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During the twentieth century Black people faced a huge amount of discrimination from the whites and found it very difficult to achieve civil rights. They were at one stage deprived of voting, being entitled the same things as blacks and going to a white school. In order for blacks to achieve civil rights they really needed someone to follow, they needed a leader. Many black leaders did emerge for the fight for civil rights, such as, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey, some had some ways of thinking some had others. Two of the most powerful and influential leaders of the twentieth century had to be Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. These two leaders had different approaches, and different views towards white people, perhaps their different approaches of violence and non-violence stem from their original opinions of how capable the whites are of being “good”, but fought for the same thing. Freedom.
These great leaders came from vastly different backgrounds which is shown in their thinking on life, especially early on. Martin was a Christian from the rural south, whilst Malcolm had become a Muslim from the urban north. King called for love of your neighbor, integration and nonviolence, which was part of his American Dream. Malcolm X called for self-love, separation, and “by any means necessary”, which was part of his Black Nationalism. Throughout their lives their views were constantly changing, largely affected by each other, but also by the many events in their lives. Malcolm X forced King to become more radical and to look into the problems of the urban north. King made X become more politically active and work much more with the Civil Rights Movement. Although many have often said that they were “like oil and water”, these two men, however different they may have seemed to be, had the same goal. They wanted to end exploitation, discrimination and racism. Also, for both, religion was primary in defining their lives and ideals. There are two distinct phases in their political lives. For King, the change in his outlook came when he looked at the social problems of the urban slums, and the extent of racism of his previous allies. This turning point came with the riots in Watts, Los Angeles. For Malcolm X, the major change came when he broke from the Nation of Islam and went on his trip to Mecca, when he realized the anti-racist nature of true Islam. It must be remembered, however, that Martin’s second phase came well after Malcolm’s death. Their achievements will not be looked at, but throughout there will be a discussion on how and why their aims and methods were formed.
Not all of the whites involved in the problem of racism supported it. Some were actually trying to help fight for the blacks. Unfortunately, it took Malcolm X a long time to figure that out. He is constantly criticizing whites as a whole. He does not consider, even for a moment, that a white could actually support equality for all men. “Usually, it’s the white man who grins at you the most, and pats you on the back, and is supposed to be your friend. He may be friendly, but he’s not your friend”. However, in a later work of his, “1965”(1), one can see that Malcolm X was learning to accept whites as possible allies.
Yet, while Malcolm learned over a period of time that not all whites are evil, Martin Luther King entered the scene already fully aware that “good” whites existed. In fact, where Malcolm underestimated the goodness in whites, King seems to have overestimated it. Yet, even after he found that he did not receive as much white support as he had hoped for, Martin Luther King never lost faith in the white community.
Altogether, these views of white society as expressed by Malcolm X and Martin Luther King are reflected in their methods of fighting racism. Malcolm X, who supported the use of violence to achieve equality, most likely reached the conclusion that this was the only way to fight the whites based on his original view of them as heartless and uncaring. One place in Malcolm’s “The Ballot or the Bullet,” where his categorizing of whites with violence and cruelty can be found, is during a passage in which he compares the white man with a Guerrilla warrior. “You’ve got to have a heart to be a Guerrilla warrior, and he (the white man) hasn’t got any heart”. Malcolm X sees the whites as a violent group. He most likely came to his theory, that nothing important could be accomplished without violence, through the reasoning that only violence can be used to stop a violent group. Violent people would not understand the use of peaceful means to reach an agreement. Therefore, it is not really the violence itself that he supports as much as it is the reason for using it. He justifies his use of violence by trying to explain that there is no other way to get through to the white people.
In contrast, Martin Luther King sees the whites more as victims of violence than creators of violence. He blames the violence, itself, on evil forces. In “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence,” Martin Luther King calls the problem of racism “The tension is, at bottom, between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness… We are out to defeat injustice and not white persons who may be unjust”. Therefore, one can see why King rejects the idea of using violence to achieve his goals. Only love can defeat evil. “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness”. Aside from their basic methods of achieving their goals, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King have also talked about solutions for the racial problem. What could put an end to racial prejudices in America? For Martin Luther King, part of the answer to this question would include the elimination of “unjust” laws. Unjust law said by Martin Luther King is “Any law that degrades human personality is unjust”. These are laws which the white man expects the black man to follow, without following the laws himself. Everyone should be required to follow the same set of rules. These rules should also be consistent with the “moral” law. Malcolm X answers this question a little more concretely. In “1965,” he suggests that whites, who wish to help, should work with other whites to change the beliefs of the white system as a whole. They should teach friends, family, and any one else they know about non-violence. Supportive whites should work together to change America’s racist view of blacks in the society. Likewise, he expects the blacks to do the same in their communities. In this manner, both sides of the racial problem can be dealt with at the same time, making an end to the racial problem more acceptable.
It is obvious that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were fighting for the same cause, racism. Although their views on white Americans, which affected their methods of approach, were originally different, both activists came to realize that not all whites could be classified as good or bad. They began to see that, instead of discouraging whites from helping, they could use eager whites to create more of an impact within the white communities. This is important because it shows that it is possible for whites and blacks to work together for a single cause. It leaves hope that maybe one day, all traces of racism can disappear and leave behind a united society in which everyone can work together for the good of the country.
So overall Martin Luther King was much more educated then Malcolm X. He had seen life the easy way compared to Malcolm. Martin Luther King hadn’t been through what Malcolm had been through, while Malcolm x was busy being a criminal, Martin Luther King was busy doing his Ph.D. Malcolm X spent about ten years of his life in jail, which in that time he learned to hate the white man, his belief towards whites was they were blue-eyed devils’. I think towards the end King became more radical because he became more critical of the government, mainly because King had seen laws being passed and civil rights being achieved politically but still socially he felt that black people hadn’t achieved civil rights. The case for Malcolm X is not however the same, while his journey to Mecca Malcolm finds out there are white Muslims, therefor discover that not all white people are devils.