremacy are trying to hide their own guilt by accusing The Honorable Elijah Muhammad of teaching black supremacy when he tries to uplift the mentality, the social, mental and economic condition of the black people in this country. Jews who have been guilty of exploiting the black people in this country, economically, civically, and otherwise, hide behind–hide their guilt by accusing The Honorable Elijah Muhammad of being anti-Semitic, simply because he teaches our people to go into business for ourselves and take over the economic leadership in our own community. And since the white people collectively have practiced the worst form of hatred against Negroes in this country and they know that they are guilty of it, now when The Honorable Elijah Muhammad comes along and begins to list the historic deed–the historic attitude, the historic behavior of the white man in this country toward the black people in this country, again, the white people are so guilty and they can’t stop doing these things to make Mr. Muhammad appear to be wrong, so they hide their wrong by saying “he is teaching hatred.” History is not hatred. Actually we are Muslims because we believe in the religion of Islam. We believe in one God. We believe Muhammad is the Apostle of God. We practice the principles of the religion of Islam, which mean prayer, charity, fasting, brotherhood, and The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us that since the Western society is deteriorating, it has become overrun with immorality, that God is going to judge it and destroy it, and the only way the black people who are in this society can be saved is not to integrate into this corrupt society but separate ourselves from it, reform ourselves, lift up our moral standards and try and be godly–try to integrate with God–instead of trying to integrate with the white man, or try and imitate God instead of trying to imitate the white man.

LOMAX: It is suggested also that your movement preaches violence.

MALCOLM X: No, sir. The black people of this country have been victims of violence at the hands of the white men for four hundred years, and following the ignorant Negro preachers, we have thought that it was godlike to turn the other cheek to the brute that was brutalizing us. Today The Honorable Elijah Muhammad is showing black people in this country that, just as the white man and every other person on this earth has God-given rights, natural rights, civil rights, any kind of rights that you can think of, when it comes to defending himself, black people–we should have the right to defend ourselves also. And, because The Honorable Elijah Muhammad makes black people brave enough, men enough to defend ourselves no matter what the odds are, the white man runs around here with a doctrine that Mr. Muhammad is advocating the violence when he is actually telling Negroes to defend themselves against violent people.

LOMAX: Reverend Martin Luther King teaches a doctrine of nonviolence. What is your attitude toward this philosophy?

MALCOLM X: The white man supports Reverend Martin Luther King, subsidizes Reverend Martin Luther King, so that Reverend Martin Luther King can continue to teach the Negroes to be defenseless–that’s what you mean by nonviolent–be defenseless in the face of one of the most cruel beasts that has ever taken people into captivity–that’s this American white man, and they have proved it throughout the country by the police dogs and the police clubs. A hundred years ago they used to put on a white sheet and use a bloodhound against Negroes. Today they have taken off the white sheet and put on police uniforms and traded in the bloodhounds for police dogs, and they’re still doing the same thing. Just as Uncle Tom, back during slavery used to keep the Negroes from resisting the bloodhound or resisting the Ku Klux Klan by teaching them to love their enemies or pray for those who use them despitefully, today Martin Luther King is just a twentieth-century or modern Uncle Tom or religious Uncle Tom, who is doing the same thing today to keep Negroes defenseless in the face of attack that Uncle Tom did on the plantation to keep those Negroes defenseless in the face of the attack of the Klan in that day.

Now the goal of Dr. Martin Luther King is to give Negroes a chance to sit in a segregated restaurant beside the same white man who has brutalized them for four hundred years. The goal of Martin Luther King is to get the Negroes to forgive the people the people who have brutalized them for four hundred years, by lulling them to sleep and making them forget what those whites have done to them, but the masses of black people today don’t go for what Martin Luther King is putting down.

LOMAX: Minister Malcolm, you often speak of unity among our people. Unity for what?

MALCOLM X: The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us that God now is about to establish a kingdom on this earth based upon brotherhood and peace, and the white man is against brotherhood and the white man is against peace. His history on this earth has proved that. Nowhere in history has he been brotherly toward anyone. The only time he is brotherly toward you is when he can use you, when he can exploit you, when he will oppress you, when you will submit to him, and since his own history makes him unqualified to be an inhabitant or citizen in the kingdom of brotherhood, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us that God is about to eliminate that particular race from this earth. Since they are due for elimination, we don’t want to be with them. We are not going to integrate with that which we know has come to the end of its rope. We are trying to separate from it and get with something that is more lasting, and we think that God is more lasting than the white man.

LOMAX: Then your movement does not share the integration goals of the NAACP, CORE, Martin Luther King’s movement, and the Student Nonviolent movement.

MALCOLM X: You don’t integrate with a sinking ship. You don’t do anything to further your stay aboard a ship that you see is going to go down to the bottom of the ocean. Moses tried to separate his people from Pharaoh, and when he tried, the magicians tried to fool the people into staying with the Pharaoh, and we look upon these other organizations that are trying to get Negroes to integrate with this doomed white man as nothing but modern-day magicians, and The Honorable Elijah Muhammad is a modern-day Moses trying to separate us from the modern-day Pharaoh. Until the white man in America sits down and talks with The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, he won’t even know what the race problem–what makes the race problem what it is. Just like Pharaoh couldn’t get a solution to his problem until he talked to Moses, or Nebuchadnezzar or Belshazzar couldn’t get a solution to his problem until he talked to Daniel, the white man in America today will never understand the race problem or come anywhere near getting a solution to the race problem until he talks to The Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Mr. Muhammad will give him God’s analysis, not some kind of political analysis or psychologist’s analysis, or some kind of clergyman’s analysis, but God’s analysis. That’s the analysis that Moses gave Pharaoh, that’s the analysis that Daniel gave Belshazzar. Today we have a modern Belshazzar and a modern Pharaoh sitting in Washington D.C.

LOMAX: I am struck by the fact that each of the biblical figures you mentioned–Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and Belshazzar–came to a rather sorry end. Are you willing to complete the analogy and say the American white establishment will come to a bitter end, perhaps be destroyed?

MALCOLM X: I have spoken on this many times, and I am sure you know what The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches on this. But since we are on record I will–as they sometimes say in Harlem–make it plain.

Now, sir, God is going to punish this wicked devil for his misdeeds toward black people. Just as plagues were visited on Pharaoh so will pestilences and disasters be visited on the white man. Why, it has already started: God has begun to send them heat when they expect cold; he sends them cold when they expect heat. Their crops are dying, their children are being born with all kinds of deformities, the rivers and lakes are coming out of the belly of the earth to wash them away.

Not only that, but God has started slapping their planes down from the sky. Last year [1962] God brought down one of their planes loaded with crackers whose fathers had lynched your and my brothers and sisters. They were from your state, Lomax, down there in Georgia where both you and Mr. Muhammad come from. Now, long before that plane crash I predicted [in Los Angeles] that God was going to strike back at the devil for the way white cops brutalized our brothers in Los Angeles. When the plane fell, I said this was God’s way of letting his wrath be known. I said much the same thing when that submarine–the Thresher–went down to the bottom of the sea. Now for this I was called–names some of these Uncle Tom Negroes rushed into print to condemn me for what I had said. But what was wrong with what I said? Everybody has a God and believes that his God will deliver him and protect him from his enemies! Why can’t the black man have a God? What’s so wrong when a black man says his God will protect him form his white foe? If Jehovah can slay Philistines for the Jews, why can’t Allah slay crackers for the so-called Negro?

LOMAX: Is that the reasoning behind your remark after the assassination of President Kennedy? You are reported to have said that Kennedy’s death was an instance of “chickens coming home to roost.”

MALCOLM X: Yes, but let’s clear up what I said, I did not say that Kennedy’s death was a reason for rejoicing. That is not what I meant at all. Rather I meant that the death of Kennedy was the result of a long line of violent acts, the culmination of hate and suspicion and doubt in this country. You see, Lomax, this country has allowed white people to kill and brutalize those they don’t like. The assassination of Kennedy is a result of that way of life and thinking. The chickens came home to roost; that’s all there is to it. America–at the death of the President–just reaped what it had been sowing.

LOMAX: But you were disciplined for making these remarks; The Honorable Elijah Muhammad has publicly rebuked you and has ordered you not to speak in public until further notice.

MALCOLM X: This is true. I was wrong; the Messenger had warned me not to say anything about the death of the President, and I omitted any reference to that tragedy in my main speech. But during a question-and-answer period someone asked about the meaning of the Kennedy assassination, and I said it was a case of chickens coming home to roost. Now about that suspension–it’s just as if you have cut off a radio. The radio is still there, but it makes no sound. You can cut it back on when it pleases you.

LOMAX: How long do you think this suspension will last?

MALCOLM X: Only The Honorable Elijah Muhammad can answer that. I don’t think it will be permanent.

LOMAX: Then you do expect to return to your duties?

MALCOLM X: Yes, sir.

LOMAX: And you will continue to preach separation from the white man?

MALCOLM X: Yes, sir.

LOMAX: Just a moment, if I may, Minister Malcolm. Now, you talk about separation from the white man.

MALCOLM X: Yes, sir.

LOMAX: You even take it so far as to suggest that we shouldn’t even get on airplanes and ships with white people. Am I correct in that?

MALCOLM X: Yes, sir, on the whole. Yes.

LOMAX: But Minister Malcolm, few people, Negro or white, travel as much as you and I do. You spend much of your life getting on and off aircraft. Don’t you fear that you just might be aboard when God sees fit to slap down a jet and kill a few score white people?

MALCOLM X: Sir, my faith in God is such that I am not afraid. I know that I will not die until my time comes. But if I am aboard one of these vessels I will be happy to give my life to see some of these white devils die. Like Samson, I am ready to pull down the white man’s temple, knowing full well that I will be destroyed by the falling rubble.

LOMAX: But Minister Malcolm, you make no accommodation for the changes that have come about as a result of the Negro Revolt. What do you think will be the results of the current demonstration against segregation?

MALCOLM X: Lomax, as you know, these Negro leaders have been telling the white man everything is all right, everything is under control, and they have been telling the white man that Mr. Muhammad is wrong, don’t listen to him. But every thing that Mr. Muhammad has been saying is going to come to pass, is now coming to pass. Now the Negro leaders are standing up saying that we are about to have a racial explosion. You’re going to have a racial explosion, and a racial explosion is more dangerous than an atomic explosion. It’s going to explode because black people are dissatisfied; they’re dissatisfied not only with the white man, but they’re dissatisfied with these Negroes who have been sitting around here posing as leaders and spokesmen for black people and actually making the problem worse instead of making the problem better.

LOMAX: Do you deny that Negroes are now getting the protection of the Federal Government; after all, both the President and the Attorney General have come to our aid.

MALCOLM X: You never will get protection from the Federal Government. Just like King is asking Kennedy to go to Alabama to stand in a doorway–to put his body in a doorway. That’s like asking the fox to protect you from the wolf! The masses of black people can see this, and it is only the Negro leadership, the bourgeois, hand-picked, handful of Negroes who think that they’re going to get some kind of respect, recognition, or protection from the Government. The Government is responsible for what is happening to black people in this country. The President has power. You notice he didn’t send any troops into Birmingham to protect the Negroes when the dogs were biting the Negroes. The only time he sent troops into Birmingham was when the Negroes erupted, and then the President sent the troops in there, not to protect the Negroes, but to protect them white people down there from those erupting Negroes.

LOMAX: Are not Negroes American citizens?

MALCOLM X: If they were citizens, you wouldn’t have a race problem. If the Emancipation Proclamation was authentic, you wouldn’t have a race problem. If the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution were authentic, you wouldn’t have a race problem. If the Supreme Court desegregation decision was authentic, you wouldn’t have a race problem. All of this hypocrisy that has been practiced by the so-called white so-called liberal for the past four hundred years that compounds the problem, makes it more complicated, instead of eliminating the problem.

LOMAX: What, then, do you see as the final result of all these demonstrations?

MALCOLM X: Any time you put too many sparks around a powder keg, the thing is going to explode, and if the things that explodes is still inside the house, then the house will be destroyed. So The Honorable Elijah Muhammad is telling the white man, “Get this powder keg out of your house–let the black people in this country separate from you, while there’s still time.” If the black man is allowed to separate and go into some land of his own where he can solve his own problems, there won’t be any explosion, and the Negroes who want to stay with the white man, let them stay with the white man–but those who want to leave, let them go to The Honorable Elijah Muhammad.

LOMAX: Now that you have mentioned The Messenger, I would like to ask you about this article in the [New York] Amsterdam News

MALCOLM X: It’s a lie. Any article that says there is a “minor” difference between Mr. Muhammad and me is a lie. How could there be any difference between The Messenger and me? I am his slave, his servant, his son. He is the leader, the only spokesman for the Black Muslims.

But I will tell you this: The Messenger has seen God. He was with Allah and was given divine patience with the devil. He is willing to wait for Allah to deal with this devil. Well, sir, the rest of us Black Muslims have not seen God, we don’t have this gift of divine patience with the devil. The younger Black Muslims want to see some action.

LOMAX: What kind of action?

MALCOLM X: Some things are better done than said.

LOMAX: According to your own newspaper, one of the things you Muslims may do in the near future is vote.

MALCOLM X: Yes. After long and prayerful consideration, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad allowed us to announce the possibility of Muslims voting. The announcement came at our annual Saviour’s Day Convention in Chicago.

LOMAX: What does it mean?

MALCOLM X: Mr. Muhammad is the only one who can explain that fully. However, I can say that we may register and be ready to vote. Then we will seek out candidates who represent our interests and support them. They need not be Muslims; what we want are race men who will speak out for our people.

LOMAX: There are rumors that you may run against Adam Clayton Powell.

MALCOLM X: Why must I run against a Negro? We have had enough of Negroes running against and fighting with each other. The better bet is that we would put a Muslim candidate in the field against a devil, somebody who is against all we stand for.

LOMAX: What are the chances of Black Muslims joining us in picket lines for better jobs?…

MALCOLM X: As I told you, only Mr. Muhammad can answer that. But let me tell you something: Better jobs and housing are only temporary solutions. They are aspects of tokenism and don’t go to the heart of the problem.

This is why integration will not work. It assumes that the two races, black and white, are equal and can be made to live as one. This is not true.

The white man is by nature a devil and must be destroyed. The black man will inherit the earth; he will resume control, taking back the position he held centuries ago when the white devil was crawling around the caves of Europe on his all fours. Before the white devil came into our lives we had a civilization, we had a culture, we were living in silks and satins. Then he put us in chains and put us aboard the “Good Ship Jesus,” and we have lived in hell ever since.

Now the white man’s time is over. Tokenism will not help him, and it will doom us. Complete separation will save us–and who knows, it might make God decide to give the white devil a few more years.

 

Lomax, Louis E. “A Summing Up: Louis Lomax Interviews Malcolm X.” When the Word Is Given: a Report on Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and the Black Muslim World.

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