The Problem of Segregation

Malcolm X wasn’t the brightest kid growing up. After his father’s suicide and mothers incarceration, he began dealing drugs and was a rebel. He spent 10 years in prison as a result, where he committed himself to furthering his education. He became a part of the Muslim faith and began studying the works of Elijah Muhammed who preached about systemic oppression and fought for a world separate from one inhabited by White people. By the time Malcolm X was released from prison he was a devout follower. Malcolm X was soon appointed as a minister and national spokesperson for the Nation of Islam. He preached about human rights, freedom, action, and community building.

At one point in time, Malcolm X had read an article written by Katherine Pierce stating that the ‘integration of the races is the key to progress.’ Malcolm X did not agree with the article whatsoever, because he believed that method was hypocritical and would take too long. Malcolm stated that he wanted black people to control their areas and be separate from the white areas. His reasoning for this is because if they were to integrate, he believed black people would suffer greatly and wouldn’t be allowed to succeed to their full potential. Not only that, but during a speech in 1963, he stated that “the only permanent solution is complete separation or some land of our own in a country of our own. All other courses will lead to violence and bloodshed. It will lead to the destruction of America, and it will also lead to the destruction of our people who fall for it.”

It is understandable as to why Malcolm took the position he was in, but it wasn’t the most influential take during the time. The ideas and strategies that other activists preached, such as Martin Luther King Jr., were much more prominent and surpassed Malcolm X’s ideas of violence and separation. Martin Luther King Jr’s nonviolent campaign was much more accessible and understanding to all people of color. In his “I have a Dream” speech, he preaches the importance of black and white people working together in order to bring equality to all. Although MLK and Malcolm X shared the same goal of bringing african americans together and fighting against the injustices they have endured, MLK’s strategy was much more logical than that of Malcolm X. Malcolm’s idea of violence and separation would have likely

caused more harm than good. Using violence during the movement would have likely granted african americans less priveledges than what they had received, and would have definitely slowed down the entire process of the civil rights movement.

The creation of the Black Panther Party was influenced by the ideology of black nationalism and socialism. Huey P. Newton, one of the founders, saw the rebellious anger of the ghetto as a social force, and believed that if he could stand up to the police, he could organize that force into political power. The Black Panther Party was used as a method of self defense and would not cause violence unless violence was caused against them. The ideas and preachings of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. heavily influenced the Black Panther Party, more so that of Malcolm X. The Black Panther Party was genuinely an organization that just cared for the african american communities, but many white people viewed it as a hate group.

When Malcolm Little was growing up in Lansing, Michigan, he developed a mistrust for white Americans. Ku Klux Klan terrorists burned his house, and his father was later murdered — an act young Malcolm attributed to local whites. After moving to Harlem, Malcolm turned to crime. Soon he was arrested and sent to jail. While in prison, he began to read and educate himself. Influenced by other inmates, he converted to Islam. Upon his release, he was a changed man with a new identity. Malcolm X became a practitioner of the Black Muslim faith, which combines the religious aspects of Islam with the ideas of both black power and black nationalism. The Nation of Islam attracted many followers, especially in prisons, where lost African Americans most looked for guidance. They preached adherence to a strict moral code and reliance on other African Americans. Integration was not a goal. Rather, the Nation of Islam wanted blacks to set up their own schools, churches, and support networks. When Malcolm X made his personal conversion, Elijah Muhammad soon recognized his talents and made him a leading spokesperson for the Black Muslims. In 1963, he split with the Nation of Islam and in 1964, he made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Later that year, he showed signs of softening his stand on violence and later gave up his ideas on separation.

The upbringing of Malcolm X can and can’t be related in some ways to that of Ruth from The Color of Water. Both had rough upbringings, but for different reasons. Ruth was brought up in a Jewish Family with very strict ideas. Her father was very much against african americans and he showed no love for them. Ruth, however, developed a relationship with the black community that would define her for the rest of her life. Ruth understood the racism between people, not just because of race, but also because of religion. When Ruth left to marry with an african american, her family basically gave up and never

allowed her to come back. The Jewish religion that Ruth’s father took place in was much like that of Malcolm’s, but not for african americans. Malcolm’s faith in being a black muslim preached adherence to a strict moral code and reliance on other African Americans, whereas Tateh preached adherence to a strict moral code and reliance on other Jews.