Carmichael acknowledged both nonviolent and violent means as possible paths in the quest for civil rights. Specifically, Carmichael advocated for the equal share of power by both blacks and whites “by whatever means necessary” he says. In contrast to Carmichael, Malcolm X lived a life on the streets, highly involved with crime and in and out of jail. Malcolm X’s father, the Reverend Earl Little, was a proponent and participator in Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association. Controversially, this organization advocated for the complete separation of the black race from the whites, and urged blacks to move back to Africa.
This separatist thinking was a dynamic aspect of Malcolm’s ideology and of the larger organization he was a part of, the Nation of Islam. Malcolm had grown to detest the white man, considering him as the “devil,” as taught by the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, leader of the “Black Muslims. ” Essentially, Malcolm believed that “the only way the black people caught up in this society can be saved is not to integrate into this corrupt society, but to separate from it, to a land of our own, where we can reform ourselves, lift up our moral standards, and try to be godly. (Sparknotes: Alex Haley, “The Autobiography of Malcom X” http://rickscape. com/tmp/snotez/malcolmx. pdf) Unlike Malcolm, Carmichael did not adhere to this approach. However, nearing the end of his life, Malcolm began to reverse his thinking on integration and not considering all whites to be “devils;” unfortuna,tely he was assassinated before he could begin implementing his new approach. Not coincidentally, the elements of “black pride” and “black militancy” became an important aspect of both Malcolm’s and Stokely’s ideologies.
Both approaches appeared around the same time (early Sixties), with Carmichael’s following Malcolm X’s by a couple of years. For Carmichael, “Black Power . . . is a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. (Interchange. org: Michael T. Kaufman, Stokely Carmichael, Rights Leader Who Coined ‘Black Power’ http://www. interchange. org/Kwameture/nytimes11698. html). It is a call for black people to begin to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations and to support those organizations.
It is a call to reject the racist institutions and values of this society. ” Essentially, “the goal of black self-determination and black self-identity – Black Power – is full participation in the decision-making processes affecting the lives of black people, and recognition of the virtues in themselves as black people. ” Carmichael called for blacks to take a look at themselves and to be proud of who they were. The black man had been long deemed inferior by the whites, and without breaking that stigma, blacks could not achieve the equal rights they were demanding.
As Carmichael claimed, “Only when black people fully develop this sense of community, of themselves, can they begin to deal effectively with the problems of racism in this country. ” Furthermore, the politics in America needed to be modernized; this entails “questioning old values and institutions of the society, searching for new and different forms of political structure to solve political and economic problems, and broadening the base of political participation . . . ” (Interchange. org: Michael T. Kaufman, Stokely Carmichael, Rights Leader Who Coined ‘Black Power’ http://www. nterchange. org/Kwameture/nytimes 111698. html). Principally, Carmichael’s approach called for a considerable revamping of the present structure within America. More fundamentally, change had to begin within the black communities themselves. Blacks need to assert their own influence and control over their neighborhoods, school districts, etc. They need to be active participants in government, because “any federal program conceived with black people in mind is doomed if blacks do not control it. ” Obviously, blacks knew what was happening in their communities.
They knew what the problems were and what issues needed to be addressed. Without direct involvement of black people in the decision-making process, the black man’s problems could and would not be completely solved. The “militancy” evident in “Black Power” emanates from the strong, unwavering quest to redefine black culture and make change, or, as Carmichael phrased it, “take care of business . . . by whatever means necessary. ” The fact that the black man would no longer put up with white racist attacks was quintessential. Carmichael proclaimed, “Black people should and must fight back . . .
White people must be made to understand that they must stop messing with black people, or the blacks will fight back! ” All too often, lynchings, beatings, and other attacks made on blacks by white racists had gone without reprisal, or counterattack. Essentially, blacks should not be afraid to defend themselves, a right all humans inherently possess. In review, Carmichael’s “Black Power” was more of an attitude and framework that blacks needed during these trying times. It was a new consciousness that black man had to develop in order to deal with the race problem in America. Was it “racist” or “extreme” to have pride in your own heritage?
Or to stand up for yourself? Taking a look at Malcolm X’s ideology, similarities to Carmichael’s “Black Power” become overwhelmingly apparent. However, there were some minor differences in the overall strategy to achieve civil rights. Malcolm’s beliefs emanated from a religious viewpoint, coming from Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam. Because of the “devil white race’s” overwhelming oppression, the only hope for justice and equality could be achieved through Islam. According to Malcolm’s beliefs, the white man was the black man’s enemy; the black man needed to recognize this in order to rise above in the struggle.
Malcolm’s rhetoric was fiery. Malcolm put fear into the white man, he says in his autobiography “because in him the white man sensed an implacable foe who could not be had for any price – a man unreservedly committed to the cause of liberating the black man in American society rather than integrating the black man into that society. ” The same sense of “black pride” in Carmichael’s ideology existed in Malcolm’s. Without stripping away the built-up, negative attitudes of the black race – in effect, having pride in being black – then blacks would not be able to succeed in their struggle.
Furthermore, Malcolm did not believe that integration could ever solve the problem in America; the only solution for blacks was to completely separate themselves from the whites. Now, here was a significant difference between Malcolm’s and Stokely’s beliefs. Carmichael did disagree with the current methods of integration tried up to this point, but he did not advocate that blacks should establish a separate society. In addition, Carmichael never rejected the help of whites who truly wanted to change the system. On the other hand, Malcolm believed the “devil” could do nothing.
In an incident in which a white college girl asked Malcolm what she could do to help, Malcolm responded to her by saying, “Nothing. ” He came to later regret this; after his journey to Mecca in 1964, he changed many of his former racist views and began redefining his new approach to dealing with the struggle. He stated in an interview, “True, sir! My trip to Mecca has opened my eyes. I no longer subscribe to racism. I have adjusted my thinking to the point where I believe that whites are human beings” – a significant pause – “as long as this is borne out by their humane attitude toward Negroes. “
Furthermore, Malcolm subscribed to a similar approach as Carmichael. The role of “black militancy” was another vital aspect in Malcolm’s ideology. After splitting with the “Black Muslims,” Malcolm established his new Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). Essentially, “the new OAAU’s tone . . . of militant black nationalism . . . would seek to convert the Negro population from non-violence to active self-defense against white supremacists across America . . . Anyone who wants to follow me and my movement has got to be ready to go to jail, to the hospital, and to the cemetery before he can be truly free. In a speech, Malcolm also stated, “I don’t advocate violence, but if a man steps on my toes, I’ll step on his . . . ” Self-defense was the theme. Malcolm X, like Stokely Carmichael, did not advocate unwarranted violence of blacks against whites. Instead, if whites, especially those involved in the Ku Klux Klan, were attacking blacks, then blacks must step up and defend their own. The passivity and pacifistic attitude of Dr. King would not put an end to racist whites ganging up on blacks. After all, what was so wrong with trying to defend yourself?
This was something many in the white establishment used to criticize Carmichael’s and Malcolm X’s movements. After all, the government feared a more aggressive black man, someone who would actually fight for his natural rights. Having an open-mind and understanding of our nation’s history gives us an accurate representation of the true purpose of the “revolutionary” movements of the Civil Rights struggle. This is important for whites to understand, because race problems still exist to this day. We cannot accomplish a complete harmony without understanding everything about black people.
Honestly, what is so different than the “militant” black reaction to hundreds of years of racism than the English colonials reaction to England’s new tax policies? Our – the white – revolution against England is not condemned by the democratic principles of the society we were trying to achieve. So, how is it undemocratic that a group of people – the blacks – tried to make a stand in defense of their own civil rights? The great democratic theorizer Locke stated that a people had a right to revolt against an oppressive government.
It appears that whenever there is a threat – change – to a current system, there is always a backlash by the side in power. However, change, sometimes revolutionary, is an undeniable aspect of history and progression towards a better society. But what was so “revolutionary” about Stokely Carmichael’s “Black Power” and Malcolm X’s philosophy? Was it so intriguing, so “extremist,” that some black people felt an intense dislike for the way they were treated for the past three hundred years? If the sides were turned – if blacks had oppressed whites – there would have been a white Malcolm X and a white Stokely Carmichael.
Both these men and their ideologies were products of the environment they had grown up in. It was a response to a society that kept down a particular race of people. There was only so much someone could take without making a stand for himself. “Black pride” and “black militancy” were the ways in which this stand could be manifested. King’s non-violent approach was genuine, to say the least. On the other hand, there is no doubt that violent beatings and murders inflicted upon members of any of the Civil Right’s organization, including SNCC, who helped to improve their position in society, generates violence as well.
It is difficult to bear all the injustices and not to retaliate in the same manner. Taking all this into consideration, I have to pay tribute to the King’s strategy of non-violence, which bear fruit, and which was able to rally many followers ready to serve a good matter. Although both SCLC and SNCC were created under different conditions and their opinion divergence seemed to be wide, they both contributed to the major achievements of the movement, Civil Rights legislation of 1964 and 1965 and gained worldwide reverence and recognition.