Editors note: in the wake of the Seattle Police Department killing of pregnant black woman Charleena Lyles, we decided to republish an excerpt of this brilliant essay by DGR member Kourtney Andar.
On June 28, 1964, Malcolm X gave a speech at the Founding Rally of the Organization for Afro-American Unity (OAAU) at the Audubon Ballroom in New York. In the speech, he stated what became his most famous quote:
We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.
Interestingly, X was popularizing a line from a play titled Dirty Hands by the French intellectual Jean-Paul Sartre, which debuted in 1948:
I was not the one to invent lies: they were created in a society divided by class and each of us inherited lies when we were born. It is not by refusing to lie that we will abolish lies: it is by eradicating class by any means necessary.
There are some really important ideas presented in both of these quotes. Sartre succinctly summarized the primary struggle for the socially conscious – that society as we know it is divided into classes, and that social change is not achieved merely by refusing to behave like dominant classes, but by ultimately dismantling the power structures upholding this stratification.
X’s spin on this was equally profound. The white power structure of his time enacted brutal and morally reprehensible repression on the masses of black people in the United States, and X was stating the very real yet existential condition: that this repression was a dehumanizing tactic, upheld by violence and enslavement, and that the response to this repression must equal the scope of the problem. Simply put, white supremacism will use any and all means necessary to maintain power, and thus those fighting against it must do the same.
Read the rest of the article on the DGR News Service.
We’re also republishing here an excellent response that Kourtney wrote to a comment on the article: