In 1962 a confrontation with the LAPD outside a mosque left seven injured and one (Ronald Stokes) dead. Malcolm X would condemn the event in an impassioned speech. In Malcolm X’s police brutality speech he incorporates identification, cultural knowledge, and bodily experience to address and connect with the audience. First, Malcolm X uses identification as a way of persuading the audience. Malcolm is nicely dressed wearing a suit and glasses which many people believe is a sign of intellectualism. Malcolm mentions that he is an Islam minister in his speech.
Not only is Malcolm Islam he also a black man. This shows the audience he is reputable to speak about the events with the LAPD. While Malcolm is in front of the large audience he remains calm, articulate, and is confident while he is speaking. All of these characteristics allow Malcolm’s audience to ‘connect’ with him because they all recognize Malcolm as an intelligent leader. They also connect with Malcolm because he is living through the same everyday obstacles of his African American audience.
Second, Malcolm uses cultural knowledge in his police brutality speech. Malcolm’s greatest strength is how strongly he relates to his audience.
Malcolm is addressing the African American culture when he is saying ‘we are oppressed, we are exploited, we are downtrodden, we are denied civil and human rights’. These cultural references can only be understood by African Americans. They have lived through oppression and racial inequality in America. Malcolm would never stand up and give this speech to a crowd of white people making these statements because they’ve never experienced this oppression and racial inequality that blacks face daily.
Malcolm uses the word ‘we’ to show that he is a victim along with everyone else in the audience. Lastly, Malcolm uses bodily experience to engage his audience and keep them listening. One way Malcolm does this is through his hand motions. When he says the color of your skin he points to it and when he says your nose and lips he points to them. Malcolm also uses his voice to pull you in when he changes his tone and then pauses to show emphasis. Malcolm draws the audience in using rhetorical exigence and says, ‘come together against the common enemy’. The purpose of Malcolm’s speech was to unite African Americans and teach them to be proud of their race. Malcolm says, “who taught you to hate the color of your skin to such an extent that you bleach to get like the white man”. Malcolm is preaching to his audience that when you be like the white man you are hating what god gave you. He says rather than conforming, we should unite against the common enemy. Show the whites how fed up we are and without the sweet talk. Malcolm is giving his audience confidence to stand up to oppression and tell people how they feel. At the end of the speech Malcolm says, “if he is not ready to clean his house up, he shouldn’t have a house. It should catch on fire, and burn down”. This shows how serious Malcolm really is about racial inequality and is insinuating that violence will be used. Overall, Malcolm’s speech represents identification, cultural knowledge, and bodily experience allowing him to build a connection with the audience. This connection allows Malcolm to deliver a wonderful speech because he is believed rather than doubted. This also gives the audience courage to follow his words and take action when he says things like, “come together against the common enemy” and “tell the white man how you really feel”.
Malcolm X has many significant composing choices hidden in the speech. Malcolm uses a combination of ethos, logos, and pathos to sway his audience. First, Malcolm endears himself to the audience with the tone of his voice. Malcolm shares his strong beliefs and values towards his audience allowing them to see his character and attitude. This forms the basis for Malcolm’s ethical appeal. The audience also may already know of Malcolm. He was very popular at the time and many already knew his pre-existing reputation before the speech. His pre-existing reputation was used to establish credibility because Malcolm is a minister and a black nationalist leader. The audience is more likely to listen to Malcolm because they are seeking information and he is knowledgeable and seen as an “expert”. Malcolm had a large following during this time. Sometimes all it takes is seeing how acclaimed Malcolm is to believe him before he has opened his mouth. Those in the audience who don’t even know of Malcolm look and see his popularity which leads them to believe that he is credible. Finally, Malcolm’s tone throughout his speech is all about compassion and concern for his audience. Malcolm shows respect to his audience’s and speaks at a level that they understand, while not belittling their intelligence. Malcolm uses the rhetorical concept of ethos to solidify his credibility with the audience. Second, Malcolm appeals to the audience’s intellectual side using logical statements. Throughout his speech, he argues that black Americans have been oppressed, exploited, and downtrodden by a government ran largely by whites. This argument is very accurate and well supported with evidence like “colored” water fountains, “colored” bathrooms, and buses having “colored” sections. Segregation occurred daily and the audience was able to relate to all the examples given by Malcolm. Malcolm uses the rhetorical concept logos to persuade the audience through logical statements.
Third, Malcolm uses collective language like “we” and “our” along with repetition to invoke pride in the audience. Malcolm says, “we are oppressed, we are exploited, we are downtrodden, we are denied civil and human rights”. This elicits a sense of shame within the audience. Repetition is used on purpose to allow the audience to follow along and be engaged. It also tends to bring the audience towards gradual agreement. Malcolm is producing emotion through the use of anaphora. The repetition of “we are” expresses emotion and passion. Malcolm incites anger in the listener’s minds towards the “common enemy” or white man. The use of the rhetorical concept pathos persuades his audience to take action and use their voice to make a change.