Throughout the nation’s history there has always been a rift between races. White males have always felt superior to African Americans, and therefore have been enslaving them. This was one of the lowest points in history, but the country and its leaders have done a good job to diminish the inequality and build upon the nations civil rights issues. As of today, there are no outstanding civil rights leaders, but in the height of the civil rights era the world saw two different leaders that both worked toward the same dream.
These two men are better known as Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X. Standing on either sides of the spectrum, King Jr. was a calm, passive speaker, while Malcolm was bolder and more strong-willed. On April 12, 1964 Malcolm X delivered an empowering speech titled “The Ballot or the Bullet.”
His aim was to convince African Americans to exercise their right to vote, and does so in an appealing way.
Malcolm’s whole argument was “the black man should control the politics and politicians in his own community.” In other words, a black man should not condemned to listen to a hierarchy, but to think and speak for themselves. Black men and women have been oppressed in America since they came to the country and X was trying to get the message across that they have the same level of power, and skin color does not make someone more important or powerful. To have his message understood, Malcolm used multiple forms of appeals and persuasion to get his point across.
One very efficient and effective form of speaking is repetition. Throughout the entire speech he repeats the words “ I am not…” It is to catch the attention of every black and woman in the audience. They are always being told what they are not, and by Malcolm continually saying “I am not” it gives a sense of freedom. The audience is to declare what they are, or not, not a random white man who thinks they have more power. He also repeats slang terms like “hunkie” and “blue-eyed thing” to show that it is time the for the black community to fight back and stop taking racial slurs. Repetition is a way to convey information in a very smart way. When giving a long speech, important quotes can get lost, so in repeating specific phrases, it will be easy to associate the speech with the key words and phrases that kept getting mentioned.
His first appeal is ethos. Ethos, or one’s reputation can make or break an argument. Malcolm opens his speech commenting on his religion, saying “I am still a muslim.” The reason for this is because a month prior, he was involved in an organization known as the Nation of Islam(NOI), but split from them because they did not allow they members to practice their political freedom, which is what he was fighting for. He is showing that although he is religious, it does not control him as a person, which shows his intentions are purely political. In doing this he opens his viewers eyes to two very important things. It shows that he is not interested in being a radical, like he group he was apart of, and that he wants fairness and equality spread amongst all the citizens of America. Through these actions he has solidified his credibility to his listeners that he is serious about the work he is doing, and truly wants to make a change.
Along with ethos, Malcolm also incorporates logos into his speech as well. There are a few times that Malcolm uses this approach and once again it starts with religion. With such a large body of listeners and viewers, there is going to also be a larger variety of religion. X chose to put all differences aside and work toward a common goal or unity, and most importantly civil rights. He emphasized that when he says, “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.” He understands nothing could save an African American during that time period. The idea of logos also appears in his speech when he brings up an interesting point on African American voting rights.