Malcolm X's The Ballot Or The Bullet

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Flipping through today’s radio stations, a person can experience all varieties of music, ranging from hip hop to country. Although these genres captivate distinct listeners, they are all composed of a melody, a rhythm, and a beat. Oral tradition endowed this recipe that began when history was recited with passion and pride. Yet this presentation is no one-sided affair. As speakers unearthed the past, they also entertained as a reward for their listeners. Many orators today still mimic this crowd-pleasing approach. During the heated civil rights movement, however, inattentive crowds proved entertainment was not an option. Malcolm X realized this futility, and he labored to engross with the truth in his 1964 speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet,”…show more content…
It provides the rhythm of the speech and adds logos to the argument. X harnesses this logic to publicize the white man’s failures: “The white man can never win another war...Why some rice farmers...ran him out of Korea…The same thing happened in Algeria, in Africa” (X). By maneuvering historical events, he establishes a chain argument that passion, rather than technology, wins revolts, going so far as to compare his tactics and beliefs to those of the American Revolution. Both are “tired of taxation without representation, tired of being exploited” (X). Logically equating these standards, he extends premises that his opposition to modern day taxation without representation validates his likeness to liberty and justice. Yet just reporting these ideas was never enough for Malcolm X. Uniform inaction and political apathy damns the movement. He complains, “The Negro vote is the key factor...The Party that you [blacks] backed controls two-thirds [of the government], and still they can’t keep their promises” (X). X fairly assumes that black oppression is supported through black votes. Explaining the numbers for this, he guilts the audience into action. These unwavering calculations, unlike emotions, cannot be…show more content…
Repetition ensures that each listener can leave the rally with at least one memory of intense emotion. For X, this emotion is anger that he stresses through repeating, “I’m not” (X). This phrase, accompanied with a jarring claim, attains its place within every black man, woman, or child as it echoes in the church. The staccato of the syntax, however, is no gospel, but a war chant for an audience much larger than the black population. Reiterating the second person point of view, X singles out each of the many ears, “You can’t open...You the one” to bind the listeners (X). These personalized greetings roused whites for war, stirred blacks for revolt, and intimidated enemies for captivity. While the intimidation constitutes the speech as militant, X constantly grants blacks a voluntary choice for either the “ballot or the bullet” (X). This choice symbolizes the schism between equality and submissiveness, emphasized by its abruptness. Condensing the lengthy speech to three words, the curtness renders urgency for blacks to choose action and claim their dominance. These refrains may be no seraphic hymns, but they still settle in history as some of the most memorable repetitions, as well as some of the most

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