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Marie Atilus

20 June 2016
Analysis of The Ballot or The Bullet by Malcom X
Malcom X was an American Muslim minister and human rights activist who was known
as an African-American leader and prominent figure in the Nation of Islam, while expressing
notions of race pride and black nationalism. To his fans Malcom X was a daring believer for the
rights of black people. He accused white America in the harshest of terms for its crimes against
black Americans. To his critics and enemies Malcom X was accused of preaching racism and
violence. But he has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in
history. On April 3, 1964, Malcolm X gave his The Ballot or the Bullet speech at a meeting in
Cory Methodist Church sponsored by the Cleveland, Ohio, chapter of the Congress of Racial
Equality. It was ranked 7th in the top 100 American speeches of the 20th century by 137 leading
scholars of American public address.
The Ballot or The Bullet was about black nationalism during the current election year
of 1964. The purpose of the speech was to introduce into the minds of the black community
about becoming their own person. During this time the black community currently had the right
to vote and he saw how blacks were slowly being persuaded by the white Americans who came
into the black community to vote for who they wanted. But Malcom X wanted the black
community to vote for who they personally and genuinely felt was the right choice to benefit
them. As a huge inspiration in the black community during the mid-20th century, thousands of
people including his enemies came to hear his speech.

The speech was written as a challenge to black community to practice black nationalism
and to practice their constitutional right to vote. Malcom X uses pathos as a call and explores
black nationalism as a rhetorical tactic to get acknowledgement for racial inequality, voting
rights, and civil rights. Malcom X displayed a sort of anger towards this having the effect of
really grabbing the attention of each individual that was listening to his spoken words. This first
representation of pathos appeared when he started talking about the activities of the white man.
"The year when all of the white political crooks will be right back in your and my community
with their false promises, building up our hopes for a letdown, with their trickery and their
treachery, with their false promises which they don't intend to keep.
Stating Whether you're educated or illiterate, whether you live on the boulevard or in the
alley, you're going to catch hell just like I am. We're all in the same boat and we all are going to
catch the same hell from the same man. He just happens to be a white man. All of us have
suffered here, in this country, political oppression at the hands of the white man, economic
exploitation at the hands of the white man, and social degradation at the hands of the white
man. He has chosen to explain to his audience how they are one. All though some of them may
have different religious backgrounds or different cultural backgrounds. Choosing to show how
they are really connected. Proving that they are not truly as different as they may appear around
one another. By emphasizing the common of African Americans of all faiths, he wants them seek
for common ground, the same problem they all have. Malcolm X criticized the actions of the
white population, without any shots to appeal to them. Rather than trying to integrate the black
community into the white, he focuses on the complete separation of them. He believed that the
black population had to break the psychological, cultural, economic, and political dependency on
their oppressors.

By using strategic phrasing of his sentences that connects to his audience emotionally,
Malcom X attacks the trend of African-Americans trying to identify with White America, and
insists they identify instead with Africans, their ancestors. Accordingly, he introduces an
emotion of self-respect and self-help in his fellow African-Americans, which in turn is the
stepping stone to the freedom of the Black community. Malcom Xs emotional ties to civil rights
helped to draw a lot of attention from all races of people. Allowing the emotion to help the
audience to have a better understanding of the subject at hand. His mannerisms during his speech
caught the eye of many and it affected change in the mindsets of his audience.
Throughout his speech Malcom Xs use of radical ideas and solutions to the civil rights
problems of his day, captivated his audience. Malcolm X downright destroys his listeners' views,
using an ambiguous form of rhetoric such as harsh language that seem to degrade his audience,
while, at the same time, he increases their self-confidence subconsciously through their
emotions. In successfully convincing his audience that identifying with the white population is
not contributing to the subsequent freedom of the black community. Malcom X is able to say to
his fellow African-Americans, "It's the ballot or the bullet." a phrase that compares to a quote by
Patrick Henry which was, Give me liberty or give me death. The ballot according to Malcom
X means voting rights. But as he closes up his speech Malcom X uses one more phrase of pathos
fueling his passion with a more compassionate approach. The pathos technique was very. It is
what made him into one of the better orators in history.