Blacks as ‘Chumps’: Words from Malcolm X

When I was a student at Western Michigan University in the late 1960s, every freshman had to take a reading class. Each week we read one book. Each week we were tested on that one book. There were no classes. Read a book . . . take a test. That’s my kind of education. I had a writing class that was similar. Write a paper. Slip it under the professor’s door on Tuesday. Meet with him personally on Thursday.

I remember three books from the reading class: E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Memories of the other books are lost in the dark shadows of my mind.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X impressed me. It’s stuck with me for 44 years. You could see the change in the man, going from the hustler “Detroit Red” to a mature family man who came to realize that he had been duped by his religion and political promises. Malcolm would decry the way Blacks have become wards of the State. It was his goal to liberate Blacks from their past and the political promises for their future.

The text below is from a speech that Malcolm X gave during Lyndon Johnson’s administration. Some of the elements can be found in his famous “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech that he delivered on April 3, 1964 at Cory Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio:

The government itself has failed us, and the White Liberals who have been posing as our friends have failed us. Once we see that all these other sources to which we have turned have failed, we stop turning to them and start turning to ourselves.

You are the one who sent Kennedy to Washington. You’re the one who put the present Democratic administration in Washington, D.C. The Whites were evenly divided. It was the fact that you threw 80% of your votes behind the Democrats that put the Democrats in the White House. When you see this, you can see that the Negro vote is the key factor. And despite the fact that you are in a position to be the determining factor, what do you get out of it?

Democrats have been in Washington, D.C. only because of the Negro vote. They’ve been down there 4 years and all the legislation they wanted to bring up they brought up and got it out of the way, and now they bring up you. You put them first and they put you last, cause you are a chump (huge applause). A political chump.

In Washington, D.C. in the House of Representatives there are 257 who are Democrats. Only 177 are Republican. In the Senate there are 67 Democrats, only 33 are Republicans. The Party that you backed, controls two-thirds of the House of Representatives and the Senate and still they can’t keep their promise to you, ’cause you’re a chump.

Anytime you throw your political weight behind a political Party that controls two-thirds of the government and that Party can’t keep the promises it made to you during election time, and you are dumb enough to walk around and identify yourself with that Party, you are not only a chump but you are a traitor to your race.

You can hear more of the speech here: