The United States is among the few nations that are given credit because of the basis on which it was founded. These were the principles of freedom as well as the principles of democracy. However, the founding fathers of this nation failed in doing one thing during their reign. They did not strive to expel the racist nature that has got its roots so deep in the society in the United States. The impact of this nature was to be later on felt, in the way that it led to several instabilities including the American Civil War. It also culminated the Black American Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. Because of this oppression, African-American leaders rose to defend their rights for equality. These were Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. this two called for an end in the injustice going on in the society and they are famous for the letters in which they expressed their views. Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and Malcolm X’s “Letter from Mecca” had got a similar message, which was to end the injustice. However, the two leaders used different approaches to put forth this message.
When Malcolm went to Mecca he was received with such honor that he was amazed. He was given a pent house by the prince, servants to serve him, a car with a driver so that he could go wherever he wanted with ease, air condition rooms in every city he visited. He was treated like a king; a treatment he would not receive in his country. He says all this with regards while addressing the people in Mecca (Malcolm, 1961). On the contrary, when martin Luther king junior went to Birmingham he was treated as a criminal as he was arrested. He had been called to Birmingham by Christians to help settle the unjust laws used on Christians here. He was arrested for advocating for demonstrations although they were peaceful (King, 1963).
Although the two leaders were both sons’ preachers from the Southern Baptist, they both lived very contrasting lives. Dr. King received a lot of support from the white people because of the method he was using to advocate for equality. He preached a gospel of non violence and peace. Malcolm X on the other hand received surprising support from the Nation of Islam. This was because of his self called doctrine that he termed realistic. Although they used different approaches, the two leaders both wanted an end to the injustice that was going on in the United States. After being released from prison, Malcolm X joined the Muslim faith. He went on to spread the word on how the black man was superior to the white man. He also preached on how evil the white man was, and went on to justify the use of violence by the black man in fighting for his rights. This was in sharp contrast to the way Dr. King was advocating for a peaceful way to fight back and demand justice and equality. Dr. King led a civil rights movement and he called for the blacks to love their enemies while exercising passive resistance. He led various demonstrations and matches in which they aired out their grievances (King, 1963).
According to Malcolm X, this kind of movement was simply ridiculous. He believed in fighting for what is legally yours and getting it by all means possible. In his opposing what Dr. King was doing, he said “Any time you know you're within the law, within your legal rights, within your moral rights, in accord with justice, then die for what you believe in. But don't die alone. Let you’re dying be reciprocal. This is what is meant by equality” (Malcolm, 1961). This was somewhat similar to what Dr. King said in his letter. He stated that he was going to “openly advocate disobeying that countries religious law”. He was referring to the Nazi in Germany. Dr. King had got total belief in not advocating for violence. When Malcolm X takes a trip to Mecca, he is overwhelmed by the respect and kindness that he is treated with. He says, “Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this Ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors” (Malcolm, 1961). He finally starts to get a drift of what Dr. King was advocating for. This is what set him apart from Malcolm X and the Civil rights activists. He preached non violent uprising against the American racism and did so in a composed manner. Malcolm X did not achieve much in his movement as Dr. King did because of the methods he used.
The teachings of these two leaders can greatly be related to what is going on in the United States currently. The war on terror is a major priority of the Obama Administration and it had also been a top priority of the Bush Administration. However, the approach being given to it is similar to what Malcolm X was advocating; the use of violence to fight back violence. This has in a great way affected the people of United States as they are caught in the middle of this fighting that is going on. If the United States government took the words of Dr. King in fighting this terrorism, there would not be much violence as the one that is going on. Peaceful treaties and dialogues are important in solving misunderstandings. Gandhi stated in his writing that we must embrace love for one another in order to live in harmony. He said, “I have found, however, that this law of love has answered as the law of destruction has never done” (Gandhi, 1891). According to his teaching, violence will not get us anywhere other that just causing more harm to us. We have to embrace peaceful co-existence.
According to Thoreau’s Civil disobedience, he says that “There will never be a free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly” (Thoreau, pg 104). Thoreau criticizes the government for not being able to listen to the outcry of its people. He championed for justice in the society, similar to Dr. King and Malcolm X. the government is responsible for taking care of its people and should not push them so far to the extent that they now decide to become rebellious. The government should allow for the freedom of speech among its citizens and not oppress them by issuing threats to those who try to air their views.
Although they all used different approaches, one thing is clear about Dr. King. Malcolm X, Gandhi and Thoreau: they all advocated for justice. For people in the society to live as one community and in peace, justice must prevail. The government that has been put in place by the people should strive to ensure equality among its citizens and it is only through this that the nations will move forward in peace and unity.