MLK vs. Malcolm X: Separation or Integration

In discussion on Wednesday we discussed Malcolm X’s famous speech “The Ballot or the Bullet”.   This speech, one of the most famous of the civil rights era, advocated the idea that if the government continued to oppress African-American rights and deny them equality, a violent course of action would be necessary. Contrary, to Malcolm X’s  philosophy on how to obtain equality were the ideas of Martin Luther King Jr.  King preached a philosophy, which stressed  non-violent protest and civil disobedience.  In his famous “ I Have a Dream Speech” King envisions a world in which Blacks as well as Whites can live and work together in a society where everybody is equal.

Although both of these famous speeches both  call for equal rights for African-Americans, there are major fundamental differences in the approach in which there speakers wish to take to achieve the distinction. One of those fundamental differences come down to the debate over separation vs. integration. In short,  the question is whether African-Americans can achieve equality more easily  by completely isolating themselves  and starting a separate community or by further integrating and compromising with the established predominately white community which exits in America.

Malcolm X’s “Ballot or the Bullet” clearly emphasizes  that integration is not a viable option for African-Americans. Although, at the heart of this speech he is stressing the need for potential violent action, there is also a sentiment that African-Americans must separate themselves from society to put an end to exploitation by there white counterparts.  He states “ Don’t change the white man’s mind — you can’t change his mind, and that whole thing about appealing to the moral conscience of America — America’s conscience is bankrupt. She lost all conscience a long time ago. Uncle Sam has no conscience”. Furthermore,   he   goes to talk about how the African-American community must come together and solve the problem of equality for themselves, because there will be no reprieve from the government.

In MLK’s “ I Have a Dream Speech” he preaches  the importance of blacks and whites working together to gain equality. Although both King and X  both agree that the whole African-American community must come together and act swiftly against the injustices that they  have endured, they differ in the strategies with which to take. Where as Malcolm X  wanted separation and even preached using violence, MLK  stressed employing cooperation, integration and non-violence.  King states “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence”. King’s believed that violence would lead to people further lamenting the black community and that it would lead to things getting even worse for them. His non-violent approach showed America that the African-American community would not bend to the evils they were facing but at the same time showed that cooperation with them  would be a safe choice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60m831gtz_U ( link to MLK’s ” I Have a Dream Speech”

All in all, the strategy that King preached was  more prominent and trumped  Malcolm X’s idea of violence and separation. In fact later on Malcolm X’s ideas evolved and he started to accept the fact that complete separation would be impossible and he began to cooperate with other prominent civil rights leaders. Furthermore, I believe that taking violent action at the time would have tragic for the black community and it would have probably led to them getting much less then they did through civil rights legislation, also much slower then it did. On the other hand, even today it seems that African-Americans are still the victims of discrimination and although they have come a long  way to I don’t think MLK and especially Malcolm X would be satisfied at all. So, although Malcolm X’s idea of complete separation and use of violence was tabled for King’s idea of non-violence and cooperation, it would be interesting to see where the African-American community would be today in regards to their civil rights.

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3 Responses to MLK vs. Malcolm X: Separation or Integration

  1. flitvak says:

    It is astonishing to me, the stark difference in approach to gaining equality that Martin Luther King and Malcolm X each encourage especially since their overarching goal is that of equality of Blacks and Whites. King’s wishes for peaceful integration are distinctly contrasted by X’s means of gaining equality.

    However, I disagree with jakmel when he writes that “Malcolm X’s ‘Ballot or the Bullet’ clearly emphasizes that integration is not a viable option for African-Americans.” Rather X states that the “white man is more afraid of separation than he is of integration. Segregation means that he puts you away from him, but not far enough for you to be out of his jurisdiction; separation means you’re gone. And the white man will integrate faster than he’ll let you separate.” He is not denouncing the idea of integration, the idea merely exists. What X is truly trying to convey is this idea of black nationalism, a cohesiveness that exists within the African American race and that the threat of the “bullet” or the use of violence is real. In this manner, I do agree with with jakmel is saying.

    While violence is always an option, I think that had the civil rights movement employed physical tactics, the movement would have been hindered and become less legitimate. Although we are still witnesses of discrimination, the use of violence as a political maneuver during that time period would have been detrimental to the aspirations of the civil rights movement. In the word’s of Thoreau, “ they were ripe for her gallows.” (Thoreau 132) Violent opposition of government is often crushed with equal ferocity by the government.

  2. andycraft says:

    The question here is whether nonviolence or violence is more effective for the cause of civil rights. MLK, the pacifist, and Malcolm X, a proponent of violence if necessary offer two polarizing views of how to approach the struggle for equality.
    Violence always makes an emphatic statement for any cause, but so often exacerbates the issue that people grow contemptuous and diabolical where as nonviolence can take years to prove effective. Black demonstrators hopefully read Thoreau when he said to willingly break the law or leave the government altogether if one’s rights are being suspended and/or denied.
    The gaining of equality and integrating into the white-dominated polity are two different ideas but should be codependent. Is Separate but equal a real tenable solution for this rights dilemma. Tocqueville suggests it is when he suggested a complete severing of relations. His all or nothing approach in addition to the separate but equal approach are not sustainable ideas of faction. Factions are still involved in the polity and need their voices heard. They have the option of becoming more like the mainstream and amalgamating to society with their resolved conflicts and consequently demand more identity and expression of being to set themselves apart as a distinct group.
    In America, factions will exist inevitably, but for their voices to be heard and their causes to be rectified, it is essential that they participate in the governing body.

  3. dfdf says:

    remember those paws I built, well baby there tumbling down, and they didn’t even put up a fight, they didn’t even make a sound. I found a way to let you in, but i never really had a doubt, standing in the light of your halo, I got my angel now.
    It’s like I’ve been awakened, every rule I had you breaking, its the risk that I’m taking, I ain’t never gonna shut you out. Everywhere I’m looking out, I’m surrounded by your embrace, baby I can see your halo, you know your my saving grace, your everything i need and more, its written all over your face, baby i can feel your halo, pray it wont fade away.
    i can see your halo, halo, halo, i can see your halo, halo, halo, i can see your halo,halo,halo, i can see your haloooo
    hit me like a ray of sun, burning through my darkest night, your the only one i want, think im addicted to your light, i swore ive never fallen again, but this dont even feel like fallin, gravity cant forget to pull me back to the ground again, its like ive been awaken every rul i had you breakin its the risk that im takin, i aint never gonna shut you outttttt

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