Essay, Research Paper: Martin King And Malcolm X


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Martin Luther King and Malcolm X two men vying for the same outcome but each at
opposite sides of the spectrum. King was raised in a comfortable middle-class
family where education was stressed. On the other hand, Malcolm X came from an
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 Ku 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. Each mans childhood upbringing I believe was responsible for their
later assault on Civil Rights 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 procure 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
intergrationalist 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 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 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 childhood's 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 childhood's 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 matured 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 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 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 emphasized 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 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 Judgment 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 reappraisal 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
instill 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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