Famous Sayings #112 — ‘By Any Means Necessary’

July 8, 2018

We are going to fight for our rights and get them by any means necessary.

by any means necessary, Malcolm X, Civil Rights Movement, famous sayings
In one of Malcom X’s most famous speeches, he told his followers that they would fight for their human rights “by any means necessary.” Image via Flickr by Sabatu. Public domain image.

This is a phrase that can be applied today, but one that is at least 64 years old.

I first heard the phrase “by any means necessary” in the 1990s, during an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. In that episode, an activist friend of Phillip and Vivian Banks came to town and began influence Will and Carlton. The activist was still stuck in a 1960s mindset and she told Will that change needed to be fought for “by any means necessary.” Afterward, Will and Carlton tried to engage in their own activism while fighting to save the job of an unconventional teacher at their school.

At the time, I didn’t give much thought to what the phrase meant, especially since it was portrayed in such a negative light. The character who uttered the phrase in the Fresh Prince episode was stuck in time and labeled a radical, which is itself a loaded term. And while Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv were themselves activists in the 1960s, the writers made sure to make it clear that much of that was in the past.

With the past in mind …

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