Malcolm X The Civil Rights Era was a time of hardships and oppression for minorities living in the United States. Minorities were treated unfairly and oppressed for the past 200 years which is why many of them wanted a change in the society they lived in. Throughout the course of the Civil Rights Movement many leaders arose to lead their followers to liberation from discrimination and racism. Malcolm X was one of these leaders.
He was a phenomenal speaker and very influential leader. However Malcolm believed in achieving liberation, equal rights, and freedom through violent revolution. He advocated and promoted violent protest and hate to rally support from his followers. These radical protests negatively impacted the course of the movement. Examples of these negative influences were shown in Malcolm’s faith, his view on the J.F.K. assassination, his condescending view of Martin Luther King, his controversial speech “The Ballot or the Bullet”, his blatant racism against whites, and his opposing views of racial integration. Malcolm X’s violent ideology negatively affected the success that the Civil Rights Movement had for American minorities.
Malcolm repeatedly told his followers that violence and harmful crimes would lead them to freedom and liberty from the whites. In his speech “The Ballot or the Bullet” Malcolm said, “The only thing I’ve ever said is that in areas where the government has proven itself either unwilling or unable to defend the lives and the property of Negroes, it’s time for Negroes to defend themselves. Article number two of the Constitutional amendments provides you and me the right to own a rifle or a shotgun. It is constitutionally legal to own a shotgun or a rifle. This doesn’t mean you’re going to get a rifle and form battalions and go out looking for white folks, although you’d be within your rights – I mean, you’d be justified; but that would be illegal and we don’t do anything illegal. If the white man doesn’t want the black man buying rifles and shotguns, then let the government do its job. That’s all.”(X) Although Malcolm brings up the constitution, his statements are still morally wrong. He is telling his followers to go out and purchase guns. By telling them to arm themselves, he is promoting violent means to achieve liberation from racism and segregation. Harming or injuring any person in order to prove a point would certainly not motivate the government or any other person to make a change in their society. Instead it would cause greater chaos and promote even more problems. In “The Ballot or the Bullet” Malcolm told his listeners, “Any time you demonstrate against segregation and a man has the audacity to put a police dog on you, kill that dog, kill him, I’m telling you, kill that dog. I say it, if they put me in jail tomorrow, kill that dog. Then you’ll put a stop to it. Now, if these white people in here don’t want to see that kind of action, get down and tell the mayor to tell the police department to pull the dogs in. That’s all you have to do. If you don’t do it, someone else will.”(X) This is one of the ways in which Malcolm promoted violence amongst his followers. He told them to go out and violently demonstrate against racism and discrimination. He told them they have the right to kill anything that got in their way. This proves his extremist attitude toward ending the suffering and mistreatment of minorities. This type of violent attitude would only impede the progress that the Civil Rights Movement was making. Aggressive behavior would not help African Americans achieve desegregation and win freedom from oppression; instead it creates a hostile and dangerous environment for all of America.
Malcolm made several statements during speeches and interviews that significantly harmed the view of African American activists by other Americans. In an interview Malcolm said, “…the Negro has already given up on non-violence. This new-thinking Negro is beginning to realize that when he demonstrates for what the government says are his rights then the law should be on his side. Anyone standing in front of him reclaiming his rights is breaking the law. Now, you’re not going to have a law-breaking element inflicting violence upon Negroes who are trying to implement the law, so that when they begin to see this, like this, they are going to strike back. In 1964 you’ll find Negroes will strike back, there never will be non-violence anymore that has run out.”(Gallen 125) This is what Malcolm wanted. He wanted a violent revolution to occur because he thought it was the only way for black to get the rights they deserved. Malcolm wanted to stir up the blacks so they would revolt violently against the whites. Malcolm made several statements that harmed his stance in the movement. “Malcolm X’s rising star in the Nation of Islam came tumbling down in 1963. At a rally on December 1 he referred to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination as a case of “the chickens coming home to roost,” meaning that the same hatred that whites had directed at blacks had felled the president.”(Gallen 61) Malcolm began to become more radical and extreme in his acts. In this statement he mocks the assassination of one of our presidents because he is so fed up with the discrimination of his people. Malcolm humiliated the black community with these words and created a bad stigma for activists like himself and Martin Luther King.
Malcolm criticized and blamed the government for the racial problems within their society and he vehemently disavowed his allegiance to America. Malcolm once said, “…I’m not anti-Democrat, I’m not anti-Republican, I’m not anti-anything. I’m just questioning their sincerity and some of the strategy that they’ve been using on our people by promising them promises that they don’t intend to keep.”(X) Malcolm demonstrates how he was an extremist fighting against the government. Malcolm constantly reprehended America’s government for not helping solve the problem of black discrimination. His comments were taken as a threat by the government and gave them reason not to make changes for the good of African Americans. In his “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech he said, “No, I’m not an American. I’m one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy. So, I’m not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver — no, not I. I’m speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare”(X) Malcolm blamed America for the discrimination of his people. He revoked himself as an American and led his followers to believe that the American system was not helping the black community of the country. Thus negatively impacting the view the rest of America had on their community.
Malcolm had a very pessimistic view concerning the future of blacks in America. Malcolm once said, “The job of the Negro civil rights leader is to make the Negro forget that the wolf and the fox both belong to the (same) family. Both are canines; and no matter which one of them the Negro places his trust in, he never ends up in the White House, but always in the dog house.”(Ali) Malcolm had a cynical outlook on the future of black Americans. He believed they wouldn’t get anywhere unless they resorted to violent acts against the whites. His contemptuous views invoked passionate rage and hate amongst his followers and drove them to seek vengeance and participate in violent protests which, in turn, negatively affected the direction the movement was heading. In his speech “God’s Judgement of White America” Malcolm states, “Is it possible for America to escape this divine disaster? If America can’t atone for the crimes she has committed against the twenty-two million “Negroes,” if she can’t undo the evils she has brutally and mercilessly heaped upon our people these past four hundred years, then America has signed her own doom…and our own people would be foolish to accept her deceitful offers of integration into her doomed society at this late date!”(Ali) Malcolm doesn’t believe that America can get out of the social depression it has dug itself into. He brings up the idea of integration and shuts it down saying it will never help out the problem within America’s society. Integration was the one thing that would have and did save the black community and Malcolm thought it would not assist their cause.
Malcolm frequently denounced the peaceful protests of the nation’s great civil rights leader, Martin Luther King. He once said, “The goal has always been the same, with the approaches to it as different as mine and Dr. Martin Luther King’s non-violent marching, that dramatizes the brutality and the evil of the white man against defenseless blacks. And in the racial climate of this country today, it is anybody’s guess which of the “extremes” in approach to the black man’s problems might personally meet a fatal catastrophe first — “non-violent” Dr. King, or so-called “violent” me.”(Ali) With two different approaches to solving their crisis Malcolm’s and Dr. King’s ideas constantly clashed. Malcolm disregarded Dr. King’s ways and believed only his own ways were the right way to go. This however proved to be incorrect and his tactics would become highly controversial and unsuccessful during this movement. King’s peaceful protests were clearly more effective than Malcolm’s yet Malcolm still criticized King’s beliefs. “While Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was teaching blacks to fight racism with love, Malcolm X was telling blacks to understand their exploitation, to fight back when attacked, and to seize self-determination “by any means necessary.” Malcolm spoke publicly of his lack of respect for King, who would, through a white man’s religion, tell blacks to not fight back.”(Hamilton) Malcolm’s teachings of the Islam taught him about the mistreatment of blacks and he believed that the only solution was through violence. Malcolm fought hard and stampeded through anything that got in his way, like Martin Luther king. He disagreed with King’s beliefs and believed that violence was the only answer. Those violent teachings created a negative effect amongst African Americans and caused chaos, terror, and violent dangerous protests within America.
Malcolm was blatantly racist towards whites and very outspoken about it which gave the civil rights movement a bad image from the perspective of fellow Americans. “I’ve never seen a sincere white man, not when it comes to helping black people. Usually things like this are done by white people to benefit themselves. The white man’s primary interest is not to elevate the thinking of black people, or to waken black people, or white people either. The white man is interested in the black man only to the extent that the black man is of use to him. The white man’s interest is to make money, to exploit.”(Ali) Instead of trying to reason, Malcolm decided to criticize and negatively stereotype the white people. This had a negative impact on the uprise of the black movement. It created even more reason for the whites to continue their oppression and discrimination of African Americans. “The common enemy is the white man.”(Ali) Malcolm tells his followers that the white man is the enemy. In a nation where more than half the population is white, calling the major populous the enemy isn’t exactly the best plan. Rather than reason with whites, Malcolm decided to attack them and go to war with them.
Malcolm was against the one thing that would have changed civil rights in the most influential way; desegregation. In his speech “God’s Judgment of White America” he said,”If this white government is afraid to let her twenty-two million ex-slaves go back to our country and to our own people, then America must set aside some separate territory here in the Western Hemisphere, where the two races can live apart from each to her, since we certainly don’t get along peacefully while we are here together.”(Ali) Malcolm did not want integration, which would give blacks more freedom and rights. Instead he wanted the country to split into two and have the entire country be segregated. Malcolm strongly believed that integration will weaken black power and influence. He stated, “If I have a cup of coffee that is too strong for me because it is too black, I weaken it by pouring cream into it. I integrate it with cream. If I keep pouring enough cream in the coffee, pretty soon the entire flavor of the coffee is changed; the very nature of the coffee is changed. If enough cream is poured in, eventually you don’t even know that I had coffee in this cup. This is what happened with the March on Washington. The whites didn’t integrate it; they infiltrated it. Whites joined it; they engulfed it; they became so much a part of it, it lost its original flavor. It ceased to be a black march; it ceased to be militant; it ceased to be angry; it ceased to be impatient. In fact, it ceased to be a march.”(Ali) By saying this Malcolm is rejecting the help from whites. Whites marched with the blacks in a march to help out the black movement. Even though they probably could have done a great deal for the movement, Malcolm still thought they didn’t belong.
Although he was a revolutionary and a very influential leader of African Americans, his teaching worked in the opposite way he was intending them too. His public protests and beliefs had a negative effect on the civil rights movement. Malcolm had great influential power and had great effect on thousands of people. His teachings carried on to greater changes in the United States during the 60’s and 70’s. He significantly impacted the Black Power Movement and other Civil Rights activists and revolutionized African American protests. Although his beliefs weren’t always morally correct Malcolm was a courageous, influential leader that greatly altered the time in which he lived..
Ali, Noaman. Malcolm-X.org. 13 Dec. 2007 . Gallen, David. Malcolm X As They Knew Him. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1992. Hamilton, Neal A. “Malcolm X.” Facts On File. American History Online.
Facts On File. 7 Nov. 2007 . X, Malcolm. “The Ballot or The Bullet.” Cleveland, Ohio. 3 Apr. 1964.
Student Resource Center Gold. Gale. Westview Lib., San Diego, CA. 8 Nov. 2007 .