“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.” – Malcolm X
“As Martin Luther King once said, ‘Ouch. I’ve been shot.'” – Peter Griffin
Since the dawn of the civil rights movement (wow, that sounds cheesy), African-Americans have had a common goal in mind that they would sometimes take different approaches to.
Dr. King aimed to emulate the ideals of Jesus Christ and Gandhi, being a strong advocator for change through nonviolence and civil disobedience.
Malcolm X was known for a “by any means necessary” approach, and he was W.E.B. DuBois-esque in his beliefs in education and Karl Marx-esque in his contempt for predatory capitalism.
Is one of these men correct and the other incorrect?
We probably shouldn’t be so quick to say so.
Can we take ideals from both sides of the rhetoric and try to advance ourselves that way? Very possibly.
Dr. King stood for equality among all people, if that wasn’t obvious enough from your 3 seconds of black history back in elementary school. He is honored for his patient, peaceful, courageous, faithful, outstanding and revolutionary leadership in a dark time in America.
I get a kick out of the white adults on Facebook who respond to violent protests or riots by saying,
“Is this what MLK would have wanted? I don’t think so!”
How bold of the suburban yuppies to tell us what King would have wanted. How uncomfortably bold.
The Reverend knew that if humans wanted to try their hand at eliminating hatred, they would have to do so with love. And non-violence.
He also knew that revenge and retaliation were not always the answer, because the ultimate goal was for all of humankind to develop the ability to walk hand in hand.
As Malcolm says, though, nonviolence is okay IF the oppressor is also nonviolent. If that isn’t the case, who knows what’ll happen?
Where does that leave us in present day?
Where does protesting fall on the love-hate spectrum? If a protest is carried out peacefully, with no “hate,” but also with no “love” involved, is it an okay method?
I see all the time, “innocent” people getting angry at the “animals” rioting and looting after something that they feel was brutal injustice took place.
I’m sure we were called that in 1965 as well.
But if we consider the retaliation (against an unjust system) that we see in media outlets to be a “Malcolm” approach, it could put Malcolm in a negative light. If we consider peace love and pacifism to be an ineffective route to take, it can put King in a negative light.
Perhaps I can blame my uncertainty on the incredibly minimum emphasis placed on African-American leaders and icons in my primary and secondary school educations.
*Decades ago, Atlanta was somewhat of a hub for civil rights leaders, some of whom are still alive and living there today. What is significant about them is that they did not all agree on every aspect of colored person advancement, but they did communicate with each other. They pulled together and brought others together and made great strides in the fight for equality.*
Dr. King and Malcolm X had their own respective ideas that a person of any color today can and should identify with.
In comparing their times to our times, we’ll find major differences, but we’ll also find similarities. It is therefore necessary to know the history of American society. Only then can we approach tomorrow peacefully, lovingly, and fearlessly.
Happy MLK Day.
We’re all human.