“The Ballot or the Bullet“ the Speech by Malcolm X Essay

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer


Malcolm X’s speech “The Ballot or the Bullet” is focused on several themes important for describing the experiences of many African Americans in the sixties. In particular, this political activist explores such topics as the struggle of black people for their rights and the strategies that they should adopt to combat racial discrimination. Malcolm X stresses the idea that African Americans should be ready and willing to take up arms if they want to become full citizens of the United States (X 83).

Moreover, he argues that white people will never recognize the interests and needs of blacks voluntarily (X 83). Overall, Malcolm X is justified in saying that the members of a social group should be ready to fight for their rights; however, his rhetoric is flawed since it antagonizes black and white people.

Main body

Malcolm X offers several examples to support the assumption that political and economic rights cannot be asserted or defended without people’s readiness to put up active and stiff resistance to social injustice. For instance, the author discusses the American Revolutionary War. In particular, he mentions that American colonists would not have gained independence from the British Empire if they had not had the courage to be engaged in battle (X 83). Moreover, Malcolm X discusses the anti-colonial struggle of various nations that we’re able to end the rule of European countries in Asia and Africa (82). In his opinion, African Americans should adopt a similar approach to the protection of their rights.

There is another important aspect of Malcolm X’s speech; in particular, he frequently emphasizes the idea that African Americans may come into direct conflict with white people. He frequently refers to the so-called “white man” who apparently represents the social institutions perpetrating various injustices against black people (X 88). For instance, he writes, “The strategy of the white man has always been to divide and conquer” (X 88).

Furthermore, Malcolm X mentions the “trickery and “the lies” of “the white man” (83). By conjuring up this metaphorical image of the white man and describing his maliciousness, the author leads the audience to the conclusion that the confrontation between the two races is inevitable.

Some of the arguments advanced by Malcolm X are convincing; however, his line of reasoning has certain flaws. It is possible to agree with the premise that in many cases, people can achieve liberation only through struggle and even violence.

Very often, a person has no other choice but to take up arms. However, Malcolm X is mistaken in focusing only on the concepts of race and racial struggle. The author does not take into account that the social institutions established by the elite can commit injustices to many people irrespective of their race or ethnic origin. One has to acknowledge that some social groups are more strongly affected by these injustices. Nevertheless, the emphasis on race antagonizes African Americans from many other individuals and groups that were also harmed by existing social institutions.


Overall, Malcolm X’s speech stresses the importance of active resistance to various forms of racism. This political activist convincingly demonstrates people should be ready to fight for their rights. In many cases, it is the only way to compel the state to recognize its mistakes. Nonetheless, Malcolm X’s excessive focus on race can prevent black people from establishing alliances with other groups that are also harmed by unjust social institutions.

Work Cited

X, Malcolm. “The Ballot or the Bullet.” The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, edited by Henry Gates and Valerie Smith, W. W. Norton & Company, 2014, pp. 79-90.

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