Rhetorical Analysis of the Ballot or the Bullet

RhetoricalAnalysis of the Ballot or the Bullet

TheBallot or the Bullet is a famous speech delivered by Malcolm X onApril 3, 1964 (Malcolm,). The speech was based on Malcolm’s opinionof the way the white man treated African Americans. He felt that theywere treated unfairly and now it was time to fight back. Throughoutthis speech, Malcolm used ethos, logos, and pathos to convince hisaudiences on his opinion. He appeals to the audience that all humanbeings should be treated fairly regardless of color and ethnicbackground. His rhetorical speech is well organized and highlyappealing. He starts by introducing himself using ethos so as tocapture his audiences. This is followed by a descriptive analysis ofthe problem and how to overcome it. He takes advantage of pathos toappeal to the audience emotionally to pull them to his own ways ofthinking. TheBallotor the Bulletis an extraordinary speech that makes use of all angles of rhetoricalappeals. It is well organized, prepared, and emotionally captivating.

Thespeech kicks off with a rhetorical appeal of ethos. Malcolm begins byintroducing himself and telling the audience about his background andcredibility. He goes ahead to tell people that despite his religionbackground, Muslim, all people are equal. Malcolm tells people thathe is not there to settle variants, but to find a commonplace for theproblems that the blacks were facing as a whole. This shows howcommitted he was to solving the problem at hand despite religiousdifferences. This captured the audiences, who in this case wereblacks facing discrimination because of their skin color. Further,Malcolm was a reckoned black personality and influential leader. Thishelped in keeping his audiences listening. Whenever Malcolm mentionedsomething negative about other people, he claimed that he was notagainst them, but their actions. He claimed that he was onlyquestioning the sincerity of the people who discriminated againstblacks. This statement gained him a lot of respect because it showedthat he was not prejudiced. It also showed that he was dedicated tocome up with a fair solution to give all equal opportunities.

Malcolm’sspeech appeal to logos was outstanding. The body of the speech madeuse of the deductive reasoning and proofs. This rhetorical appeal isseen shortly after introduction when Malcolm claimed that he was notanti white, but was against any form of exploitation. He was urgingblack people to fight for their rights and equality. This makesperfect sense because people are the same safe for the skin color. Heargued that black people worked the most but never leapt their sweat.Instead, the whites took advantage of their sweat for their owngains. In order to restore the black community, it was time to fightrelentlessly. It was time for the blacks to own their own shops andensure that what they earned benefited the black community.

MalcolmX continues to use logical appeal to convince people to accept theblack community. He claimed that changing the philosophy about blacksrequired action. He used a very logical thought to make this claim.It was time for people to change their attitudes and pattern ofthought in order to change the behavior pattern. Changing one’sthoughts and attitudes leads to direct change of behavior. This logicis easy to follow as it shows that change of actions can lead toacceptance of the black community. Malcolm further tries to logicallyexplain to the black people why they should be brave. He told themthat if blacks could be brave in wars of the nations, then they canalso be brave back in their country while fighting for their rights.This idea gives people the impression that they can do more forthemselves. If they can be sent to the war, then it is possible forthem to fight for their rights.

Thepathetic appeal in the Ballot or Bullet speech is one the strongerappeals. Malcolm’s main tool of convincing his audiences is use ofpowerful emotions to get attention of the audiences. He usedrepetition in which case he emphasized certain words to make theblack people feel as if they were failed by the government. He usedthe word ‘control’ to trap his audiences in his ways of thinking.He also used the word failure severally to show his audiences thatthey have been failed by the government and the white people. Thisrepetition urges the audiences to take measures against thegovernment that underrepresented them. Malcolm further asks hisaudiences why allow themselves to be second class citizens. Thistouches many people who feel as human as their white counterparts.Malcolm further tells people that if they do not fight, theirchildren will grow up and see shame in them. This touches on theemotions of parents and future parents. The use of pathos isappealing enough to put his audiences in action (Halmari 12).

TheBallot or the Bullet is a great example of rhetoric speech. Thespeaker knows how and what to say to keep his audiences listening andready to take action thereafter. A good speech is one that connectswith the audience by effectively using pathos, logos, and ethosappeals (Aristotle and Roberts 6).


Aristotle,, and W R. Roberts. Rhetoric., 2004. Print.

Halmari,Helena. PersuasionAcross Genres: A Linguistic Approach.Amsterdam [u.a.: Benjamins, 2005. Print.

Malcolm,X. The Ballot or the Bullet. April 3, 1964. Web. February 19, 2015.http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/speeches/malcolm_x_ballot.html

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