Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Two Sides of the Same Coin?

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Two Sides of the Same Coin? | By Martin Fister

Martin Luther King and Malcolm X are two tremendous figures in the civil rights movement. Based on some of their famous sayings, such as Martin’s “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,” and Malcolm’s “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery,” you might believe the two men to be on complete extremes. However, both men actually had very similar policies in the end, as I’d like to show you.


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So, Martin Luther King’s an easy one. As the quote says, he believed in peaceful resistance a la Gandhi. He promoted peaceful protests like sit-ins and boycotts and all that hoopla. How can Malcolm X, a man known for promoting violence and separationist ideologies, be considered similar? To get a grasp of Malcolm X’s ties, it’s important to look at both ends of Malcolm X’s political activism.

First, while a member of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm promoted a sense of racial pride in being black. While he promoted nationalism and retaliation against whites (Malcolm once said “Power never takes a back step – only in the face of more power.”), he also instilled a sense of strength in the black race. Along these lines, Malcolm said “A race of people is like an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself.”

Thus, while Martin Luther King was working to bring the whites into a place where they could accept blacks and to see them on the same level, Malcolm X was working to bring blacks to a place where they could accept themselves as being on the same level. Martin Luther King told the blacks to stand strong and love thy neighbor, no matter how that neighbor treated them. Malcolm X told the blacks to stand strong and love thyself, no matter how that neighbor treated them. While different, the ideas work hand in hand with one another and greatly benefit one another.

Second, after leaving the Nation of Islam, Malcolm formed his own organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity. This group moved further from violence and served as a political attempt at unifying the black cause in America and building ties to the African community. Under this wing, Malcolm sought to unite with the civil rights movement and to elevate the cause of blacks in America to an international level. Using the organization as a jumping point, Malcolm sought to bring the blacks case to the United Nations and to file a human rights violation case against the United States. Unfortunately, Malcolm X was murdered shortly thereafter in February of 1965 so this part of his legacy often doesn’t receive much attention.

To keep it simple, the two men were both strong members of the civil rights movement and despite all the differences between the men, I believe it’s an easy task to respect everything they both did. To take some kind of message from all this though, I think it’s good to use the teachings of Malcolm X to grasp this idea.

Before you can love someone else, you must first learn to love yourself.

Martin Fister is an active product blogger, writing for web sites including Linksys Wireless Routers and Trolley Suitcase. In his spare time, Martin also pursues his interests in the music industry as a journalist.

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