In 1964, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, otherwise known as Malcolm X, gave a speech titled “The ballot or the ball.” He argued that the federal government’s failure to honor the inherent rights of black people, by virtue of their humanity, has the potential to facilitate an explosion of what he called a dangerous racial powder keg, with all peoples caught in collimator.
el-Shabazz said the ballot or the bullet was a choice between ‘freedom and death’ [a la Patrick Henry], freedom for all or freedom for no one. He continued:
“Today our people can see that we are facing a government conspiracy. This government has let us down. Senators who obstruct your rights and mine, that’s the government…Any type of act designed to delay or deprive you and me at this time of getting all of our rights, that’s the government Who is responsible. And every time you find the government involved in a plot to violate the citizenship or the civil rights of a people in 1964, then you’re wasting your time going to that government and waiting for redress.
Nearly 60 years after his speech, black people have regained their right to vote reversed with the Shelby vs. Holder decisionleading to the passage of voter suppression laws in various states. There is potential for more this year. Voting Rights Legislation lack in the Senate. It is because of the refusal of Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to reject the filibuster. Conservative politicians across the country have banned the accurate teaching of US history to preserve white ignorance as a way to support white hegemony As the country becomes browner.
el-Shabazz was certainly prophetic, if not an outright oracle.
These truths intersect with a society with high gas prices, anti-protest legislation and the lack of baby formula. There is also inflationthe probable to spill of Roe vs. Wade and employers, such as You’re heredemanding that workers return to offices, amid a pandemic – even after make more money while workers either worked from home or on a hybrid schedule. In addition, the lack of political will to pass legislation restricting the sale of military-grade weapons such as AR-15. The AR-15 was the weapon of choice for shooters in Buffalo and Uvalde.
It seems that this powder keg that el-Shabazz was talking about is only getting bigger. Where does that leave the country?
It leaves the United States in a reality where people with their backs against the wall may have no choice but to live near the ball because of legislation telling black people and other people of color that the ballot is not for them, despite the 15th Amendment.
At the NRA convention last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Well, if the feds refuse to pass gun legislation to stop the “bad guys” from getting assault rifles, and the supposed “good guys” can choose not to arrest the “bad guys” as they chose not to Uvaldewhat else is there to do but get a gun, organize with other parents, and form a unit to protect children at school on shifts?
What alternative is there to the bullet for protection in a stand in your home state, or any state with abortion bans or little or no gun laws?
What other alternative is there for traditionally oppressed and marginalized people – older black people Where Mexican school children – other than gun ownership when the government basically says it’s every man, woman and child for themselves? No wonder black gun ownership has increase; it’s the same for the others people of color.
To be clear, I am not calling for mass violence as a solution to injustice, nor are black people or people of color. Nor did El-Shabazz call for mass violence, but he gave the United States a Attention:
“America is the only country in history capable of bringing about a revolution without violence or bloodshed…the only bloodless way that can happen is if black people [people] must be able to make full use of the ballot in each of the fifty states. But if [not]then you are going to be confronted with another man who forgets the ballot and starts using the ball.
Targeted groups can use the bullet to protect their children where the police refuse to do so. These groups could use the bullet to protect their most vulnerable from crazed white supremacists. They could use the bullet when accosted by someone looking to make a citizen’s arrest for making a personal choice.
The targeted groups might use the bullet because the immorality of the decision makers makes them feel like they have no other choice.
In a choice between the ballot or the chip, choosing the ballot should be a no-brainer. The lack of political will to do the right thing will push this country even further into chaos. It will feel more like the wild west and less like the Greek polis.
Courtesy and decorum will not save us. Pandering to white fears and guilt certainly won’t save us – it’s what got us here. What will save us is when freedom is for all and not just for some. And yet, somehow preventing people from voting is a higher priority than preventing mass shootings.
The age of the ball on the ballot is on track. Unless the US somehow embraces what el-Shabazz called the “bloodless revolution” – or there will be more blood.
Rann Miller is the Director of Anti-Bias and DEI Initiatives as well as a high school social studies teacher for a school district located in southern New Jersey. It is also a freelance writer and founder of the Urban Education Mixtape, supporting urban educators and parents of students in urban schools. He is the author of the next book, Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids, due out in February 2023. You can follow him on Twitter @UrbanEdDJ.