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Rhetorical Analysis Paper: The Ballot Or The Bullet

1133 words - 5 pages

The ballot or the bullet? Such a question in today's world invokes images of gun-toting militants juxtaposed against civilians tending to their civic duties of voting. Such images are to be expected from Malcolm X, one of the civil rights movements most polarizing and energizing leaders. Yet in 1964, as the country was on the verge of the first presidential election after President Kennedy's assassination and in the throes of the civil rights movement, such as question was important to the African American community as a whole. In the speech, "The Ballot or the Bullet", Malcolm X successfully promotes Black Nationalism through a usage of contemporary social context, simple logic, and ...view middle of the document...

In fact, it is not surprising that Malcolm's personal history and subsequent reformation in prison was held as an example of NOI's ability to reform wayward people from a path of self-destruction and racial compliance. Now during the civil rights movement, NOI did not support the demands for equal rights legislation and instead only promoted black economic self-sufficiency and social separation. They saw this as a means to end racial inequality, instead of legislation imposed by "the white man". While Malcolm X would still promote this philosophy for the rest of his life, he would end up leaving NOI in March 1964 due to NOI's leader, Elijah Muhammad, not following the strict moral code promoted by NOI. A month later and no longer a NOI member, Malcolm X gave the speech "The Ballot or the Bullet" to promote his form of Black Nationalism.
The speech "The Ballot or the Bullet" was given to 2,000 people on April 12, 1964, at the King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. The crowd was predominantly African American, supporters of the civil rights movement, and Christian in faith. However, this presents an interesting conflict with the audience and Malcolm X, as Malcolm was at this time Muslim which in inevitably conflicts with Christianity and the minority of atheists in the audience. To counteract any tension, Malcolm X seamless bypasses any religious conundrums by saying: religious philosophy is personal between me and the God in whom I believe, just as the religious philosophy of these others [Christian ministers] is between them and the God in whom they believe. And this is best this way. Were we to come out here discussing religion, we'd have too many differences from the out start and we could never get together. (X)
This speaks to Malcolm X's usage of a rhetorical tool: drawing upon collective identities, specifically through their shared race. This in turn sets aside religious differences of the audience, so that political and economic theories could be discussed. Moving on, this speech had been given once before, nine day earlier in Cleveland, Ohio; however, the version given in Detroit is the historically notable version of the two, as it was recorded. When this speech was given, Malcolm was regarded by the majority of white Americans as a menacing character, who promoted the usage of armed self-defense against white suppression. As a result, the African...

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