Different, Yet Similar Beliefs of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X

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In a debate about student sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm X argues that when it comes to the Black man in America, it is unarguable that the Negroes in America are discriminated more so compared to the whites in America. The moment that the Black man decides to let their voice go unheard, chooses to undervalue their self-worth based off the opinions of the social norm, and furthermore, settles on a passive mindset upon wishful thinking—that problems within society will resolve itself—is the exact reason why the Black man is at a disadvantage in this unfair, cruel world we live in. It is despicable that whites who came to—or were born in—this country can work on jobs that the sit-in students can’t get, can live in neighborhoods that sit-in students can’t live in, and can go into public places that the student sit-ins can’t go—’because they are fighters.” On the other side of the spectrum, when the Black man simply attempts to point out the atrocities and crimes that have been committed against them, they’re then deemed, “a racist, considered an extremist, or is considered someone who is advocating a doctrine that will bring about violence and bring about deterioration in the so-called good relations that are supposed to be developing between black and white in this country.”

Malcolm X’s thoughts on the “nonviolent” matter is that if you are truly a man, you don’t need to “wait for the Congress or the Senate or the president” to tell you that you are a man, you need to self-reflect and do by any means necessary, “if you are a man.” As logical and eloquent as he is sounding, he’s essentially saying, regardless of being born black or white, everyone deserves equality. I agree with his reasoning to a certain extent of, “you fight for what is right.” I also believe that to win in the long term is to have an understanding and resolve things in a non-violent manner.

With that said, there is a reason why we have Martin Luther King Jr. Day. His tactics and advocacy of non-violent behaviors along with his sheer dedication to end racial segregation and racial equality in the United States were super effective. The Civil Rights Movement was the highlight reel in challenge, opposition to the racial injustices, and segregation that had been engrained in American society for hundreds of years. Events that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington, sit-ins, speeches, and handful of protests elucidate this momentous time in United States history.

Speeches during this period were methodical and served as-a-means-to inspire and assemble a specific group of people. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were considered extraordinary leaders and each just had a different way of expressing their thoughts. While some people liked a more practical approach; others liked to be peaceful—and because there was a lesser chance of casualties. The reality is that they are two very distinct people, both aiming for the same thing. They wanted to be free of segregation. They used whatever power they had to make a voice for themselves. Martin Luther King Jr. got his voice on constant replay in people’s heads and Malcolm X was feared and respected by people to be the man who was deemed a “black activist.”

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Malcolm X was considered an extremist for a few main reasons, one being that he wanted complete segregation from the white race. “Mr. Mohammad’s teaching doesn’t teach the Black man to wait for the white man to change his mind.” He believed that African Americans were so mistreated that they should be completely shut off from the white Americans. He worded that the “best solution is complete separation, with our people going back home, to our own African homeland”. He wanted himself, and all other blacks to be sent to their ancestor’s land of Africa where they could live among other blacks, where they wouldn’t be thought of as a lower class, but as equals. Although Malcolm X wanted equality for blacks and whites, he still believed that there should be segregation; he wanted both races to be “separate but equal”. In the sense of violence, Malcolm X didn’t promote the use of violence, yet he did believe that “if you are a man” you should be able to defend yourself if you are a constant victim of brutal attacks. He also believed that one should, “be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hands on you, send him to the cemetery”.

In the end, Malcolm wanted an atmosphere of acceptance, and a place where he could be somewhat at peace with what he considered to be his own kind. Unlike Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X encouraged his followers to rebel against whites. Malcolm X, for the most part, believed that non-violence and integration was a trick by the whites to keep African Americans oppressed. “Never do you find white people encouraging other whites to be nonviolent. He was blunt in the sense that you should not run around here trying to make friends with people who are depriving you of your rights.” He was furious at white racism and encouraged his followers through his speeches to rise-up and protest against their white enemies. “They’re not your friends, no, they are your enemy. Treat them like that and fight them”. He encouraged African Americans to stand up against the white America that oppressed them. Malcolm X used direct and to-the-point language, which could be understood, by all levels of the community. He spoke in very casual, easy-to-understand words such as “all of that kind of stuff”, or “Just look here”, unlike Martin Luther King, who, in his speech, used many metaphors. “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed”. King used his words in a well-educated manner. His sheer demeanor would appeal to all races including whites and African Americans. He carries himself graciously and yet appealing to the black community.

Peace is what brought Martin Luther King power in his speeches to the people of America. He firmly believed in the principles of Mahatma Ghandi’s method of nonviolence resistance, which had been successful in driving the British out of India. “The goal is not to humiliate the opponent—but win his friendship and understanding.” Nonviolence is more than simply agreeing that you will not physically harm your enemy. Ghandi referred to his form of nonviolence as satyagraha, meaning “truth-force” or “love-force”. Practicing satyagraha means a person should seek truth and love while refusing, through nonviolent resistance, to participate in something one believes is wrong. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “I came to see for the first time that the Christine doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.” The King’s speeches were very motivational during the time, and so uplifting it’s generally believed if not assassinated, complete freedoms for African Americans would’ve been accomplished much sooner. Martin Luther King Jr. believed that he could achieve his dreams and goals of having whites and black living together in harmony and peacefulness through nonviolent protesting, but as well as by educating the public.

Martin Luther King wanted acceptance just as Malcolm X did, but they wanted it in two very different ways. King wanted it through peace and unification with his fellow Americans, while Malcolm wanted it through rioting, and force of opposition. It might seem like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X fought for different things for the African American people, but in all reality, it comes down to the simplest form of an idea—they wanted acceptance. Without acceptance and understanding, both causes were completely lost, no matter the arguments made, and the battles fought. Till acceptance was granted, all was lost. That’s why the differences of Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s differences are what united them, giving them their ultimate similarity.

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