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MLK vs. Malcolm X

March 6, 2011

Between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., we have two huge advocates of the Civil Rights movement, but each had their separate ways of approaching the situation. We have MLK Jr. who preached nonviolent civil disobedience and the complete integration of society. On the other hand we have Malcolm X who wanted to keep the society segregated, but did not want the whites controlling anything the blacks did, and he taught that violence was necessary when approached with violence. The question may be, which leader was more effective in the race toward equality of their race.

The first difference to look over is their approach on violence. MLK Jr.’s peaceful protests, such as the March on Washington, were famous and celebrated and remembered still today.  Consequently, with the same nonviolent approach, MLK and his followers had to face a lot of violence down in the south, without fighting back and with no consequence to the violators. Then we have Malcolm X who says that, still, there should be no violence, but violence was allowed if they were first attacked. This would seem logical, why should they put up with violence against them with no ramifications? The goal would be peace, but this peace could be severed if violent acts were committed against them. I would like to think that the second option would seem more logical, but not as effective as the first. In the situations they were in, nonviolent acts would be able to show more effectively that the blacks do deserve all the rights whites have, because they are human alike and can act in a civil matter to fight for what they believe in even when faced with acts against them that are not quite so civil. After demonstrating this, then would they be able to work on the integration of society.

The second difference is their approach on the final outcome of society. MLK wanted a society that would be integrated, where every person had equal rights no matter their race. It was hard to accomplish, yet the goal was pretty straightforward. On the other hand Malcolm X wanted society to remain separated, but he did not want white people having any control over what black people did. His views were often thought of as extreme, but there can always be some sense in every view. With this complete separation, the whites and blacks would never have problems with each other again, and racial inequality would no longer be a problem. On the other hand, there would be no communication between the two groups, which would cause the establishment of two separate nations. Although this could be what Malcolm X wanted, as he repeated himself on how blacks were not Americans. Again, I would say that MLK had a more effective approach on this matter, because completely separating two races would be near impossible, and splitting up a government like such is bound to cause serious problems, much like those that already happened within the civil war. Now the integration of society was much more plausible, because steps had already been taken toward this.  There still was much more to go, but this is the way the society and the government were already pressing toward, making it easier to finish what had already been started, rather than to go a new route. Now, who do you think was more effective?

7 Comments
  1. Shane Malone permalink
    March 6, 2011 11:28 PM

    I’m going to agree with you on the methods of both Martian Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in their fights against racism. To answer the question that you give at the end of the post I would have to say that it is indeed MLK Jr. that ends up being more effective in his ways. MLK Jr. is more effective since his way of protest, that being non-violent, ended up working and gave the United States a huge step on its way to desegregation. The point in your post where you also say how the society was headed in the direction of MLK’s views so it was probably easier for him to do what he wanted is also a valid point. Though I still believe that MLK Jr. had a better method of protest than to fight back. When you retaliate that just gives the opposition more reason to keep fighting back at you and makes you look like you are in the wrong, even if you are doing what is “better” for the common good. When you use peaceful protest if the opposition fights back it makes them look like the people in the wrong instead of you. This is why MLK Jr. way of protest was much better than Malcolm X.

  2. symsca permalink
    March 7, 2011 7:45 AM

    To answer the question in your post, I would have to say that MLK Jr. was more effective in his approaches towards integrating society. Not only did MLK Jr. rally support from both blacks and whites, he did so through peaceful mannerisms and never resorted to violence. MLK Jr. was a very influential speaker, who successfully moved an entire nation towards one cause. As for Malcolm X, his goal of segregating society was not met with the same level of support, partly because this was an unrealistic objective and partly because of his aggressive, forceful language and reliance on violence. It’s plausible to say that citizens held more compassion for MLK Jr. than Malcolm X. Therefore, I agree with your statement on MLK being more successful in his goals because it’s certainly more realistic to integrate society completely than to segregate it permanently.

  3. Bobby Marshall permalink
    March 7, 2011 5:10 PM

    Failing to play devil’s advocate I have to agree with the consensus thus far that MLK’s methods of achieving equality are more effective. I think that this is because taking a stance of not propagating violence has a certain sympathetic value that I believe is able to convert people to his cause. Looking through the eyes of a Caucasian living in the 1960’s believing in segregation, I would be much more likely to keep supporting segregation if African Americans were fighting back and being unruly in my eyes versus seeing African Americans peacefully protesting and accepting violence against them and refusing to retaliate beyond peaceful measures. I believe that MLK’s methods of achieving equality were so effective because by refusing to fight back, refusing to take arms against those who were oppressing his people, struck a chord with many people doing the oppressing, realizing that what they are doing is wrong. Though I agree in my own mind, fighting back seems more fair and effective, I feel that the path that MLK, ghandi and other peaceful protesters is not only the much more difficult and hard path, but also the more effective.
    On the second difference of what each civil rights leader wanted to achieve in society, I once again have to agree that I think that MLK was more effective. This, in my opinion, is because what MLK wanted seemed more feasible versus what Malcolm X wanted; a completely segregated community seems unrealistic and not possible. (Granted this is coming from the mindset of someone who has bore witness that equality is possible.)

  4. Kathaleen Kokotilo permalink
    March 7, 2011 5:17 PM

    I agree that MLK Jr. was overall more effective. I feel this way because Dr. King looked at society as a whole and was concerned with the well-being of humanity in general. Dr. King stated, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” Because Dr. King understood what hate can do to people, and focused his efforts on bringing people together and not furthering them apart, in the long run I feel that Dr. King was more effective. With that being said, I also want to say that while I believe Dr. King was overall more effective than Malcolm X, I believe that Malcolm X’s influence during that era was still extremely vital to the success of the civil rights movements. While both Dr. King and Malcolm X contributed differently, they were both necessary and very effective.

  5. John D'Adamo permalink
    March 8, 2011 1:09 PM

    Dr. King was most definitely more effective in his views than Malcolm X- hence why after a pilgrimage to Mecca, Malcolm X abandoned his earlier view from his days at the controversial Nation of Islam group, and founded the Pan-Africanist Organization of Afro-American Unity. He knew the best way to accomplish victory for African Americans was to achieve equality with the white man, without violence. Both leaders undoubtedly made their mark on society, leading the way to the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s and changing America for the better.

  6. Pierre Gerondeau permalink
    March 9, 2011 1:56 PM

    I believe that MLK’s non-violent methods were slightly more effective. However, after reading Malcolm X’s “The Ballet or the Bullet,” I think that he what he was preaching was effective and less radical than I originally thought. Malcolm X had radical ideas compared to MLK. For example, I thought it was interesting that he said that he “didn’t consider himself an American,” while it seemed as if MLK considered himself an American in need of his rights. I remember reading “The Biography of Malcolm X” in high school, and thinking that he only had radical ideas, but after reading “The Ballet or the Bullet” I understood his position more and could see how it could be effective. While Malcolm X believed that violence might be necessary to secure rights for blacks, they would only use violence after exhausting the non-violent means. For example, blacks had just gained the right to vote, so at the moment there was no need for violence. However, if their votes came to not mean that much, they might have to revert to violence (the bullet) to get what they want. Regardless, both were instrumental in success of the Civil Rights movement.

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