MLK And Malcolm X Essay, Research Paper
MLK and Malcolm X:
Different Tactics Same Results
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X grew up in different environments. King was raised in a comfortable middle-class family where education was firmly stressed. Malcolm X, on the other hand came from an underprivileged home, where education was not such a big deal. Malcolm X was a self taught man, who received little schooling and rose to greatness on his own due to his own intelligence and determination. The early backgrounds of the two were clearly responsible for the distinct different responses to their fight against American racism. With King being a well-educated man, he had read up on non-violence, and would use non-violence as the tactic of the Civil Rights Movement in which he led. Malcolm X, however chose self-defense and violence as the method for getting his point across. Although Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X used different methods, they were both after the same thing, and that was racial and social equality for all races.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born into a family whose name was already well established in Atlanta, GA. King?s parents made sure that their child was secured and well taken care of. Malcolm X however was raised in a completely different atmosphere. He was raised in an atmosphere of fear and anger, where his seeds of bitterness were planted. When Malcolm X (his name was Malcolm Little at this point in time) was small his family was force to move to Michigan due to constant harassment from the Klu Klux Klan. Once the family arrived in Michigan, things only seemed to get worse. His father was killed, his mother had a nervous breakdown, and was placed in mental hospital, and the rest of his family was split up. Malcolm was haunted by this early nightmare for most of his life. From that point in his life hatred and a desire for revenge drove him.
Through the movements, King had a more positive attitude towards integration than that of Malcolm X. King believed that through peaceful demonstrations and arguments, that blacks would someday achieve full equality with whites. Malcolm X?s despair about life was reflected in his angry, pessimistic belief that equality is impossible because whites had no morals towards blacks. King had a more integrationalist type philosophy, where he felt that blacks and whites should be united and live together in peace. Malcolm X, however believed in a separatist philosophy. He believed that only through revolution and force that blacks could obtain their rightful place in society.
Both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered their messages through powerful, hard-hitting speeches. Nevertheless, their intentions were delivered in different styles with different purposes. ?King was basically a peaceful leader who urged non-violence to his followers. He traveled about the country giving speeches that inspired black and white listeners to work together for racial harmony.?(pg. 135, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Freedom Movement) Malcolm X, for the most part believed that non-violence and integration was a trick by whites to keep blacks in the place the they wanted to keep them in. He was furious with white racism and encouraged his followers, through his speeches to rise up and defend themselves against their white enemies.
Malcolm X and Martin Luther King childhood’s had powerful influences on the men they became and their speeches. Malcolm X was brought up in an atmosphere on violence. During his childhood, Malcolm X saw all the abuse that his mother and father had received from whites, due to the color of their skin. Malcolm X?s resentment towards whites increased as he suffered through the ravages of integrated schooling. Malcolm X was an intelligent student who shared the dream of being a lawyer. That dream was shot down by one of his teachers who told him to concentrate on things that were in reality, obtainable. Although Malcolm X was an intelligent student, Malcolm X?s anger caused him to drop out of school. He then moved to Boston with his stepsister, Ella, where he began to get involved into the street life and crime. From Boston, he went on to Harlem, New York, where he began to sell and use drugs and would later, back in Boston, set up a burglary ring to support his habit of drug use. Malcolm X?s hostility and promotion of violence as a way of getting change was clearly something he had learned from the experiences of his childhood.
Martin Luther King Jr. lived in an entirely different environment. He was a smart student, who skipped two grades before entering an Ivy League college at only the age of 15. He was the class valedictorian with an A average. King paraded his graduation present in a new green Chevrolet before his fellow graduates. He was raised in the perfect environment where dreams and love were generated. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X childhood’s were ?a study in polarity.? (pg. 254, Reflecting Black) Whereas, Malcolm X was raised in nightmarish conditions, King?s home was almost dream-like. He was raised in a comfortable middle-class home where strong values natured his sense of self-worth.
Sure, many have admired Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. for the way that they preached. ?Both King and Malcolm X promoted self-knowledge and respect for one?s history and culture as a basis of unity.? (pg. 253, Reflecting Black.) Other than the fact that they were similar in some ways, they also had many differences that people admired, both in speech and belief. Malcolm X, in many ways, was known to many as an extremist. For most of the time that he spent as an Islamic minister, he preached about separatism between blacks and whites. He also preached about Black Nationalism, some would call it black supremacy.
Malcolm X was a person who had been misled all through his life. This can be easily shown especially at the time when he broke away from the Black Muslim Party, because he realized that they were misleading him by telling him that separatism between blacks and whites is the only way to go. They also misled him by telling him that separatism was part of the Islamic religion. He realized that he had been lied to on a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Malcolm X?s life was seen by many as a nightmare because he was abused and haunted by both blacks and whites. He repeatedly talked about how the white man still saw the black man as a slave. He saw the white man as a devil. He described America as a house with a bomb inside, and he saw it as a place that was about to explode.
Martin Luther King, Jr., also sometimes referred to as an extremist, appeared to many as calm and idealistic. Many say his calmness came from his peaceful middle-class life. For instance, King preached about equality for blacks and whites. He also preached about getting this equality trough a non-violent way. King?s was seen as the most popular of the many black leaders. ?King urged blacks to win their rightful place in society by gaining self-respect, high moral standards, hard work, and leadership. He also urged blacks to do this in a non-violent manner.? (pg. 255, Reflecting Black)
The difference between the Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. backgrounds had a direct influence on their later viewpoints. As a black youth, Malcolm X was rebellious and angry. He blamed the poor social conditions that blacks lived in on the whites. While living in the ghetto Malcolm learned to reject the non-violence notion and integration. Instead he chose to accept a separatist philosophy. As a result, ? Malcolm X recommended a separatist and nationalist strategy for black survival.? (pg. 57, Malcolm X: The Man and His Times) He believed that only through violence would condition change. He saw no evidence that white society had any moral conscience and he promoted the role of the angry black race against a racist America.
King?s philosophies present a sharp contrast to those of Malcolm X. He believe that through hard work, strong leadership, and non-violent tactics, that blacks could achieve full equality with whites. His belief in non-violence even extended to a woman who nearly killed him. King was reported as saying, ?don?t persecute her, get her healed.? (pg. 52, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Freedom Movement)
Near the end of their lives, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X?s beliefs became more similar. Malcolm X corrected himself after his break with the Black Muslim movement. He now emphasized unity and change through black pride rather than through hate and revenge. King, on the other hand, became somewhat angry at the lack of progress made on racial equality. At one point in time, Malcolm X actually wanted ?to join forces with King and the progressive elements of the Civil Right?s Movement.? (pg. 262, Malcolm X: The Man and His Times)
To many, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. However, many have seen a very pessimistic side to King, while Malcolm X was more optimistic towards separatism for most of his life. Some have said that later on in their lives, the two began taking opposite roles and changed. The speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X reflected both men?s visions on improving America. Both men believed that if blacks were to attain freedom, they first needed to achieve self-respect. However, Malcolm X?s speeches were delivered in a revolutionary tone which could incite his listeners and followers into the hatred of white America. Malcolm X used direct and to the point language which could be understood by all levels of society. Malcolm X?s creativity with language helped build the Black Muslim Movement in the United States. In his ?Definition of a Revolution? speech, delivered in November 1963, Malcolm X openly justifies violence as a way of gaining equality. ?And if it is fight for America to draft us and teach us how to be violent in defense of the country, then isn?t it right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.? (pg. 253, Malcolm X: The Man and His Times) He encouraged blacks to hate white America and to revolt against them. ?Revolution is bloody, revolution is hostile, revolution knows no compromise, revolution overturns and destroys everything that gets in its way.? (pg. 255, Malcolm X: The Man and His Times) In his speech ?God?s Judgement of White America,? delivered on December 1, 1963, Malcolm X again promoted his separatist philosophy. ?America must set aside some separate territory here n the Western Hemisphere where the two races can live apart from each other, since we certainly don?t get along peacefully while we are here together.? (pg. 287, Malcolm X: The Man and His Times) After Malcolm X?s pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964, he reappraised white America and modified somewhat his racist and anti-white beliefs. This change is reflected in his ?Communication and Reality? spoken to the American Domestic Peace Corps. ?I am against any form of racism. We are all against racism. I believe in Allah. I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I do not believe in the brotherhood with anybody who does not want brotherhood with me.? (pg. 289, Malcolm X: The Man and His Times)
Martin Luther King Jr. was and equally strong speaker. Dr. King on the other hand used a more sophisticated style in order to reach the educated. He used most of his speeches to encourage white and black people to work together for racial harmony. He especially wanted to teach impressionable black youth that equality could be gained through non-violent methods. King stated that, ?nonviolent action, the Negro saw, was the way to supplement-not replace-the process of change through legal recourse. It was a way to divest himself of passivity without arraying himself in vindictive force.? (pg. 36, Why We Can?t Wait) These ideals are reflective in his famous ?I have a dream? speech, where Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed to over 250,000 people. In this speech, King urges black people to never forget their dreams. King preaches that in the eyes of God, the blacks are as good as any other race and should be treated as equals. ?I have a dream that one day every valley will be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places shall be made straight, and the glory of the lord shall be revealed, and all shall see it together.? (Internet, Martin Luther King?s I Have a Dream Speech) Unlike Malcolm X, King does not incite his followers to riot and hate, but encourages his followers to remember that all people are God’s Children and that hopefully one day all Americans can join together to sing ?My country ?tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing?? (internet, Martin Luther King?s I Have a Dream Speech)
Martin Luther King?s eventual disillusionment became because of the lack of success the blacks were making in America. This discomfort is reflected in many of Dr. King?s speeches. In some of his speeches, Dr. King openly condemns American involvement in the Vietnam War. He believed that America should solve its own racial and social problem before sending vulnerable young men, especially black men, to fight for something that was going on in the place in which they lived. Dr. King along with the rest of the country were forced to watch the cruel irony of watching black and white men in the news and on television as they killed and died together for a nation that was unable to accept living along side one another because of race or the color of their skin.
Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X are both remembered as leaders who fought for a difference in black America. Both tried to bring hope to blacks in a nation where the white America did not socially accept them. Even though the two had different ways of promoting their message both tried to instill within blacks the power and strength the race needed in order rise above all the hatred that surrounded them. Malcolm X had a much more extremist approach, that could be well traced to his background. He had gone through so much, seen so many things, but still wanted his people as a race to strive in a socially challenged America, where they had not been accepted since being transported to America from their homeland of Africa. Martin Luther King Jr. had a much more calm approach to getting the situations solved. Many have said that this non-violent approach came from his safe, middle-class environment. Although King did not endure the many hardships that Malcolm X endured, he knew what was going on, but his parents instilled in him the attitudes of doing what he thought was morally correct. King used that attitude to enforce his non-violence direct action tactic. The dynamics of King?s Moral value of non-violence was very evident in the make up of his character. This is why the tactic of active non-violence (sit-ins, protest marches) had put civil rights directly on the national agenda, and this is why Martin Luther King, Jr., the American civil rights leader is known for his leadership excellence. In the end even though the two were different in addressing their messages about black respect and pride, they both had a common goal. That goal was to achieve equality between all races. Although they were different in the beginning, in the end the two both gave their lives doing what was right, and the shades off the eyes of an America that was blinded by racism.