‘Anytime you live in a society supposedly based upon law and it doesn’t enforce its own laws because the color of a man’s skin happens to be wrong, then I say those people are justified to resort to any means necessary to bring about justice when the government can’t give them justice.’ — Malcolm X
It’s as if he spoke these words today, in 2014. But he spoke them in December 1964. The most important speech of his life and nearly his last, at Oxford University.
[I]t represented the opportunity for Malcolm X to leave a last but perennial sample of his revolutionary thought ‘standing tall at the heart of the oldest, most important university of the western world.’
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Whilst Malcolm X’s myth as the young ghetto outlaw who became a radical political preacher after being released from prison is fairly well known, the important epiphany he experienced after splitting with the NOI in 1964 and undertaking regular visits to Africa and the Middle East are considerably less explored.
The reason is that his last year alive – Malcolm X was assassinated in February 21st of 1965, allegedly by members of the NOI – represented a period of rapid development of his political and philosophical thought. Given his constant travels and external concerns during the period, this moment of revision and improvement was manifested in his Oxford Union exposition. Political scientist and Malcolm X’s specialist, Saladin M. Ambar considered this presentation as ‘a near thirty-minute exposition that is perhaps the best encapsulation of Malcolm X’s ultimate views on race, American politics and what can only be called universal human rights’.
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Throughout different moments of the debate Malcolm Xrevealed his new humanitarian tendencies and his belief in key redeeming objectives such as promoting civic and human rights, overcoming ‘racialism’, uncovering the role of hegemonic media, and encouraging Pan-Africanism. This political and philosophical epiphany determined Malcolm’s approximation to figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and Kwame Nkrumah, as well as his idealization of the Organization of Afro-American Unity. The new levels of critical consciousness, organizational capacity and influence Malcolm X assumed during 1964, and which can be glimpsed in his Oxford Union speech, placed him as one of the most notable precursors of Post-colonial criticism, and one major inconvenience to conservative power in the Western world.
See for yourself why…