Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom Little, better known as Malcolm X were major figures in the civil rights movement in the United States. Despite fighting for the same cause, which is to see that all individuals in the United States are indeed equal regardless of race, both men take a different approach in furthering the cause. They both decried the injustice committed against the black people by the whites and wanted to see it come to an end. It was for this reason that the civil rights movement gained momentum in the 1960’s. The most obvious difference is the stance they took in pursuing their goal.
Little, who became Malcolm X after converting to Islam, puts emphasis on self-empowerment among the black people, as well as other racial groups in the US for that matter; that they should use any means necessary to win their freedom and equality if society would continue to marginalize them. In trying to understand why Malcolm X was rather militant in his appraoch to the point of being “nationalistic,” one has to understand that he was born and raised in a ghetto where life was rough which resulted in the murder of his father and his mother committed to a mental institution.
In as much as he deplored the racists, he also deplored whites who pretended to sympathize with them and pay lip service to their support of their cause. It is for this reason why he wanted thje blacks to empower themselves because he felt nobody will do it for them (Breitman, 1965, p. 26). King was brought up in a well-to-do family in spite of their race and he “borrowed” the approach taken by Mahatma Gandhi of nonviolent resistance as the means to accomplish their goal owing to his avocation as a minister who eschewed violence.
King agreed with Gandhi’s principle that the oppressors need to see the evil they are committing to make them stop; for to fight back would make them further justify their actions. If Malcolm X were to have his way, he could have dragged America to another civil war, especially if he intended to use Islam as a vehicle to advance his cause, whereas King used a combination of Christian faith and Gandhi’s teachings which is compatible to the former (Vander Lei & Miller, 1999, pp. 84-85).
Both men were assassinated for they were seen as a threat by their opponents. In the end, the civil rights movement was successful when the government passed a series of laws that once and for all ended segregation. The impact was not immediate and its effect was felt gradually through the passage of time and the proof that it was successful was evident with the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States. And if one were to ask who would get the credit, the most likely answer would be Martin Luther King Jr. and his Gandhi-
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