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.