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 an underprivileged home. King was a self-taught man who received little schooling and rose to greatness on his own intelligence and determination. Martin Luther King was born on January 15, 1929 into a family whose name was well established. Despite segregation, Martin Luther Kings parents ensured that their child was secure and happy. Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925 and was raised 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, hatred and a desire for revenge drove Malcolm X. 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 will achieve full equality with whites. Malcolm Xs 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. Although both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were pivotal figures in the Civil Rights Movement, I argue that Kings approach which emphasized peace, unity, and equality serves as the best way to achieve racial justice.
Both Malcolm X and King spread their messages through powerful, hard-hitting speeches. Nevertheless, their intentions were delivered in different styles and purpose. 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 of keep blacks in their place. He was furious at white racism and encouraged his followers through his speeches to rise up and protest against their white enemies.
Malcolm X and Martin Luther Kings 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 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 Xs resentment was increased as he suffered through the ravages of integrated schooling. Although he was an intelligent student who like Martin Luther King dreamed of being a lawyer, Malcolm Xs anger and resentment caused him to drop out of school. He started to use cocaine and set up a burglary ring to support his expensive habit. Malcolm Xs 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 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 Malcolm Xs childhoods are a study in polarity. (Pg. 254, Reflecting Black.) Where as Malcolm X was raised in nightmarish condition, Kings home was almost dream-like. He was raised in a comfortable middle-class home where strong values natured his sense of self-worth.
Many people have admired Malcolm X and Martin Luther King for the way that they preached. King and Malcolm X promoted self-knowledge and respect for ones history and culture as the basis for unity. 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. 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 form his peaceful, middle-class life. For instance, King preached about equality between blacks and whites. He also preached about getting this equality through a non-violent way. Kings popularity was more than any other black leader 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 Blacks) The difference is in Malcolm X and Martin Luther Kings background had a direct influences 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 The Study Guide) 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. Kings 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 saying, dont persecute her, get her healed, (pg. 52 Martin Luther King Jr. and the Freedom Movement).
King and Malcolm X were heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. The speeches of King and Malcolm X reflected both mens visions on improving America. Both men believed that if blacks were to attain freedom, they first needed to achieve self-respect. However, Malcolm X 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 us and teach us how to be violent in defense of the country, then isnt 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 Gods 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 dont get along peacefully while we are here together. (pg. 287, Malcolm X : The man and his times) After Malcolm Xs pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964, he reappraise white America and modified somewhat his racist and anti-white beliefs. This change is reflected in his speech Communication and Reality spoken to the America 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 Kings I Have a Dream speech ). Unlike Malcolm X, King does not encourage his followers to riot and hate but encourages his followers to remember that all people are Gods children and that hopefully one day all Americans can join together to sing Americas freedom song.
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 surrounds them, but both of them had very different ways of promoting their message. Malcolm X had a much more extremist approach. King had a much more calm approach. Near the end of their lives, Martin Luther King and Malcolm Xs 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 included 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).
I argue that Martin Luther Kings approach to achieve racial justice is superior to Malcolm Xs approach. Martin Luther Kings approach , which focuses on non-violent tactics, is the best way to unite blacks and whites as one. Using violence to unite blacks and whites would result in further separating whites and blacks and additionally would initiate more hatred. For example, the goal of the Civil War was to abolish slavery and unite everybody as one. Slavery was abolished but prejudice remained and still continues today. Lives were lost and a lot of bloodshed occurred, but ultimately whites still view blacks as inferior. This violent war achieved a temporary goal, however, the idealism behind the action failed. I therefore argue that the ends do not always justify the means and thus violence is not the answer.
In addition to non-violent protest, Martin Luther King, unlike Malcolm X, saw that working together as one rather than working against each other would produces a better outcome. I agree with Martin Luther King Jr. that working together will accomplish more rather than working against each other or by themselves. For example the movie Remember the Titans demonstrates the power of blacks and whites working together. The movie takes place in the south at the time when American schools first became integrated. The black football coach of the Titans did not allow his newly integrated football team to project their racist attitudes onto the team. He forced his team to unite as one and work together as a team. By doing this the Titans won a state football championship and additionally combated racism. The team achieved racial justice and harmony.I believe that by using these types of methods Martin Luther King is a better role model and his approach to end racial injustice serves the best interest of the black community.