The Roles Of Malcolm X And Dr. Martin Luther King Jr In African American Society In XX Century

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In the 20th century, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. played a significant role in their society. Both men were leaders of the civil rights movement seeking justice in a corrupted world. Without these two heroic human beings, who knows how corrupt our country will still be? Malcolm X’s Oxford Union debate and “A Letter From Birmingham” by Martin Luther King Jr. display how passionate both men were about the civil rights movement and how racism was being dealt with. While dissecting both documents through the bitzer method, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. cleverly explained their views to a specific audience. However, I believe that Malcolm’s views were more effective in the end.

At a young age, Malcolm X experienced many tragedies throughout his life. Just at the age 6, Malcolm's father (Earl Little) was hit by a car and seriously wounded. Many say that Earl Little was brutally beaten to death, then later ran over by white supremacists; which the incident was ruled an accident. Not long after Malcolm X father’s death, his mother (Louise Little) started to experience a nervous breakdown. Louise Little had to be shipped down to a mental institution, splitting Malcolm into now a parentless family. Without any parents, Malcolm was forced to stay with his neighbors. Staying with his neighbors changed his character and personality causing him to be sent to a juvenile detention home in Mason, Michigan. As time continued, Malcolm began doing devious things such as robbing stores. At age nineteen, he started hanging around with the wrong people which quickly led to trouble with the law. He was allegedly arrested multiple times for theft and burglary and was sentenced to state prison in 1946. While in prison, Malcolm X started to settle down and began focusing on his education and history. Studying the dictionary, non-fiction books, and the horrific history of slavery in the library prison had a huge impact on Malcolm X’s life; leading to Malcolm X’s Oxford Union Debate in 1964.

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In Malcolm X’s Oxford Debate, Malcolm presents to his audience a variety of reasons why we must stand up to our political and religious views strategically. Us African Americans must fight for our liberty because the justice we seek for is not given. Malcolm X displays his first argument with exigence. He needs the audience to have a sense of understanding where specific actions were allowed for white men without any consequences but is seen as a retaliation when committed by an African American. Malcolm X begins to utilize logical reasons by notifying the audience that it is never acceptable to let anyone treat you less than a human that you are. Displaying a sign of weakness will have the enemy dictate the future of your life as proven in the society.

Malcolm X then goes to present an argument that our country the United States (U.S.) do not follow our own policies. In the debate, Malcolm states “Anytime you live in a society supposedly based upon law and it does not enforce its own laws because the color of a man’s skin happens to be wrong, then I say those people are justified to resort to any means necessary to bring about justice when the government can’t give them justice.” He uses South Africa as example where they utilize their beliefs in extremism as a community, as where the U.S. proclaims integration amongst another, but teaches segregation. Malcolm does not only present to his audience the importance of racism causing the problems in our country, yet he refers those people as the “devil” or “sinners”.

As we continue to analyze Malcolm X’s Union Debate, we must observe the audience Malcolm is speaking to. At Oxford University located in the United Kingdom, Malcolm had to appeal to many white students, elderly males, and very few females. His strategic and intelligent plan to bring the countries past and values in his speech was brilliant; leading to applauses throughout his whole debate at one of the world’s top universities. As Malcolm began explaining the country’s history, he brought up one the Founding Fathers of the United States named Patrick Henry. Patrick Henry was an American Revolutionist known for his famous quote “Give me liberty, or give me death”, which was stated by Malcolm X to inform his audience the significance of Americans many years ago, and the discouraged Americans in Malcolm’s time. This shows that Malcolm X is willing to fight for liberty, whether it costs his life or not. To relate to the audience, Malcolm X used a quote from William Shakespeare, (a famous English poet) “Whether it is nobler in the mind of man to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of trouble, and by opposing, end them?” which notified the audience that we must stand tall in our political and religious beliefs.

As we get to end of Malcolm X’s speech, we see a variety of constraints displayed in the debate. In the Malcolm X speech, we see his audience being dominant males. Throughout his debate, he emphasizes “African American men” and “White men”. There was not anything said about children, or the few females in attendance of his speech. Although there may have not been any children present at the speech, women during this time of era had little to no civil rights. Malcolm X targeted mainly males, where Martin Luther King Jr. targeted every race and culture.

In Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter From Birmingham”, one of his main arguments he tried to get his audience to understand was racial equality. Martin Luther King targeted Whites, African Americans, males, females, and any race or gender who believed in equality for all the people. He was responding back to the eight white clergymen who criticized him for protesting segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. At the end of the letter, Martin stated “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.” With this being said, Martin Luther King Jr. still believed in protesting segregation in a peaceful manner even in jail. In the letter, Martin Luther King Jr. also states “I hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader, but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother.”, informing us readers that he hoped to find freedom, civil obedience, and justice in a world which unfortunately lacked all of those qualities.

Although Dr. Martin Luther King presented his ideas very cleverly and sought racial equality for all American citizens, Malcolm X beliefs in the old saying “Give me liberty or give me death” is more influential. Martin Luther King Jr. is very educated African American man, but he lacked the knowledge of knowing that segregation itself is violence. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were both very passionate about equality and believed in the same goals to a certain extinct. Both not just living and experiencing the worst of America, but also visualizing the future of African Americans and many other cultures with no civil rights. Trying to gain civil rights peacefully was almost never an option. As hard as African Americans tried to protest non-violently, many whites seen this opportunity to derail African Americans whether it took their lives or not. Not agreeing to any violence, however, Malcolm X beliefs in standing tall and not letting anyone walk over you not matter how horrific the situation was more effective in his era.

Works Cited

  1. King, Martin Luther Jr. “Letter From Birmingham Jail”. A world of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. Ed. Jacobus, Lee A. 9th Ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2010. Print.
  2. Malcolm X. Oxford Union Debate. 3 December 1964. Video.
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