Martin And Malcom

The following is an opinion based article, not to be taken into fact, but to be considered and perhaps rejected or adopted into your own thoughts and opinions.

( I only discuss the life of Malcolm X in this article, assuming that the reader already knows enough context about Martin Luther King. If you need to brush up on who he was, is the place to go.)



Martin Luther King Jr.(left) and Malcolm X(right), two of the most influential  leaders in the African American Civil Rights movement of the 20th century, are pictured above in their first and only meeting.

Why were these two men so rarely and briefly together, even though they had the same vision for the progression of the African American race?

Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little in Nebraska,faced the consequences of racism as a baby. His father was a preacher who preached for African American civil rights, putting him under the constant threat of attack from the KKK.

“When my mother was pregnant with me, she told me later, ‘a party of hooded Ku Klux Klan riders galloped up to our home,'” Malcolm later remembered. “Brandishing their shotguns and rifles, they shouted for my father to come out.” The harassment continued; when Malcolm X was four years old, local Klan members smashed all of the family’s windows, causing Earl Little to decide to move the family from Omaha to East Lansing, Michigan.

However, the racism the family encountered in East Lansing proved even greater than in Omaha. Shortly after the Littles moved in, in 1929, a racist mob set their house on fire, and the town’s all-white emergency responders refused to do anything. “The white police and firemen came and stood around watching as the house burned to the ground,” Malcolm X later remembered.

Two years later, in 1931, things got much, much worse. Earl Little’s dead body was discovered laid out on the municipal streetcar tracks. Although Malcolm X’s father was very likely murdered by white supremacists, from whom he had received frequent death threats, the police officially ruled his death a suicide, thereby voiding the large life insurance policy he had purchased in order to provide for his family in the event of his death. Malcolm X’s mother never recovered from the shock and grief of her husband’s death. In 1937, she was committed to a mental institution and Malcolm X left home to live with family friends.


As a child, Malcolm had regularly been exposed to the brutality, the deceptiveness, and the extremity of Whites in their dealing with African Americans who advocated racial equality.

Later on, when Malcolm began to attend school, he was excellent both academically and socially. Being the only African American in his school, he felt that he was treated as a class pet,not a human being. Malcolm finally dropped out of school when he was asked by his teacher what he wanted to be when he grew up, and having responded lawyer, his teacher made it clear to him that African Americans did not have a chance for success inside the system when she said,”One of life’s first needs is for us to be realistic … you need to think of something you can be … why don’t you plan on carpentry?.”

Turning to a life of petty crime afterwards, he was sentenced to jail. In jail,  being brutally treated by the white jail-keepers, he converted to Islam, and began also to open his eyes back up to education. Malcolm memorized the entire dictionary during his 10 years of jail, and used the prison library to catch up on his missed years of school.


His last “name”,X, serves as a variable to stand for and connect him with the unknown culture that he says was stolen from him and forgotten when his ancestors were taken from Africa to work as slaves

All of these experiences led him to later becoming a fiery African American  civil rights activist with a message far different from that of Mr. King.

Instead of preaching brotherhood and love between Whites and African Americans, he argued that they must fight for their rights, be independent of whites who refused to accept them, and be willing to respond with violence in self defense to violence.

The following is a quote by King in his speech “Loving your Enemies”:

“If you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption. You just keep loving people and keep loving them, even though they’re mistreating you. Here’s the person who is a neighbor, and this person is doing something wrong to you and all of that. Just keep being friendly to that person. Keep loving them. Don’t do anything to embarrass them. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with bitterness because they’re mad because you love them like that. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.”

Malcom X, delivering this speech after his home was firebombed by his enemies, said

I saw in the paper where they — on the television where they took this Black woman down in Selma, Alabama, and knocked her right down on the ground, dragging her down the street. You saw it, you’re trying to pretend like you didn’t see it ’cause you knew you should’ve done something about it and didn’t. It showed the sheriff and his henchmen throwing this Black woman on the ground — on the ground.

And Negro men standing around doing nothing about it saying, “Well, let’s overcome them with our capacity to love.” What kind of phrase is that? “Overcome them with our capacity to love.” And then it disgraces the rest of us, because all over the world the picture is splashed showing a Black woman a with some white brutes, with their knees on her holding her down, and full-grown Black men standing around watching it. Why, you are lucky they let you stay on earth, much less stay in the country….Brothers and sisters, if you and I would just realize that once we learn to talk the language that they understand, they will then get the point. You can’t ever reach a man if you don’t speak his language. If a man speaks the language of brute force, you can’t come to him with peace. Why, good night! He’ll break you in two, as he has been doing all along. If a man speaks French, you can’t speak to him in German. If he speaks Swahili, you can’t communicate with him in Chinese. You have to find out what does this man speak. And once you know his language, learn how to speak his language, and he’ll get the point. There’ll be some dialogue, some communication, and some understanding will be developed.You’ve been in this country long enough to know the language the Klan speaks. They only know one language. And what you and I have to start doing in 1965 — I mean that’s what you have to do, because most of us already been doing it — is start learning a new language. Learn the language that they understand. And then when they come up on our doorstep to talk, we can talk. And they will get the point. There’ll be a dialogue, there’ll be some communication, and I’m quite certain there will then be some understanding. Why? Because the Klan is a cowardly outfit. They have perfected the art of making Negroes be afraid. As long as the Negro’s afraid, the Klan is safe. But the Klan itself is cowardly. One of them will never come after one of you. They all come together. Sure, and they’re scared of you.

Both speakers bring up interesting points. It made sense that Malcolm stood up so strongly against loving whites who were completely against African Americans. His father had preached brotherhood and integration and treating Whites as they would want to be treated. He did not stand up for himself or fight back when the Ku Klux Klan was after him, nor did he fight back against rioters who burnt his house down. His reluctance to fight back and his believing in peace allowed him to get stepped on by powerful whites, and he did not advance his race any further, and got himself killed and forgotten.

Did Martin Luther King allow his people to get stepped on too? Malcolm argues that when the police killed the innocent marchers, they should have fought back, whatever the cost. Perhaps King was not looking to do so, only because he was planning on joining the whit community afterwards, so he did not want to upset them. Maybe King thought that patience and endurance would allow Whites to realize that African Americans were not enemies, and relent.

What would Malcolm think of that statement? Perhaps he would respond by arguing that if Whites wanted to stay in power, they would do whatever it would take to keep their supremacy. Perhaps he would then argue that Whites simply don’t care about acting socially with African Americans, maybe the ones in charge and the ones theater responding with violence are not seeking redemption, and are not seeking to meet on terms of equality with African Americans, but the exact opposite. Maybe he would argue that the issue was  political,whites didn’t want African Americans to become in charge of the country, and so what Martin Luther King Jr. preached wouldn’t apply.

But is violence really the answer? Even if it is just in self defense?

Martin Luther King Jr., through his peaceful actions, brought on legislation that gave African Americans more rights and power. He was able to convince the legislators that African Americans were not evil,and that they deserved these rights and they deserved equality. Maybe achieving this did have a cost, but if those people were avenged or defended, would they still have gotten those rights?

Enjoy your Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but throughout the day, don’t be afraid to question his ideology and think of some way that these 2 extremely influential leaders could have met in middle. Or, if you strongly believe that one of these leaders was absolutely correct in his ideology, then vote below.

-Omar Abdelhamid

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