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Lexi Grubbs
Ms. Burke
26 January 2017
English 11: Honors American Literature

The Spokesperson of The Civil Rights Movement: Malcolm X or Martin Luther King?

The civil rights movement that occurred in the 1960s can be considered to be one of the

most influential social justice topics in the United States of America. In this time frame, two civil

rigts activists brought to light their own unique opinions on the issue: Malcolm X and Dr. Martin

Luther King. While King and X both held strong, influential viewpoints on the issue of black

civil rights, X offers more worldly, personable opinions on the topics at hand that show the

fierce, resilient mindset of the African American demonstrators. Evidence in this can be found

through his (Malcolm X) opinion pertaining to the concepts of self-defense and acceptance

amongst skin color throughout the nation.

Malcolm X expressed a toleration for self-defense that Dr. King did not agree with. X

states in his speech, The Ballot or the Bullet, that violence should be mutual when in

commission. Im nonviolent with those who are nonviolent with me. But when you drop that

violence on me, then youve made me go insane, and Im not responsible for what I do. This

quote describes how X avoided hostility until the aggression was imposed upon him by

somebody else; King claimed in speech, Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom, that

the mere protection of ones home and person against assault by lawless night riders does not

provide any positive approach to fears and conditions that provide violence... He means that

under no circumstance is violence acceptable, even in a rally for civil rights and equality. X holds

a more acceptable approach in this scenario because he believes violence should not be
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encouraged, but it is a notion that can be used if need be. As stated in Kings speech, many

African Americans did not join the movement because of the feared consequence that would be

faced if they used defense. Additionally, Dr. King stated the following about the direction that

violence is leading people, It was the talk of fearful men, saying that they would not join the

nonviolent movement because they would not remain nonviolent if attacked. Now the climate

had shifted so that it was even more popular to talk of violence, but in spite of the talk of

violence there emerged no action in this direction. In this quote, Dr. King claims that men are

not even using the violence for which they advocate in a way that guides them towards freedom.

In laymens terms, the advocates that promote forceful tactics use it as their first method of

defense rather than using their words. While, yes, words allow a more peaceful way to handle

situations, actions show the true colors of humans. A man can sound one way but act another.

That being said, Malcom X holds a point that stands truer: be the man that you truly are in order

to get the result that you truly strive for.

In addition to the mens arguments on self-defense, Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm

X further hold opinions on the character of their fellow man, particularly the white men of the

time. There are certain instances throughout Kings speech where he directly generalizes men

based on some aspects of their life. In one section of his speech, for example, King is speaking

about riots that occurred in the south. He says the following about how they were put to an end,

So far, only the police through their fears and prejudice have goaded our people to riot. []This

demonstrates that these violent eruptions are unplanned, uncontrollable, temper tantrums brought

on by the long-neglected poverty, humiliation, oppression and exploitation. A man who is

constantly faced with biased and prejudice for something so trivial as the color of his skin, is it

fair to make an assumption, a cruel at that, about men because of their skin color, job, or area in
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which they live? Why stoop down to the level of your enemy? This is only a single example of

Kings categorizing found in this speech among others. Yes, this is not uncommon for the people

of the world to do, but in some instance, especially one like this, there is no room for making

upsetting, broad judgments. Malcolm X goes so far as to point out that this is not a war on the

actions of the white man, but simply a war on the oppression of man, stating, It doesn't mean

that we're anti-white, but it does mean we're anti-exploitation, we're anti-degradation, we're anti-

oppression. And if the white man doesn't want us to be anti-him, let him stop oppressing and

exploiting and degrading us. Whether we are Christians or Muslims or nationalists or agnostics

or atheists, we must first learn to forget our differences. X communicates that the African

Americans are not limited to this abuse, but so are those of different religions, ethnicities,

citizenships, and so much more; there could very well be a white man being degraded in one of

the groups mentioned! In his statement, X explicitly tells the audience of the fact that the people

following him are not anti-white in away, rather they are against acts that repress any form of

human rights. There is no crude generalizations in this statement; there are no negative messages

in his message. Also, there is no confinement to forms of oppression in the country, being that he

states that he is against more than the one mentioned prior. With all of that, X proves further

proves that his assessment is more acceptable, fierce, and dynamic than that of Martin Luther


Though the war on segregation was a success, there are still many injustices present

inside of the United States that have not been solved. In the past year, two movements have come

about in the United States that have changed the dynamic of equality: Black Lives Matter and

Blue Lives Matter. In each, a specific side, either Police officers or the African Americans of the

country, is being treated unfairly. They are being killed, assaulted unlawfully, and protested
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against. Also, in another example that has just occurred, women have begun protesting in the

capital in order to ensure that their rights will remain intact with the new president. They are

afraid that all of the rights that they hold, such as the right to have an abortion, are going to be

forcefully stripped from them. It is true, oppression is still an issue. The crude generalization

made about each party mentioned only assists in adding to frustrations to the battles. This is a

prime example of how Malcom Xs outlook could be used to calm the annoyance of the people

in these situations and stop the spread of degradation and oppression.

Through his opinion on the issues pertaining of self-defense and acceptance amongst

minorities throughout the nation, Malcolm X provided a more relatable viewpoint that shows his

looking out for both racial and religious oppression alike. He used a more human approach to

convey his message to the public. He lacked the crude generalizations that Martin Luther King

included in his speech. For those reasons, it shows that X offers more worldly, personable

opinions on the topics at hand that show the fierce, resilient mindset of the African American

demonstrators than that of Kings.