Another Martin Luther King

  • Category: Philosophy
  • Words: 1969
  • Grade: 100
Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X grew up in different

environments. King was raised in a comfortable middle-class

family where education was stressed. On the other hand,

Malcolm X came from and underprivileged home. He was a

self-taught man who received little schooling and rose to

greatness on his own intelligence and determination. Martin

Luther King was born into a family whose name in Atlanta

was well established. Despite segregation, Martin Luther

King's parents ensured that their child was secure and

happy. Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925 and was

raised in a completely different atmosphere than King, an

atmosphere of fear and anger where the seeds of bitterness

were planted. The burning of his house by the Klu Klux Klan

resulted in the murder of his father. His mother later suffered

a nervous breakdown and his family was split up. He was

haunted by this early nightmare for most of his life. From

then on, he was driven by hatred and a desire for revenge.

The early backgrounds of Malcolm X and Martin Luther

King were largely responsible for the distinct different

responses to American racism. Both men ultimately became

towering icons of contemporary African-American culture

and had a great influence on black Americans. However,

King had a more positive attitude than Malcolm X, believing

that through peaceful demonstrations and arguments, blacks

will be able to 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

have no moral conscience. King basically adopted on an

integrationalist philosophy, whereby he felt that blacks and

whites should be united and live together in peace. Malcolm

X, however, promoted nationalist and separatist doctrines.

For most of his life, he believed that only through revolution

and force could blacks attain their rightful place in society.

Both X and King spread their message through powerful,

hard-hitting speeches. Nevertheless, their intentions were

delivered in different styles and purposes. "King was

basically a peaceful leader who urged non-violence to his

followers. He travelled 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 the

whites to keep blacks in their places. He was furious at

white racism and encouraged his followers through his

speeches to rise up and protest against their white enemies.

After Malcolm X broke away from Elijah Mohammed, this

change is reflected in his more moderate speeches. Malcolm

X and Martin Luther King's childhoods had powerful

influences on the men and their speeches. Malcolm X was

brought up in an atmosphere of violence. During his

childhood, Malcolm X suffered not only from abuse by

whites, but also from domestic violence. His father beat his

mother and both of them abused their children. His mother

was forced to raise eight children during the depression.

After his mother had a mental breakdown, the children were

all placed in foster homes. Malcolm X's resentment was

increased as he suffered through the ravages of integrated

schooling. Although an intelligent student who shared the

dream of being a lawyer with Martin Luther King, Malcolm

X's anger and disillusionment caused him to drop out of

school. He started to use cocaine and set up a burglary ring

to support his expensive habit. Malcolm X's hostility and

promotion of violence as a way of getting change was well

established in his childhood. Martin Luther King lived in an

entirely different environment. He was a smart student and

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.

King and X's childhoods are "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 for the

way that they preached. "Both King and Malcolm X

promoted self-knowledge and respect for one's history and

culture as the basis for 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 belief

and speech. 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, and as some would call it, "black supremacy,"

(reporter from Malcolm X movie). Malcolm X had been

misled all through his life. This can be shown especially at the

time when he broke away from the black Muslim party,

because he realised 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 is a part of the Islamic religion. Malcolm X's life

was known to many as a nightmare because he was abused

and haunted by both blacks and whites. Malcolm X blamed

many of the conditions that blacks in the United States lived

in on the whites. He also talked about how the white man

still sees the black man as a slave. Martin Luther King

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 through

a non-violent way. King's popularity was more than any

other black leader's popularity. "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 matter," (pg. 255,

Reflecting Black) The difference is in Malcolm X and Martin

Luther King's 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. "His past ghetto life

prepared him to reject non-violence and integration and to

accept a strong separatist philosophy as the basis for black

survival," (Internet, Malcolm X anniversary). He even

believed at one time that whites were agents of the devil. 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 conditions change. He saw no evidence that

white society had any moral conscience and promoted the

role of the angry black against racist America. King's

philosophies presented a sharp contrast to those of Malcolm

X. He believed that through hard work, strong leadership,

and non-violent tactics, blacks could achieve full equality

with whites. His belief in non-violence even extended to a

woman who nearly killed him. He 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 and Malcolm X's beliefs became

more similar. Malcolm X corrected himself after his break

with the black Muslim movement. He now emphasised unity

and change through black pride and respect for oneself

rather than through hate and revenge. King, on the other

hand, became somewhat angry at the lack of progress made

on equality. He started promoting non-violent sabotage,

which including blocking the normal functioning of

government. At one time, Malcolm X actually wanted "to

join forces with King and the progressive elements of the

Civil Rights Movement," (pg. 262, Malcolm X: The man and

his times). To many, King and Malcolm X were heroes of

the Civil Rights Movement. However, many have also seen

that King was more pessimistic, while Malcolm X was more

optimistic about separatism for most of his life. Some have

said that later on in their lives, they had taken the opposite

roles and changed. The speeches of King and 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 to hatred of white America. Malcolm X

used direct and to the point language which could be

understood by all levels of society. "He had mastery in

language and could project his ideas," (Internet, Remember

Malcolm X) This creativity in 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 right for America to draft us and

teach us how to be violent in defence 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 in 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 was an equally strong speaker.

However, most of his speeches were given 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.

These ideals are reflected in his famous "I have a dream"

speech, where King 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 American can join together to

sing "My country tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, of thee I

sing"¦" King's eventual disillusionment became because of

the lack of success the blacks were making in America. This

discomfort is reflected in his "A time to break the silence"

speech. In this speech, he openly condemns American

involvement in the Vietnam war. He preaches that America

should solve its own racial and social problems before

sending vulnerable young men, especially black men, to fight

other country's battles. "So we have been respectfully

forced with the cruel irony of watching Negroes and white

boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation

that has been unable to sit them together in the same

schools," (Internet, A time to break the silence speech)

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King are both remembered as

leaders who fought for a difference in black America. Both

tried to bring hope to blacks in the United States. They also

tried to instil within blacks power and strength so they could

rise above all the hatred that surrounded them, but both of

them had very different ways of promoting their message.

Malcolm X had a much more extremist approach. Many say

that this approach came from his neglectful childhood and

early adulthood. King had a much more calm approach.

Some have said that this non-violent approach came from his

safe, middle-class environment. Even though they were

different in addressing their messages about black respect

and pride, they both had the same goal in mind. That goal

was to achieve equality between all races.
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