Reclaiming Martin Luther King

By The Ligali Organisation | Wed 22 March 2006

Using their Malcolm v Martin debate as the backdrop, Ligali founder, Toyin Agbetu answers Simon Woolley of OBV and explains why African human rights activists must prevent those without the stomach for change from abusing the legacy of Martin Luther King

African History: Exactly fifty Years today on 22 March 1956, the human rights activist, Reverend Martin Luther King, was convicted of organising an illegal boycott by African bus passengers in the US state of Alabama. The courts abused an archaic law dating from 1921 designed to break trade union action to find him guilty. King was given a suspended prison sentence of 386 days. Judge Eugene Carter said he had been lenient because Martin Luther King had advocated non-violence.

Late 2005, I was invited by the BBC to be an advocate of Omowale Malcolm X in a re-enactment of the ideological battle between his strategies of empowerment and that of Dr Martin Luther King.

It is not a secret that Ligali’s self empowerment ethos is driven in large part by Malcolm’s By Any Means Necessary strategy. So I welcomed the opportunity to share the wisdom of these African American giants in an intellectual debate. The format was interesting if not unconventional and recorded in front of a BBC invited audience at the Drum, Birmingham’s art centre for the African British community.

Two historians would first present the background of Malcolm and Martin and then two witnesses would become advocates. Following this it was to be pretty much an open debate framed by debate over the value of each ideology in contemporary British politics.

Invited to take up the Martin Luther King mantel was Dr David Muir, Public Policy Director for the Evangelical Alliance as his historical champion and Simon Woolley, Director of Operation Black Vote as his advocate. I had not met David Muir before and he immediately impressed me with his sincerity. In contrast Simon Woolley and I knew each other and were politically opposing forces travelling loosely in a similar direction.

I considered myself very fortunate when I discovered Malcolm’s historical champion was none other than the esteemed Dr Hakim Adi, Reader in African History and Lecturer in History at Middlesex University. We were all told that through host Allan Little the Radio 4 Great Debate series sought to re-visit great debates of the past.

The BBC had billed this as a “restaging of the debate between two towering figures of the Civil Rights Movement - Dr Martin Luther King and Malcolm X”. They said the intent was to examine the political legacy of these great African icons and then debate the relevance these strategies had to African people in Britain today.

Had I realised that the intent to broadcast it in February was so that it could be used as a part of Dr Martin Luther King’s annual commemorations, I would have recognised that the true objective of the debate was to celebrate King’s ideology by denouncing Malcolm’s.

Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King: Parents of a revolutionary movement

The Martin Luther King team opened first and for almost twenty minutes they defined Martin through his adherence to philosophies borrowed from “the non-Christian beliefs of Mahatma Gandhi in India”. Much was made of Kings supposed non-wavering commitment to Gandhi’s non violent approach and this they claimed “easily transferred to King’s Christian belief that to ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘love thy enemy’ would eventually overcome prejudice and injustice”.

In contrast their depiction of Malcolm repeatedly took the shape of a man of violence. They saw his famous ‘By any means necessary’ phrase as “chilling” and whilst admitting it was a forceful expression of self defence, they constantly used it to denigrate a strategy which advocated that African people did not stand passively by whilst our loved ones were being lynched, raped, murdered as they struggled to ‘love’ an enemy who even murdered innocent African children in churches.

In an article published on the ‘Black’ Britain website reporting on the debate Simon Woolley wrote; "For the sake of the Radio 4 debate I accepted that the teams would emphasise the merits of their icon more than the other, but I also thought that 21st Century Black activists would have the political and philosophical luxury to elicit what we saw as the best of these two great minds and converge their ideas for a modern day approach. How wrong I was."

Begging for Equality
In his analysis Woolley speaks of a King who “lyrically spoke with a passion and purpose that implored white America to search its soul and tackle racism whilst inspiring Black America that their dignity and righteousness would eventually ‘overcome’”.

What Woolley eloquently expresses when he uses the word ‘implored’ translates to King ‘begged’ passionately for equality without justice. In some ways he speaks the truth. For a very long time Martin Luther King believed that by adopting an unflinching adherence to the principle of forgiving all sins committed against us, he could ultimately gain the love and respect of our oppressor. This he reasoned would lead to African people being seen and treated as equals in the eyes of european Americans.

It was this approach that led to europeans sanctioning him and this preferred strategy of passive dissent as the standard bearer for socio-economically impoverished communities to model their political approach to social reform.

It worked.

Woolley likened his Operation ‘Black’ Vote to King’s voter registration programme, a drive to engage as many African people with the electoral voting system. Like Wolley, the young King also believed we should "Get the ballot and through gaining the ballot you gain political power." He claimed that after that we could “call the politicians and tell them that certain things will have to be done because you helped put them in office”.

Yet despite the similarities in language, a true comparison detailing the execution of both programmes shows that this claim of moral kinship is disingenuous. It reminds me of the first time I met Woolley. We were at a debate on the state of politics in our community. Much like with the affluent Americans that supported King and the socio-economically disadvantaged African people that empowered Malcolm, The forum was divided into two halves.

Woolley’s supporters agreed with his strategy of what he referred to a ‘tactical voting’. It worked on the basis that despite the ideology of the respective political party, African people must collectively vote for whoever promised to deliver the best incentives if they won the election.

Democracy, sleaze, corruption and the 'black' manifesto
What this so called ‘black’ manifesto approach doesn’t explain is that it is not a strategy based on supporting the party with high morals and integrity. Instead it relies on a undeclared commitment to hitch a ride on the coat tails of whoever is in power. This strategy of so called party neutral politics would justify voting for a major anti-African political party if they gave a 100% guarantee to reward a minority instead of a smaller political party committed to achieving a change for all.

It ignores the fact that under a Labour government the gap between the richest and poorest has increased, the sleaze and corruption that plagues the anti-African Tories also engulfs 'New' Labour. Whilst the British democratically elected regime hypocritically preach democracy and transparency in Africa it simultaneously erodes human rights, targets African immigrants, gives contracts and honours for cash, OBE's, knighthoods and dameships for community betrayal, tolerates ministerial corruption and has a penchant for war mongering and murdering non european civilians for their resources.

But instead of the exponents of the ‘black’ manifesto forcibly criticising and holding to account those ‘black’ political representatives tainted by power, they remain silent as their ‘champions’ fail to oppose anti-African immigration and international aid policies, nor is there any outcry when they vote in support for ID cards and back requests for even more draconian police requests which will be used disproportionally against their own communities. Just like the bully in the playground with low self esteem, most of the ‘black’ manifesto brigade pathetically chooses to attack those they perceive as weaker if they suspect they do not have the ability to fight back.

So whilst at the politics debate Woolley spoke at length of the futility of any viable alternative, I advocated that the only logical solution was to establish an African British political party. I stated if we worked in unity to politically empower ourselves, we would not have to compromise on our morality or our objectives of equality and justice for all African people. Our empowerment would open the way for other minority communities. I believed that we would not need and should not allow people like Geldof to organise and cappitalise on a Live 8/Aid rock concert only to use, abuse and betray Africa once again.

‘Impossible’ cried Woolley.

Not as impossible as Operation 'Black' Vote’s ludicrous claim that minority communities (3 million) can affect the output of a general election (57 million). A simple application of primary school maths and logic expose this as the lie it is. If we were living in a true democracy then African Britons would never be placed in a position where the only viable ‘democratic’ option available to vote for is the worst of a bunch of political parties that are anti-African, anti-women and pro-capitalism.

Thankfully, more than half of the forum had the wisdom to agree with me.

Human Rights first
However despite the proven status of my political assessment, it remains disappointing to note several years latter, little has changed with those who agree with this ‘beg massa’ tactic. This penchant to throw ‘black’ tantrums and demand rights, instead of knuckling down and doing the work, appears to limit their ability to visualise and therefore create political success. Just recently a coalition of unelected so-called ‘black’ leaders unsuccessfully begged the government for a statutory ‘race’ committee on the Commission for Equality and Human Rights.

Almost paradoxically, Woolley ironically writes of our latter day debate that “For me bringing Dr Martin Luther King, Malcolm X into a Black British context was an interesting and useful exercise”. Yet the vociferous campaigning on this particular issue showed that he and others had still failed to grasp the lesson of the original ideological differences between the two men.

Malcolm X was an exponent for human rights and recognised that unless the deliberate oppression which denied African people their human rights was eradicated, anything else was just a façade of civility. The young King was a champion of ‘negro’ civil rights and did not arrive at the same point ideologically until Malcolm was assassinated.

The political assassination of a political legacy
It was this that became one of the pivotal moments in his life that led to his later radicalisation. This ultimately led to his increased political activism and public championing of human rights in tandem of his calls for socio-economic civility towards African Americans. King realised that just as many see echoed in Iraq today that both european and American regimes were continuously engaged in immoral military adventures across the world in places such as Vietnam.

He knew he could not justify calling on African people to be non violent without first challenging their oppressor who was currently engaged in perpetrating unjust wanton violence on another groups of people.

It was at this point when europeans feared that they had empowered King with too much moral influence, they had lost control of the non-violent christian who was biting the hand that allowed him to grow. Their passive dissenter had now turned into one of the worlds most influential inter-ethnic agitators.

So they killed him.

His death was a great loss to the world, many knew he was assassinated for his shift in ideology, just as moral minded political dissidents to UK, US, EU, AU and Israeli sanctioned state terrorism are assassinated in the media and labelled extremists and terrorists for identifying the perpetrators as international war criminals.

The rewriting of history
Technology may be able to successfully mask political disaffection and the widening ethnicity fuelled socio-economic inequality in Britain, but in reality very little has changed both morally and politically. The exact same underlying xenophobic attitudes prevail in the so called christian western governments in 2006 as it did in 1500’s when the British Empire abused its military might exploiting, murdering and raping African people as resources for economic gain. There were African sympathisers and collaborators with the British regime then, just as there are now. King was not one of them.

However logic clearly dictates that if we always do what we always did, then we will always get what we always got. Despite those who would seek to exploit and trap our African icons inside western constructed ideologically stunted sound bites, we know that this approach of ‘beg and wait’ was not acceptable to either Omowale Malcolm X or Dr Martin Luther King.

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every [African] with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant 'Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
Martin Luther King

So whilst Kings legacy is invoked to mask the fact that Operation ‘Black’ Vote and the antiquated ‘BME’ political vanguard had to lick their wounds following another humiliating snub after pleading for a ‘race’ committee from what is often cited as the ‘seats of power’, on 23 September 2003 the Ligali Organisation turned what Woolley described as rhetoric into reality and the Ligali Party made history as it became the first national African British political party ever formed in the UK.

Nonetheless despite doing the work, it remains unsurprising and perhaps disappointing that none of the so-called politically neutral ‘black’ media help support us as they should. Neither does the narrow sighted cabal of urban representatives who would rather lie in bed with anti-African and ‘liberal’ politicians than engage in supporting and empowering the only real political alternative for African people in Britain. Perhaps the reason is that most of these institutions are commercial ventures that lack King’s courage to operate without being dependent on state funding or advertising. They say he who pays the piper, calls the tune. Ligali says they who provide the funding, sets the agenda.

The Ligali Organisation is funded by community donations.

In fear of a Revolution
Instead Woolley berated Dr Hakim Adi and me for arguing that a democratically flawed system would only ever work against eradicating socio-economic inequality and justice for African people. He became frightened and sank into despair when I argued that the only solution was a total transformation of the political system. My invoking the word ‘revolution’ caused his colonised mind to immediately envision violence instead of simply recognising we were asserting the obvious need for change.

Like most Pan Africanist’s I openly advocate a change from the gross capitalism that fuels a corrupt democracy of an elite minority. I want a change from a culture of rampant individualism which survives on the exploitation of others. But like those scared of losing what little power they have he saw only violence when we were advocating for a system where the will of all the people ran a socialist based society which values human rights above all materialistic possessions. Martin Luther King shared the same revolutionary view;

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
Martin Luther King

Sadly Woolley’s response was typical of that so called ‘coconut’ class of African people whose economic affluence enables them to bury their heads in the sand rather than the tackling the reality facing the majority of our community, he stated; “Dr Adi and Toyin had fanciful ideas about a glorious, perhaps bloody revolution, Rome or in our case Brixton, Birmingham, and beyond socially burns”.

This disingenuous diversionary statement underpinned his unwillingness to discuss the fallacy of a strategy where the begging of scraps from the plates of those in power will never amount to a meal of any substance. It exposed his moral cowardice while laying his opportunistic instead of revolutionary ambitions naked before the entire audience.

Betrayal of the so called liberal
Many Lutherites choose to ignore the fact that Martin Luther King was a man of great integrity recognising the need for change to carry out the work that should be every Africans responsibility. King was courageous enough to admit when he had made a mistake, but more importantly, he was man enough to admit and modify his ways when he knew what he advocated was tactically flawed.

“I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "And Christians know that the [African] people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth

Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Martin Luther King

Like Malcolm, Martin grew as an activist, his strategies evolving as his political maturity increased. Abusers of his legacy often seek to trap him within his ‘I have a dream’ speech hand picked by liberal (‘white’ moderate) America as the centrepiece from which to build Martin’s iconic 'passive' role model status.

In contrast liberal America was terrified by the self determining attitude of Omowale Malcolm X, and consequentially just as the europeans use the media to portray almost all Muslims as evil, the charismatic intellectual powerhouse that was Omowale Malcolm X, was a double threat, an African Muslim. Their response was to demonise him as an angry ‘black’ devil and attempt to transform and abuse his ‘by any means necessary’ phrase to construct a ‘chilling’ and politically myopic legacy.

Respecting our fallen warriors
I am writing this article because politically motivated Lutherites just like the media today deliberately fail to acknowledge or promote the political diversity of these two intellectual giants and thereby abuse their legacy to mask their own naivety at best, self serving parasitical nature at worse.

Late in 2005 and early 2006, we lost two inspirational African American women. Both passed away leaving a legacy which African people need to build on. They were of course Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King. Typically the sexism prevalent in european culture and religion often means that the significance of work done by women is removed from the history books. In the weeks following Rosa Parks passing she was characterised as a simple, mild mannered and passive, a woman who one day was so tired she just didn’t have the strength to abide by the rules. A eurocentric media even gave her a catchy tagline for us all to use. It read ‘she sat down, so we could stand up’.

Meanwhile Coretta King was characterised as the magnificent widow of Dr King. Her cultural relevance was established by America as being that of an appendage to the great ‘I have a dream’ man. Her recognition as an African American woman with a distinct political identity was almost non existent. In stark contrast to Rosa Parks, her funeral was a huge public relations affair, attended by four US Presidents, media personalities, opportunistic politicians and with President Bush himself delivering a eulogy.

Yet how could this be?

Martin Luther King famously said that "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today [is] my own goverment" in support the great African American activist Harry Belafonte who was a confidante of both Martin Luther King and of Malcolm X famously announced "George W. Bush is the greatest terrorist in the world".

So was Bush simply seeking to make a mockery of King’s legacy or was he as a fellow Lutherite seeking to bury one of the last individuals who could reveal the true legacy of one of America’s greatest ever human rights activists?

To find the answer we can once again look to Harry Belafonte who remains one of the last living links of African American history in that era. As a friend King confided in him during moments of doubt. As Belafonte tells it, the question that haunted King was simple, was he assisting the integration of African Americans into the moral and political equivalent of a burning building?

Sadly, King never had the opportunity to publicly debate this question with Malcolm despite numerous invites. It was his own elephant in the room. It was also the failure of King to meet with Malcolm on a reasoning level, which prevented the formation of what would have been a spectacular partnership between two iconic African giants.

Self Determination and the Birth of a Revolution
Yet to fully understand where King’s reoccurring doubt came from you need to understand African history. Lutherites like Woolley forever cite King as the instigator of economic boycotts. They dismiss Malcolm’s strategy of self determination as nonsense and those such as Woolley claim that “King was much more than rhetoric and imploring America to soul search. The economic bus boycott, and the voter registration programmes were all aimed at challenging the American social and political status by forcing change”.

Yet in the rush to claim King as their inspiration they always and without fail disingenuously erase the role of Rosa Parks from history. Contrary to popular belief it was Rosa Parks and not King who gave birth to the revolution that transformed the American civil rights movement. Rosa Parks was very supportive of Omowale Malcolm X’s teachings and as a result led a proactive life of activism and African empowerment before and after the famous bus incident. Until then the humble but determined Rosa Parks decided that whilst she had great admiration for Dr King’s restraint, she had little time for his passive strategies.

The Montgomery bus strike that became one of the key defining moment in Kings career as an activist only occurred due to her will to self determine. Rosa Parks was very supportive of Omowale Malcolm X’s teachings and as a result led a proactive life of activism and African empowerment before and after the famous bus incident.

On Thursday, December 1, 1955, she was famously arrested after refusing to give up her seat on a Birmingham bus. As a result Montgomery's African community united with the NAACP, the Women's Political Council, the Baptist Ministers Conference, and the city's African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zionist ministers and collectively organised a bus boycott against segregated seating.

The women’s group to which Rosa belonged also applied pressure for a then young little-known, 26 year old minister named Martin Luther King to get involved. He was initially resistant to the idea but after the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was formed following a successful launch of the boycott he accepted the offer of its presidency. Under his leadership he galvanised mass support for what became a 381 day boycott. Triumphantly the protest led to the revolutionary desegregation of the Alabama transport system.

Rosa Parks didn’t publicly acknowledge King’s conviction to a passive approach until years later. This was following an incident she witnessed that took place during September 1962 at the SCLC convention in Birmingham. King was onstage closing the convention when a man later revealed to be a member of the American Nazi Party came out of the audience, rushed the stage and punched him in the face. King, staggered backward clearly dizzy from the initial blow. As his assailant continued to hit him King refused to defend himself dropping his hands 'like a newborn baby' whilst staring calmly at his attacker.

When several SCLC delegates jumped onto the stage to apprehend the man, King waved them away, shouting, 'Don't touch him! We have to pray for him'. King then chose to just keep talking softly to his assailant until he was eventually led away. He even refused to press charges. Parks found herself both frightened and uplifted by this moment, she saw it as proof that Dr King believed so completely in nonviolence that it was even stronger than his instinct to protect himself from attack.

But Rosa Parks never regretted her actions and showed that despite being a practising Christian, African Americans still needed to be prepared to gain their liberty by any means necessary. Speaking of the bus protest in 1992 and contradicting the propaganda myths taught in schools, disseminated through the media and published in history books, she said: "The real reason of my not standing up was I felt that I had a right to be treated as any other passenger. We had endured that kind of treatment for too long."

Reclaiming King's legacy
Yet this particular article is called reclaiming Martin Luther King, so our focus will conclude there.

Wolley wrote; "Although today’s Black communities do not face a state governed that includes Ku Klux Klan members as did King and Malcolm our task is no less formidable”.

But whilst King may have agreed, he was not so afraid to directly identify our oppressors he taught that “a modern version of the Ku Klux Klan has arisen in the form of so-called "respectable" White Citizens Councils".

In contrast Lutherites stick to romantic notions of noble protest through ‘engagement’ and fail to acknowledge the complexity of the challenges facing us today.

King understood the power of civil disobedience but his so-called advocates today are only too willing to wait for gradual change. Instead of pushing the agenda for immediate change they run scared of losing what little power they have in case funding is withdrawn and they lose their cosy position as state sanctioned ‘ethnic’ dissent. This was not the message of Martin Luther King. King recognised that revolution means change, and to create change often means to risk all. Sometimes even at the cost of perceived illegitimacy;

“We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers.”
Martin Luther King

Before anyone again seeks to capitalise on the legacy of King and frame his work predominantly through his climatically portrayed ‘I have a dream’ speech it is important to recognise that Dr Martin Luther King was not a coward who refused to go against the status quo.

We must never forget what King subsequently said about his hard-fought victories. Nor ignore the fact that by 1967, he made the critical decision to shift his moral and political focus from civil rights to human rights. King chose to confront the untruth and injustice spread by the capitalist economic structure and the military complex of the United States. A year later he paid the ultimate price with his life.

A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will "thingify" them and make them things. And therefore, they will exploit them and poor people generally economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and it will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are tied together. What I'm saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, "America, you must be born again!"
Martin Luther King

A eurocentric retelling of history would like to teach us to that King was the passive voice of reason that gradually led to African empowerment whilst Malcolm was the aggressive voice of hatred which led to African incarceration but neither of these portrayals are true.

Wooley writes; “For me bringing Dr Martin Luther King, Malcolm X into a Black British context was an interesting and useful exercise. What becomes abundantly clear is that if Black individuals repeatedly see no justice, no success from engaging and participating within main stream democracy then they become vociferously apposed to it. The ultimate danger of their alienation has become all too clear over the last few years with a growing number of British born African, Caribbean and Asian men signing up to political extremism.

In his haste to openly condemn aggressive political assertiveness in front of his oppressors, Woolley again fails to recognise that King was a leader who recognised the need for change, King purposefully described himself as an militant who had extreme optimism in his belief for change through non violence not compromise.

“We aren't engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying that we are God's children. And that we don't have to live like we are forced to live.

Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we've got to stay together. We've got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the [enslaved Africans] fighting among themselves. But whenever the [Africans] get together, something happens in Pharaoh's court, and he cannot hold the [Africans] in slavery. When the [Africans] get together, that's the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.”

Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King was also fully aware that his crowning achievements would not have been possible without the work of many of the unsung heroes who enabled his leadership. The failure of eurocentric media to accurately credit those who empowered his remarkable movement is deliberate as is the way the media deliberately demonises, marginalises, misrepresents and ignores those such as Rosa Parks and King's partner in spirit Omowale Malcolm X.

As such I close with a speech made by another of my personal heros and role models and hope this article has helped explain why it’s imperative that we as a community must forcibly reclaim the true legacy of Dr Martin Luther King from those that would abuse it;

“Distinguished guests, brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen, friends and enemies:

I want to point out first that I am very happy to be here this evening and I'm thankful [to the Afro-American Broadcasting Company] for the invitation to come here to Detroit this evening. I was in a house last night that was bombed, my own. It didn't destroy all my clothes, not all, but you know what happens when fire dashes through -- they get smoky. The only thing I could get my hands on before leaving was what I have on now.

It isn't something that made me lose confidence in what I am doing, because my wife understands and I have children from this size on down, and even in their young age they understand. I think they would rather have a father or brother or whatever the situation may be who will take a stand in the face of any kind of reaction from narrow-minded people rather than to compromise and later on have to grow up in shame and in disgrace....

...I saw in the paper where they -- on the television where they took this Black woman down in Selma, Alabama, and knocked her right down on the ground, dragging her down the street. You saw it, you're trying to pretend like you didn't see it 'cause you knew you should've done something about it and didn't. It showed the sheriff and his henchmen throwing this Black woman on the ground -- on the ground.

And Negro men standing around doing nothing about it saying, "Well, let's overcome them with our capacity to love." What kind of phrase is that? "Overcome them with our capacity to love." And then it disgraces the rest of us, because all over the world the picture is splashed showing a Black woman a with some white brutes, with their knees on her holding her down, and full-grown Black men standing around watching it. Why, you are lucky they let you stay on earth, much less stay in the country.

When I saw it I dispatched a wire to Rockwell; Rockwell was one of the agitators down there, Rockwell, this [George] Lincoln Rockwell [leader of the American Nazi Party]. And the wire said in essence that this is to warn him that I am no longer held in check from fighting white supremacists by Elijah Muhammad's separatist 'Black Muslim' movement. And that if Rockwell's presence in Alabama causes harm to come to Dr. King or any other Black person in Alabama who's doing nothing other than trying to enjoy their rights, then Rockwell and his Ku Klux Klan friends would be met with maximum retaliation from those of us who are not handcuffed by this nonviolent philosophy. And I haven't heard from Rockwell since”

Omowale Malcolm X (el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz), 14 Feb 1965

Toyin Agbetu: Malcolm X Advocate

External Links
Debate this on our Forums: Malcolm and Martin
Dr Martin Luther King v Malcolm X: The past still part of the present
BBC Radio 4 - The Great Debate: Dr Martin Luther King v Malcolm X

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