Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Cornel West
“What are the key issues facing society today, according to the thinkers in your text on Social movements?(Consider for example, the question of “human rights” versus “identity”, and “inclusion” versus “difference” . Compare and contrast three of these thinkers;: which of them offers the best analysis of the problems at stake in contemporary politics? which offers the best solutions?
Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Cornel West all addresses the black man’s plight and each suggests some solutions. Malcolm X is a black nationalist who believes in liberty or death, he says that Black communities need to get together and have more pride in their race. He is considered an extremist because he tells it like it is and says blacks should only be nonviolent only if they are faced with nonviolence. According to Brother Malcolm some key issues that blacks are facing include political oppression, economic exploitation, social degradation. His solutions to these problems are blacks need to look at the problem in a new angle, reeducation in politics, and they need new allies to help the fight of segregation. Martin Luther King is a Civil Rights Leader who is considered the obedient black leader because he stresses integration and always believed that blacks and whits can coincide in the same place. Issues he put forth are laws in america are unjust for blacks, they have been unjust for so long that blacks are starting to get used to them and now that blacks are starting to yearn for freedom they are being told to wait. His solutions include blacks need to raise tension without nonviolence or there wont be any growth because priviledge groups are never reluctant to give up their privileges and he proposed his 4 basic steps to follow in any campaign. He also says blacks should release their frustration by going on freedom rides and marching. A more contemporary thinker is Cornel West who says that Conservatives and Liberals are suffocating better actions that should be taking place by conservatives believing that there are barriers that blacks can’t get over and Liberals think that blacks need to just handle themselves better; they basically overlook what he called nihilistic threat which is loss of hope for black improvement. Another issue he proposes is that the market is undermining black traditions, blacks are being seduced by images of comfort that makes them forget all about their roots and therefore killing old black traditions of fighting oppression. Solutions he proposes are to acknowledge that circumstances can be changed, we need to reawaken black cultures that sustained black communities. All three intellectuals contribute to different parts of the analysis of black social movements so you cant say which is the best analysis because they are all analysis of one issue.
King is known for his belief in nonviolence but even he knows there are laws that blacks should not tolerate; he called these laws unjust laws. He writes, “I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all’ (King, 332). Just because a rule is the law does not mean that it is best, and people should not have to abide by that law. But then again blacks were not considered people under those laws, this is an even greater reason why they should fight to not stay oppressed because they are people. Blacks have been facing these unjust laws for so long that they are starting to accept them, King thinks this is a problem and says, “a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are are so drained of self-respect and a sense of ‘somebodiness’ that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses” (King, 335). When people are treated a certain way for a while they start to believe thats how things should be, that is why blacks should continue to be aware of the freedom they are supposed to have. Blacks were facing accusations of rushing their liberty. King preaches, “we have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights” (King, 331). The ones that tell them to wait must not truly understand how it feels to be under segregation. Those people telling blacks to wait must have never “taken a country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of” their “automobile because no motel will accept” them. (King, 332). If it were these people who are advising King to slow down that were facing oppression they would not even consider suggesting blacks to wait because oppression goes against human rights.
King has solutions to the problems he brought up by saying, “I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth” (King, 331). If they are not going to fight violence with violence then they should definitely find a way to show their protest of unjust laws in a nonviolent way. Blacks fighting for their freedom shows the black community that what is happening to them is not accepted. Kings plan for making protests effective is a four basic step he devised, and he describes it as, “collection of facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action” (King, 330). Campaigns are more effective when they are planned, and Civil Right Movement campaigns definitely faced opposition so a plan is needed to handle the oppositions. King believed that in order for to rid themselves of segregation they would need to not channel their frustrations in violence. He says, “The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides.- and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence” (King, 336). Kings point is understood because if blacks were to answer violence for violence then they would be acting just like whites want them to act and then they will be labeled as a threat and be even farther from their freedom but then again a life of oppression without resistance can end up never ending and being accepted. This is why it is difficult to say that this is the best way because it is not rounded enough. You need some resistance to let the oppressor know you don’t accept what they are doing to you that where King got help from Malcolm X.
According to Malcolm X blacks are facing political oppression, economic exploitation and social degradation. The political oppression that blacks are facing is caused by the government. Malcolm X announces,
You and I are faced not with a segregationist conspiracy, we’re faced with a government conspiracy….The same government that you go abroad to fight for and die for is the government that is in a conspiracy to deprive you of your voting rights, deprive you of your economic opportunities, deprive you of decent housing, deprive you of decent education. You don’t need to go to the employer alone, it is the government itself, the government of America, that is responsible for the oppression and exploitation and degradation of black people in this country (Malcolm X, 343).
The government does control slavery because if it was against the law blacks would not go through as much racial problems as they did even if most of America was racist, and it is the government that made all those laws that oppressed blacks. Malcolm X argues that one reason blacks are poorer is because they don’t know where to spend their money. He states, “Our people have to be made to see that anytime you take your dollar out of your community and spend it in a community where you don’t live, the community where you live will get poorer and poorer, and the community where you spend your money will get richer and richer (Malcolm X, 347). Instead of spending their money somewhere else, black communities should come together and open a black operated store so they can’t be excluded from it. Malcolm X believes he is not an American because of all the social degradation blacks face. He says, “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-waiver-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” (Malcolm X, 342). he is absolutely on point, black people are not American if they are not being treated according to what the constitution say they should be treated as.
Malcolm X did not just have problems he had lots of solutions for blacks. One the best solutions he proposed for blacks is when he says, “we need new friends, we need new allies. We need to expand the civil-rights struggle to a higher level-to the level of human rights. He goes on to say that “when you expand the civil-rights struggle to the level of human rights, you can then take the case of the black man in this country before the nations in the UN (Malcolm X, 346). This is a good suggestion to help with the black struggle because when dealing with something as big as the US government only an organization as big as the UN could make an impact. If the UN were to had put their hands in the Civil Rights Movement then blacks would have had a stronger case because the American government would have been even more embarrassed. Another solution that Malcolm X produced is “the black man in the black community has to be re-educated into the science of politics so he will know what politics is supposed to bring him in return” (Malcolm X, 346-7). If more blacks were educated in politics then black communities would be less likely to accept any part of segregation. Malcolm X had some sensible analysis and solutions of the black problem but he needed the conservative side of Martin Luther King so blacks are not seen as a bunch of hoodlums who would do anything for change.
Cornel West an intellectual of the contemporary period believes that blacks are facing problems because of the nihilistic threat which is “loss of hope and absence of meaning. For as long as hope remains and meaning is preserved, the possibility of overcoming oppression stays alive. The self-fulfilling prophecy of the nihilistic threat is that without hope there can be no future” (West, 351). Slaves working in fields during slavery survived with a lot of hope that one day they would be free and it took time but it was successful so blacks today should continue to have hope; its what got them here. Another issue blacks still face today is the channeling of anger at the wrong group. He says,
The accumulated effect of the black wounds and scars suffered in a white-dominated society is a deep-seated seated anger, a boiling sense of rage, and a passionate pessimism regarding America’s will to justice…this anger, rage, and pessimism remained relatively muted because of a well justified fear of brutal white retaliation….sadly, the combination of the market way of life, poverty-ridden conditions, black existential angst, and the lessening of fear of white authorities has directed most of the anger, rage, and despair toward fellow black citizens.
Solutions for the black community according to West can be found in making culture more important because culture is “the genius of our black foremothers and forefathers was to create powerful buffers to ward off the nihilistic threat, to equip black folk with cultural armor to beat back the demons of hopelessness, meaninglessness, and lovelessness. These buffers consisted of cultural structures of meaning and feeling that created and sustained communities” (West, 351-2). in order to make black culture more prevalent we must, “reject the idea that structures are primarily economic and political creatures-an idea that sees culture as an ephemeral set of behavioral attitudes and values. Culture is as much a structure as the economy or politics” (West, 350). Culture is one of the best ways to tie people of the same group, and without it, it would be harder for any race to work together if they can’t relate to each other culturally and all blacks are required to be on the same page in order to fight segregation. Cornel West is not a Civil Rights leader but black leaders are scarce in the black race because ever since the Civil Rights Movement there has not been anyone of the calibur of Malcolm X or Martin Luther King. Though Cornel West is one of those intellectuals that give good analysis of what the black man is facing in this contemporary period.
Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Cornel West all analyzed the problem blacks are facing well. Malcolm X saw the government’s hand in racism and suggests that blacks need a national help from the UN to help in the fight, says that blacks should be educated in polit so they a