MLK, Malcolm X, Mandela, and Biko : Resistance to Modern Day Slavery and Philosophies for Black Liberation. This Presentation Is A Thematic Analysis Of The Four Leaders Comparing The Selected Subjects of Justice and Liberation.
INTRODUCTION:Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Stephen Biko, and Nelson Mandela were four of the most prominent freedom fighters of the 20th century.
THESIS:King, Malcolm X, Biko, and Mandela shared the common drive to free their people from modern day slavery by comparable and complimentary means of direct resistance and self-empowerment philosophies for Black liberation.
King, Malcolm, Biko, and Mandela Challenged the Social Conscience of the United States, South Africa, and the Rest of the Attentive World to Recognize and Address the Immorality of Subjugating Human Beings for the Colourof Their Skin.
In the U.S., Malcolm X sparked the dormant anger in his brothers and sisters to stand up and command immediate justice on equal terms while King sparked the loving compassion of his audience to stand up for the morality of equal rights.
Martin Luther King Jr. successfully mobilized the oppressed masses to resist discrimination non-violently through the will power of love and compassion for all humanity, which he stressed in many of his speeches:
King:“We must not use violence. Oh, sometimes as we struggle it will be necessary to boycott. But let us remember as we boycott that a boycott is never an end. A boycott is merely means to awaken within the oppressor the sense of shame and to let him know that we don't like how we are being treated; but the end my friends is reconciliation, the end is redemption.
And our aim must never be to defeat the white man or to humiliate him. Our aim must be to win his friendship and his understanding … We must get a hold of this simple principle of love and let it be our guiding principle throughout our struggle,” (Address at Freedom Rally, http://www.mlkonline.com/).
Teaching the moral force of love that was taught to him by his Christian faith, King put the practitioners of racial bigotry to shame in the public spotlight of the U.S. and the world by responding to violent acts with massive non-violent demonstrations instead of retaliation.
Malcolm X disagreed with King’s non-violent activism and instead called for immediate self-defense for Black people to protect themselves from brutality:
MalcolmX:“We feel we’ve waited long enough. And we feel that all this crawling and sitting-in and crying-in and praying-in and begging-in hasn’t gotten any meaningful results …
“We should be peaceful, law-abiding – but the time has come for the American Negro to fight back in self-defense whenever and wherever he is being unjustly and unlawfully attacked. If the government thinks I am wrong for saying this then let the government start doing its job,” (Breitman, Malcolm X Speaks: 70, 22).
Malcolm X did not believe in hurting innocent people but, unlike King, he did believe in self-defense because he valued the lives of Black people. While white racism had society convinced that the Black life was worth nothing, Malcolm X told his people to take pride in their Black identity and love themselves.
Much like Malcolm X’s strategy, Biko infused the notion of self-help for Black people to uplift and provide for themselves psychologically, socially, and economically.
Biko:“… as long as blacks are suffering from inferiority complex – a result of 300 years of deliberate oppression, denigration and derision – they will be useless as co-architects of a normal society where man is nothing else but man for his own sake.
“Hence what is necessary as a prelude to anything else that may come is a very strong grass-roots build-up of black consciousness such that blacks can learn to assert themselves and stake their rightful claim …
“Black Consciousness therefore, takes cognizance of the deliberateness of God’s plan in creating black people black. It seeks to infuse the black community with a new-found pride in themselves, their efforts, their value systems, their culture their religion and their outlook in to life,” (Biko, I Write What I Like: 21, 49).
Like Malcolm X, Biko advocated Black pride and self-awareness to encourage greater vitality to the Black community by uniting them with pride for their humanity in order to counteract white society’s teachings of Black inferiority.
Mandela, on the other hand, forced more external change by rallying political resistance activism, conducting diplomatic negotiations, and consolidating support in international relations.
As the leader of the African National Congress Youth League, Mandela fought for justice by resisting the laws of the colonial Nationalist government, and calling for a true democracy, which would represent the people as a whole in South Africa.
During his treason trial against the Apartheid government, Mandela shared Malcolm’s sentiments of disillusionment with a so-called democracy that produces second-class citizens:
Mandela:“How can I be expected to believe that this same racial discrimination which has been the cause of so much injustice and suffering right through the years, should now operate here to give me a fair and open trial?
…[I] consider myself neither morally nor legally obliged to obey laws made by a Parliament in which I am not represented,”(www.thinkexist.com/English/Author/x/Author_3763_2.htm).
Mandela, like Malcolm X, was fully aware of the hypocrisy of his nation’s government and both leaders were ready to lead their peoples to revolution to gain true representation.
In the U.S., King was also prepared to fight for equal representation but instead of turning towards revolution, King believed equality could be achieved within the existing democracy of the nation and he was prepared to die for it:
King:“And even if he tries to kill you, (He can’t kill you) you’ll develop the inner conviction that there are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they are worth dying for [Applause] …
“I hope you will allow me to say to you this afternoon that God is not interested merely in the freedom of black men and brown men and yellow men. God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race.” [Applause] (Speech at the Great March on Detroit, www.mlkonline.com/).
While King inspired people of all colors to unite in a moral battle against racism, Malcolm focused his attention on helping the Black community empower itself.
This philosophy of “Black Nationalism,” much like Biko’s “Black Consciousness” later in South Africa, was meant to empower Black people to uplift themselves from oppression by freeing themselves from outside dependencies on white society.
In his speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet,” Malcolm advises Black people to unite and uplift themselves by consolidating their political and economic power:
Malcolm X:“We should control the economy of our community … The philosophy of black nationalism involves a re-education program in the black community in regards to economics …
“If we own the stores, if we operate the businesses, if we try and establish some industry in our own community, then we’re developing to the position where we are creating employment for our own kind …
“Once you gain control of the economy of your own community, then you don’t have to picket and boycott and beg some cracker downtown for a job in his business …
“The political philosophy of black nationalism means: we must control the politics and the politicians of our community. They must no longer take orders from outside forces. We will organize, and sweep out of office all Negro politicians who are puppets for the outside forces,” (Breitman, Malcolm X Speaks: 39, 21).
Malcolm X’s ideal for Black Nationalism was to develop completely self-sustainable Black communities that supported Black growth economically, politically and socially, with no dependence on the resources of White America.
Although he did not live long enough to make his vision a reality, Malcolm X never the less inspired many Black people with a sense of pride in their Black identity, which became a unifying force against racism.
In South Africa, Biko also greatly inspired Black pride in his people as he echoed Malcolm X’s call for self-empowerment in order to achieve social equality:
Biko:“If by integration you understand a breakthrough into white society by black, an assimilation and acceptance of blacks into an already established set of norms and code of behavior set up by and maintained by whites, then YES I am against it” …
“If on the other hand by integration you mean there shall be free participation by all members of a society, catering for the full expression of the self in a freely changing society as determined by the will of the people, then I am with you,” (Biko, I Write What I Like: 24).
Like Malcolm X and unlike King, Biko had no interest in jumping into white society to make their society habitable and equal for Black people to live in.
Rather, Biko believed that Black South Africans must learn to help themselves first and not rely on the leadership or financial support of whites because that was the very chain of mental slavery that needed to be broken- white dependence.
While Biko focused on education for Black independence from within, Mandela led more direct resistance by organizing the people in civil disobedience against Apartheid.
Mandela: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.
“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die,” (Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: 368).
Conclusion:The resistance philosophies of MLK, Malcolm, Mandela, and Biko commonly share the call for self-determination and direct resistance by the people in order to achieve liberation from oppression.
MLK and Mandela offered greater attention to political negotiation and interracial collaboration while Malcolm X and Biko offered greater emphasis on self-empowerment through Black pride and independence.
The contrasting methods between MLK and Malcolm X and Mandela and Biko, respectively, created two parallel and complimentary dynamics to the freedom movements in the U.S. and in South Africa that proved to be vital to their common struggles for liberation.