“So, I feel responsible for having played a major role in developing a criminal organization. It was not a criminal organization at the outstart. It was an organization that had the power, the spiritual power, to reform the criminal. And this is what you have to understand. As long as that strong spiritual power was in the movement, it gave the moral strength to the believer that would enable him to rise above all his negative tendencies. I know, because I went into the movement with more negative tendencies than anybody in the movement. And just faith in what I was taught made it possible for me to stop doing anything that I was doing and everything that I was doing. And I saw thousands of brothers and sisters come in who were in the same condition. And then whatever they were doing, they would stop it overnight, just through faith and faith alone. And by this spiritual force, giving one the faith that enabled one to exercise some moral discipline, it became an organization that was to be respected as well as feared.
“But as soon as the faith in the movement, the faith in the minds of the people in the movement was destroyed, now it has become a movement that’s organized but not on a spiritual basis. And because there is no spiritual ingredient within the organization, there’s no moral discipline. For it now consists of brothers and sisters who were once well meaning, but now who do not have the strength to discipline themselves. So they permit themselves to be used as a machine for a man who, as I say, has gone senile and is using them now to commit murder, acts of maiming and crippling other people.
“I know there’s a brother sitting in here right now, tonight, who was beaten by them a couple of years ago — I’m not going to say. He knows. And if anybody should apologize to him, I should apologize to him. And I do apologize to him. Because he was beaten by the movement when I was in the movement, and I wasn’t too far from him when he got beaten.
“But this is what happens and this is what we have to contend with. I, for one, disassociate myself from the movement completely. ”
– Malcolm X February 15, 1965 at the Audubon in Harlem.
NOTE: The Autobiography of Malcolm X has been added to the Recommended Reading section of this blog – just after Frederick Douglass.