I found Malcolm X’s argument compelling. I especially liked when he talked about not being an American. I was fascinated by this concept, I have never really thought about being an American. He said “I am not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate and call myself a diner.” That is an interesting concept. How does one define what makes them American? Being born here? Malcolm would say not “As long as you and I have been over here, we aren’t Americans yet- If you and I were Americans there would be no problem.” He is saying that African Americans are second class citizens, that because their votes are not counting, they cannot even consider themselves Americans. “They don’t have to pass civil rights legislation to make a Polack and American.” He says that the government that they voted in has been a waste of a vote, the administration “has seen fit to pass every kind of legislation imaginable, saving you until last, then filibustering on top of that.”
He says that the black man “doesn’t intend to turn the other cheek any longer.” “They haven’t got anything to lose, and they’ve got everything to gain. And they’ll let you know in a minute: ‘It takes two to tango; and when I go, you go.’” I realize that Malcolm X said “by any means necessary,” but I feel that he would never have even talked about taking the movement to violence if there had been another option. I think that when you back people into corners for a long enough amount of time, they will strike back. I feel that Malcolm would have been all for MLK’s non-violent campaign if it had worked more quickly. His problem was that the black man had waited too long to be given what had already belonged to him. “How can you thank a man for giving you what’s already yours? You haven’t even made progress, if what’s being given to you, you should have had already.” He is saying that because these rights should have been the given to the black man to begin with, fighting (with violence) is justifiable when one is being deprived of something they should already have.
Malcolm X said “The ballot or the bullet”, I think that is a sign that he was willing not to turn to violence, if there had been another option. He made the point that if the government would have given black people a real voice, they would not have had to turn to violence.
While MLK would not agree with the possibility of violence, under any circumstances, you cannot deny that the two men were fighting for the same things. They both believed that their rights were being, not just violated, but they did not truly have these rights in the first place. King advocated non-violence; however he was willing to go to great lengths to achieve these ends. He ultimately gave his life for this cause. I think that if the white man would have done what he had promised he would do, the civil rights movement would never have had to turn to violence, and I think that Malcolm would agree.