I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda.…I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.
This passage, from a letter Malcolm writes while in Mecca to some American friends, appears in Chapter Nineteen, “1965,” and shows how Malcolm’s understanding of America’s race problems has matured. He is no longer willing to submit unquestioningly to the propaganda of “someone else”—namely Elijah Muhammad—in deference to whom Malcolm has been squelching his own opinions for the past decade. Malcolm resists the Nation of Islam’s anti–white rhetoric and separatist tendencies, which he now sees as an obstacle rather than an aid to progress. In a stunning reversal of policy, Malcolm broadens his work for racial equality by opening the door to conversations with white people and collaborations with white organizations.
In committing to the abstract ideals of truth and justice, Malcolm sets the stage to eclipse his status as a black political leader by becoming a global political figure. However, while this letter does signal a major change in Malcolm’s perspective, his subsequent actions do not necessarily back up his claims here. On returning to New York City, for example, Malcolm receives a flood of requests from white people to join his new organization. His rejection of them on the grounds that whites must work with their own people before attempting to form a coalition with blacks reveals limits to his new outlook. Nevertheless, his openness to having white people work for racial justice at all marks a step of progress from his earlier belief that black people are the only ones who can improve black lives.