Malcolm X

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We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.

El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, or Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little (19 May 192521 February 1965) was an American black nationalist leader.

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  • The death of over 120 white people is a very beautiful thing.
    • Speech in Los Angeles on June 3, 1962 upon learning of a plane crash.
  • We are African, and we happened to be in America. We are not American. We are people who formally were Africans who were kidnapped and brought to America. Our forefathers weren't the Pilgrims, we didn't land on Plymouth Rock, the rock was landed on us. We were brought here against our will. We were not brought here to be made citizens. We were not brought here to enjoy the constitutional gifts that they speak so beautifully about today.
Time is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. Truth is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. You don't need anything else.
It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood. That's the only thing that can save this country.
  • If you're not ready to die for it, take the word "freedom" out of your vocabulary.
    • Chicago Defender (28 November 1962)
  • America has a very serious problem. Not only does America have a very serious problem, but our people have a very serious problem. America's problem is us. We're her problem. The only reason she has a problem is she doesn't want us here.
    • Statement in Detroit, Michigan (10 November 1963)
  • I don't believe in any form of unjustified extremism! But when a man is exercising extremism — a human being is exercising extremism — in defense of liberty for human beings it's no vice, and when one is moderate in the pursuit of justice for human beings I say he is a sinner.
    • Speech at Oxford University (1964)
  • We have formed an organization known as the Organization of Afro-American Unity which has the same aim and objective to fight whoever gets in our way, to bring about the complete independence of people of African descent here in the Western Hemisphere, and first here in the United States, and bring about the freedom of these people by any means necessary.
    That's our motto. We want freedom by any means necessary. We want justice by any means necessary. We want equality by any means necessary.
    • Speech at Founding Rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (1964-06-28)
    • Variant: We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.
      • As quoted in By Any Means Necessary (1970)
  • I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don't believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn't want brotherhood with me. I believe in treating people right, but I'm not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn't know how to return the treatment.
    • Speech, New York City (12 December 1964)
  • I believe in recognizing every human being as a human being, neither white, black, brown nor red. When you are dealing with humanity as one family, there's no question of integration or intermarriage. It's just one human being marrying another human being, or one human being living around and with another human being.
    • Interview for the Pierre Berton Show. Toronto, Ontario, (19 January 1965)
  • I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.
    • Interview (January 1965?); quoted in By Any Means Necessary (1970)
  • I want Dr. King to know that I didn't come to Selma to make his job difficult. I really did come thinking I could make it easier. If the white people realize what the alternative is, perhaps they will be more willing to hear Dr. King.
    • Malcolm X,in conversation with Coretta Scott King (February 1965), as quoted in My life with MLK, Jr. (1969), page 256
  • This is to warn you that I am no longer held in check from fighting white supremacists by Elijah Muhammad's separatist Black Muslim movement, and that if your present racist agitation against our people there in Alabama causes physical harm to Reverend King or any other black Americans who are only attempting to enjoy their rights as free human beings, that you and your Ku Klux Klan friends will be met with maximum physical retaliation from those of us who are not hand-cuffed by the disarming philosophy of nonviolence, and who believe in asserting our right of self-defense -- by any means necessary.
  • It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood. That's the only thing that can save this country.
    • Speech in New York City (19 February 1965), two days before he was assassinated.
  • If a dog is biting a black man, the black man should kill the dog, whether the dog is a police dog or a hound dog or any kind of dog. If a dog is fixed on a black man when that black man is doing nothing but trying to take advantage of what the government says is supposed to be his, then that black man should kill that dog or any two-legged dog who sets the dog on him.
  • In the past, yes, I have made sweeping indictments of all white people. I will never be guilty of that again — as I know now that some white people are truly sincere, that some truly are capable of being brotherly toward a black man. The true Islam has shown me that a blanket indictment of all white people is as wrong as when whites make blanket indictments against blacks.

The Bullet or the Ballot (1964)

Speech at Cory Methodist Church, Cleveland, Ohio (3 April 1964)
  • I'm not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner, unless you eat some of what's on that plate. Being here in America doesn't make you an American. Being born here in America doesn't make you an American. Why, if birth made you American, you wouldn't need any legislation; you wouldn't need any amendments to the Constitution; you wouldn't be faced with civil-rights filibustering in Washington, D.C., right now.
  • I'm not an American. I'm one of the 22 million Black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million Black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy.
  • I don't see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.
  • I'm nonviolent with those who are nonviolent with me. But when you drop that violence on me, then you've made me go insane, and I'm not responsible for what I do. And that's the way every Negro should get. Any time you know you're within the law, within your legal rights, within your moral rights, in accord with justice, then die for what you believe in. But don't die alone. Let your dying be reciprocal. This is what is meant by equality. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
  • You and I, 22 million African-Americans — that's what we are — Africans who are in America. You're nothing but Africans. Nothing but Africans. In fact, you'd get farther calling yourself African instead of Negro. Africans don't catch hell. You're the only one catching hell. They don't have to pass civil-rights bills for Africans.
  • If it doesn't take senators and congressmen and presidential proclamations to give freedom to the white man, it is not necessary for legislation or proclamation or Supreme Court decisions to give freedom to the Black man. You let that white man know, if this is a country of freedom, let it be a country of freedom; and if it's not a country of freedom, change it.
Speech in Detroit, Michigan (12 April 1964)


  • Dr. King is a Christian Minister... in Atlanta, Georgia, but he’s become more famous for being involved in the civil rights struggle. There’s another in New York, Reverend Galamison — I don’t know if you’ve heard of him out here — he’s a Christian Minister from Brooklyn, but has become famous for his fight against a segregated school system in Brooklyn. Reverend Clee, right here, is a Christian Minister, here in Detroit. He’s the head of the “Freedom Now Party.” All of these are Christian Ministers — All of these are Christian Ministers, but they don’t come to us as Christian Ministers. They come to us as fighters in some other category.
    I’m a Muslim minister. The same as they are Christian Ministers, I’m a Muslim minister. And I don’t believe in fighting today in any one front, but on all fronts. In fact, I’m a "Black Nationalist Freedom Fighter." Islam is my religion, but I believe my religion is my personal business. It governs my personal life, my personal morals. And my religious philosophy is personal between me and the God in whom I believe; just as the religious philosophy of these others is between them and the God in whom they believe.
    And this is best this way. Were we to come out here discussing religion, we’d have too many differences from the outstart and we could never get together.
    ... If we bring up religion, we’ll be in an argument, and the best way to keep away from arguments and differences, as I said earlier, put your religion at home — in the closet. Keep it between you and your God. Because if it hasn’t done anything more for you than it has, you need to forget it anyway.
  • The government has failed us; you can’t deny that. Anytime you live in the twentieth century, 1964, and you walkin' around here singing “We Shall Overcome,” the government has failed us.
    This is part of what’s wrong with you — you do too much singing. Today it’s time to stop singing and start swinging. You can’t sing up on freedom, but you can swing up on some freedom.
  • Once you change your philosophy, you change your thought pattern. Once you change your thought pattern, you change your — your attitude. Once you change your attitude, it changes your behavior pattern and then you go on into some action. As long as you gotta sit-down philosophy, you’ll have a sit-down thought pattern, and as long as you think that old sit-down thought you’ll be in some kind of sit-down action.
  • When I speak, I don’t speak as a Democrat, or a Republican... I speak as a victim of America’s so-called democracy. You and I have never seen democracy; all we’ve seen is hypocrisy. When we open our eyes today and look around America, we see America not through the eyes of someone who have — who has enjoyed the fruits of Americanism, we see America through the eyes of someone who has been the victim of Americanism. We don’t see any American dream; we’ve experienced only the American nightmare. We haven’t benefited from America’s democracy; we’ve only suffered from America’s hypocrisy. And the generation that’s coming up now can see it and are not afraid to say it.

Malcolm X on Zionism (1964)

Taken from the Egyptian Gazette (17 September 1964)
  • The modern 20th century weapon of neo-imperialism is "dollarism." The Zionists have mastered the science of dollarism: the ability to come posing as a friend and benefactor, bearing gifts and all other forms of economic aid and offers of technical assistance. Thus, the power and influence of Zionist Israel in many of the newly "independent" African nations has fast-become even more unshakeable than that of the 18th century European colonialists... and this new kind of Zionist colonialism differs only in form and method, but never in motive or objective.
  • Zionist Israel's occupation of Arab Palestine has forced the Arab world to waste billions of precious dollars on armaments, making it impossible for these newly independent Arab nations to concentrate on strengthening the economies of their countries and elevate the living standard of their people.
  • "They cripple the bird's wing, and then condemn it for not flying as fast as they."
  • Did the Zionists have the legal or moral right to invade Arab Palestine, uproot its Arab citizens from their homes and seize all Arab property for themselves just based on the "religious" claim that their forefathers lived there thousands of years ago? Only a thousand years ago the Moors lived in Spain. Would this give the Moors of today the legal and moral right to invade the Iberian Peninsula, drive out its Spanish citizens, and then set up a new Moroccan nation ... where Spain used to be, as the European zionists have done to our Arab brothers and sisters in Palestine?...

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)

  • The next day I was in my car driving along the freeway when at a red light another car pulled alongside. A white woman was driving and on the passenger's side, next to me, was a white man. "Malcolm X!" he called out-and when I looked, he stuck his hand out of his car, across at me, grinning. "Do you mind shaking hands with a white man?" Imagine that! Just as the traffic light turned green, I told him, "I don't mind shaking hands with human beings. Are you one?"
  • They call me "a teacher, a fomenter of violence." I would say point blank, "That is a lie. I'm not for wanton violence, I'm for justice." I feel that if white people were attacked by Negroes — if the forces of law prove unable, or inadequate, or reluctant to protect those whites from those Negroes — then those white people should protect and defend themselves from those Negroes, using arms if necessary. And I feel that when the law fails to protect Negroes from whites' attacks, then those Negroes should use arms if necessary to defend themselves. "Malcolm X advocates armed Negroes!" What was wrong with that? I'll tell you what's wrong. I was a black man talking about physical defense against the white man. The white man can lynch and burn and bomb and beat Negroes — that's all right: "Have patience"..."The customs are entrenched"..."Things will get better.""
  • The earth's most expensive and pernicious evil is racism, the inability of God's creatures to live as One, especially in the Western world.
  • Any time you see someone more successful than you are, they are doing something you aren't.

Malcolm X Speaks (1965)

Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements (1965) edited by George Breitman
  • You can't separate peace from freedom, because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.
    • Speech in New York City (7 January 1965)
  • It is impossible for capitalism to survive, primarily because the system of capitalism needs some blood to suck. Capitalism used to be like an eagle, but now it's more like a vulture. It used to be strong enough to go and suck anybody's blood whether they were strong or not. But now it has become more cowardly, like the vulture, and it can only suck the blood of the helpless. As the nations of the world free themselves, capitalism has less victims, less to suck, and it becomes weaker and weaker. It's only a matter of time in my opinion before it will collapse completely….
    • March 1965, p. 199
  • I do believe that there will be a clash between East and West. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don't think that it will be based upon the color of the skin….
    • January 1965, p. 216
  • You put the government on the spot when you even mention Vietnam. They feel embarrassed — you notice that?... It's just a trap that they let themselves get into. ... But they're trapped, they can't get out. You notice I said 'they.' They are trapped, They can't get out. If they pour more men in, they'll get deeper. If they pull the men out, it's a defeat. And they should have known that in the first place. France had about 200,000 Frenchmen over there, and the most highly mechanized modern army sitting on this earth. And those little rice farmers ate them up, and their tanks, and everything else. Yes, they did, and France was deeply entrenched, had been there a hundred or more years. Now, if she couldn't stay there and was entrenched, why, you are out of your mind if you think Sam can get in over there. But we're not supposed to say that. If we say that, we're anti-American, or we're seditious, or we're subversive…. They put Diem over there. Diem took all their money, all their war equipment and everything else, and got them trapped. Then they killed him. Yes, they killed him, murdered him in cold blood, him and his brother, Madame Nhu's husband, because they were embarrassed. They found out that they had made him strong and he was turning against them…. You know, when the puppet starts talking back to the puppeteer, the puppeteer is in bad shape….
    • January 1965, p. 217
  • You can't have capitalism without racism.
  • There is nothing in our book, the Qur'an, that teaches us to suffer peacefully. Our religion teaches us to be intelligent. Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone lays a hand on you, send him to the cemetery. That's a good religion.
    • This was said before Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam and as he himself stated, before he truly understood Islam.
  • Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it.
  • Power never takes a back step — only in the face of more power.
  • Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner, unless you eat some of what's on that plate. Being here in America doesn't make you an American. Being born here in America doesn't make you an American.
  • Time is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. Truth is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. You don't need anything else.
  • Usually when people are sad, they don't do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.
  • If you're afraid of black nationalism, you're afraid of revolution. And if you love revolution, you love black nationalism. To understand this, you have to go back to what the young brother here referred to as the house Negro and the field Negro back during slavery. There were two kinds of slaves, the house Negro and the field Negro. The house Negroes — they lived in the house with master, they dressed pretty good, they ate good because they ate his food — what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near the master; and they loved the master more than the master loved himself. They would give their life to save the master's house — quicker than the master would. If the master said, "We got a good house here," the house Negro would say, "Yeah, we got a good house here." Whenever the master said "we," he said "we." That's how you can tell a house Negro.
  • If the master's house caught on fire, the house Negro would fight harder to put the blaze out than the master would. If the master got sick, the house Negro would say, "What's the matter, boss, we sick?" We sick! He identified himself with his master, more than his master identified with himself. And if you came to the house Negro and said, "Let's run away, let's escape, let's separate," the house Negro would look at you and say, "Man, you crazy. What you mean, separate? Where is there a better house than this? Where can I wear better clothes than this? Where can I eat better food than this?" That was that house Negro. In those days he was called a "house nigger." And that's what we call them today, because we've still got some house niggers running around here.
  • This modern house Negro loves his master. He wants to live near him. He'll pay three times as much as the house is worth just to live near his master, and then brag about "I'm the only Negro out here." "I'm the only one on my job." "I'm the only one in this school." You're nothing but a house Negro. And if someone comes to you right now and says, "Let's separate," you say the same thing that the house Negro said on the plantation. "What you mean, separate? From America, this good white man? Where you going to get a better job than you get here?" I mean, this is what you say. "I ain't left nothing in Africa," that's what you say. Why, you left your mind in Africa.
  • On that same plantation, there was the field Negro. The field Negroes — those were the masses. There were always more Negroes in the field than there were Negroes in the house. The Negro in the field caught hell. He ate leftovers. In the house they ate high up on the hog. The Negro in the field didn't get anything but what was left of the insides of the hog.
  • The field Negro was beaten from morning to night; he lived in a shack, in a hut; he wore old, castoff clothes. He hated his master. I say he hated his master. He was intelligent. That house Negro loved his master, but that field Negro — remember, they were in the majority, and they hated the master. When the house caught on fire, he didn't try to put it out; that field Negro prayed for a wind, for a breeze. When the master got sick, the field Negro prayed that he'd die. If someone came to the field Negro and said, "Let's separate, let's run," he didn't say, "Where we going?" He'd say, "Any place is better than here."
    • Speech (9 November 1963).

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  • The problem facing our people here in America is bigger than all personal or organizational differences. Therefore as leaders, we must stop worrying about the threat we seem to think we pose to each other's personal prestige; and concentrate our united efforts towards solving the unending hurt that is being done daily to our people here in America.
  • I think there are plenty of good people in America, but there are also plenty of bad people in America and the bad ones are the ones who seem to have all the power and be in these positions to block things that you and I need. Because this is the situation, you and I have to preserve the right to do what is necessary to bring an end to that situation, and it doesn't mean that I advocate violence, but at the same time I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don't even call it violence when it's self-defense, I call it intelligence.
  • I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash but I don't think it will be based on the color of the skin.
  • I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they'll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.
  • 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's for or against. I'm a human being first and foremost, and as such I am for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.
  • If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it's wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it's wrong for America to draft us and make us violent abroad in defense of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defense of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.
  • The economic philosophy of black nationalism only means that our people need to be re-educated into the importance of controlling the economy of the community in which we live, which means that we won't have to constantly be involved in picketing and boycotting other people in other communities in order to get jobs.
  • Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.
  • The political philosophy of black nationalism means that the black man should control the politics and the politicians in his own community
  • We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary .
  • When a person places the proper value on freedom, there is nothing under the sun that he will not do to acquire that freedom. Whenever you hear a man saying he wants freedom, but in the next breath he is going to tell you what he won't do to get it, or what he doesn't believe in doing in order to get it, he doesn't believe in freedom. A man who believes in freedom will do anything under the sun to acquire... or preserve his freedom.
  • You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.
  • If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.
  • This religion recognizes all men as brothers. It accepts all human beings as equals before God, and as equal members in the Human Family of Mankind. I totally reject Elijah Muhammad's racist philosophy, which he has labeled 'Islam' only to fool and misuse gullible people as he fooled and misused me. But I blame only myself, and no one else for the fool that I was, and the harm that my evangelical foolishness on his behalf has done to others.
  • It's a crime, it's a crime what people don't know about their history. And we have not only to learn history, but I invite you to that other excitement, the excitement of unlearning history, unlearning the history that you learned.

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  • I have more respect for a man who lets me know where he stands, even if he's wrong. Than the one who comes up like an angel and is nothing but a devil.
  • "When I was born, I was black. When I grow up, I'm black. When I'm ill, When I die, I'm black. But you - When you're born, you're pink. When you grow up, you're white. When you're ill, you're green. When you go out in the sun, you go red. When you're cold, you go blue. When you die, you're purple. And you have the nerve to call me Colored?
  • We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.
  • You can't drive a knife into a man's back nine inches, pull it out six inches, and call it progress.
  • It is only after the deepest darkness that the greatest light can come; it is only after extreme grief that the greatest joy can come; it is only after slavery and prison that the greatest appreciation of freedom can come. — 1965
  • The only true world solution today is governments guided by true religion — of the spirit.
  • Yes, I'm an extremist. The black race here in North America is in extremely bad condition. You show me a black man who isn't an extremist and I'll show you one who needs psychiatric attention! — Cited in The Autobiography.
  • The young whites, and blacks, too, are the only hope that America has, the rest of us have always been living in a lie.
    • Quoted by Alex Haley, after a college campus speech, in the epilogue to The Autobiography.
  • We didn't land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us.
  • I've had enough of somebody 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. — From 1965, The Autobiography.
  • You trust them (white Americans), and I don't. You studied what he wanted you to learn about him in schools. I studied him in the streets and in prison, where you see the truth.
  • I remember one night at Muzdalifa with nothing but the sky overhead, I lay awake amid sleeping Muslim brothers and I learned that pilgrims from every land — every colour, and class, and rank; high officials and the beggar alike — all snored in the same language.
  • America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. — From a letter Malcolm X wrote to his wife and, concurrently, Muslim Mosque, Inc., toward the end of his pilgrimage to Mecca; cited in The Autobiography.
  • You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.
  • Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery. — From Malcolm X Speaks.
  • Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it.
  • They called me the 'angriest Negro in America'. I wouldn't deny that charge.
  • You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.
  • How can anyone be against love?
  • We want freedom by any means necessary. We want justice by any means necessary. We want equality by any means necessary.
  • Whites can help us, but they can't join us. There can be no black/white unity, until there is first some black unity. — From the press conference at which he announced the formation of Muslim Mosque, Inc.; cited in The Autobiography.
  • The price of freedom is death. — NYC, June 1964
  • The only way we'll get freedom for ourselves is to identify ourselves with every oppressed people in the world. We are blood brothers to the people of Brazil, Venezuela, Haiti,...Cuba — yes, Cuba too. June 10, 1964.
  • Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression.
  • Anytime you beg another man to set you free, you will never be free. Freedom is something that you have to do for yourself.
  • I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.
  • I believe in a religion that believes in freedom. Any time I have to accept a religion that won't let me fight a battle for my people, I say to hell with that religion.
  • A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.
  • I want Dr. King to know that I didn't come to Selma to make his job difficult. I really did come thinking I could make it easier. If the white people realize what the alternative is, perhaps they will be more willing to hear Dr. King.
  • Concerning non-violence, it is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks.
  • I did many things as a [Black] Muslim that I'm sorry for now. I was a zombie then — like all [Black] Muslims — I was hypnotized, pointed in a certain direction and told to march. Well, I guess a man's entitled to make a fool of himself if he's ready to pay the cost.
  • (After leaving the NOI and convering to Islam)

"Since I learned the truth in Mecca, my dearest friends have come to include all kinds -- some Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, and even atheists! I have friends who are called capitalists, Socialists, and Communists! Some of my friends are moderates, conservatives, extremists -- some are even Uncle Toms! My friends today are black, brown, red, yellow, and white!"

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