Term Paper: Martin Luther King Through the Lens

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Martin Luther King

Through the Lens of Love and Faith

Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love." (Martin Luther King, Excerpt from Stride toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story)

This quote from one of Martin Luther King's most famous speeches summarizes his stance on the use of violence to achieve freedom perhaps more than any other throughout his career. Young blacks were exposed to two differing viewpoints regarding the equal rights movement. Two major schools developed from leaders of the equal rights movement. The remnants of these two movements continue to shape black politics of today. Malcolm X represented an untamed ethos that refused to be domesticated. His language is blunt and his definition of black identity is explicit. However, Martin Luther King's nonviolent message is often misunderstood by those fully embroiled in black politics. Let us examine how the lenses of faith and love can help us better to understand the message and philosophy of Martin Luther King.

Why Martin Luther King is Misunderstood

It is difficult to discuss black politics during the Civil Rights Movement without entering into a comparison and contrast of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X the reason for this is that young blacks of the time tended to agree with one philosophy or the other. The philosophies of these two leaders were diametrically opposed. The key debate among African-Americans is which methods was the best for achieving justice. The same question is important today as African-Americans and other ethnic groups continue to battle the leftover remains of the attitudes that shaped the Civil Rights Movement. For instance, blacks are still underrepresented in many technical fields and in higher education. There is still much to be done and one must examine the politics of the early Civil Rights Movement in order to gain insight as to the best method to proceed in expanding those rights.

The primary difference between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King is their viewpoint on the role that violence plays in the struggle for equality. The most common misconception about Martin Luther King is that he was too passive to fight back (Cone, p. 14). Many people did not feel that Martin Luther King could get the job done. Martin Luther King did not advocate violence, but he also did not advocate passivity in the face of violence (Martin Luther King, Excerpt from Stride toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, p. 1). If being nonviolent meant letting violence continue, then violence was tolerated, as long as it was just. For Mr. King, violence had to have a purpose and accomplish a specific goal.

When violence is viewed through the lens of love, one finds that Martin Luther King held the love of oneself and one's family in the highest regard. Violence was not used to incite fear, but instead was to protect loved ones and the home. Self -defense and violence are different when viewed through the lens of love.

Malcolm X did not promote violence in the way most people think. Violence was used as a tool to invoke fear and force societal change. However, many times this tactic failed due to the public perception that it created. Malcolm X did not necessarily promote violence for the sake of violence. Malcolm X eventually came to realize that the non-violent protest invoked more fear than a violent one (Cone

One could view this through the lens of love as well. Malcolm X's philosophy also stems from a love of one's family and society. He wanted to invoke change that would bring about a peaceful change. Malcolm X's philosophy and a deep interest in promoting changes that would make life better for blacks in America. It was his love of the people that drove his deep passions.

Both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X's philosophy stemmed from a deep love of their people. They both wanted change and wanted change fast. Their philosophies stemmed from a deep love and passion. It was their method of achieving the end result that makes their philosophies appear to be so different from the outside. Looking through the lens of love one can see that the passions that drove these two leaders were the result of a deep love. It is often difficult to see the love that is behind a violent act, but when one examines the core values of these two men, the underlying love is not difficult to see.

What is Love?

Love is a difficult lens from which to examine the equal rights movement. Love has many different meanings. Love can have different connotations in different situations. The methods of Martin Luther and Malcolm X had their roots in love. However, it is often difficult to see the love and passion that drove Malcolm X it is easier to see the love in Martin Luther's nonviolent policies. It is difficult to see the connection between violence and love. However, love can drive violence.

The manner in which love can drive a person to violence is easier to understand when one considers the example of a father who has a deep love for his family. When someone tries to harm his family, he might have to commit violent acts in order to protect them. This type of violence is different than violence committed out of envy or lust. Both are passionate acts, but the second two are missing the element of love that is present when one must defend themselves or their loved ones.

In 1956, a bomb exploded at Martin Luther King's home. The explosion nearly killed his wife and baby daughter. An angry mob wanted to go after the person who set the bomb. However, King calmed them, urging them that non-violence was the only correct tactical response that would deter the bombers from future acts (Ling, p. 29). These actions contradict his condonement of violence as a self-defense. However, in this case, King did not classify the act as self-defense. The act had already been committed and violence at that point would have been retaliation. Further violence could not undo what had been done. This demonstrates how carefully defined King's use of condoned violence goes.

As one can see, love can lead to violence. Not all violence is the same and the circumstances have much to do with the interpretation of violent acts. This is one of the most important concepts to understand when examining Martin Luther King's religious and political policies. King cited violence against blacks as the need for urgency in action (Hall, p. 240). However, he tempers the call to violence in this quote,

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." (Martin Luther King, Strength to Love, p. 53).

King made it very clear that love is the only answer that will permanently resolve this situation.

The general misconception is that Martin Luther King did not condone violence of any kind. However, this assumption does not consider the many faces of love. As one can see, love can drive a person to violence. However, there are also other emotions that can drive a person to violence as well. Martin Luther King understood the concept that there were different types of love and there were different reasons for committing violent acts. Martin Luther did not condone violence for which love was not the underlying condition. Violence for protection was the only form of violence that was allowable in Martin Luther's world.

How did Martin Luther King evoke Fear?

We mentioned in the last section that Malcolm X eventually realized that Martin Luther King's nonviolent style of protest was more effective than his violent protest style. In order to understand this fully, we must examine the issue of faith. Unlike love, the concept of faith is not as difficult to define. Faith means an unrelenting belief in something. Faith means a belief that cannot be shaken by circumstance. When someone has faith that something will happen, it goes beyond the hope that something will happen. Faith means a belief in something that is almost as if it is already a fact.

A refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. (Martin Luther King, Nobel prize Acceptance Speech).

It is difficult to convince someone with faith that things might not have the outcome that they expect. A person of faith will not listen to doubts and fears. They show resolve that goes beyond any other emotion on the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Martin Luther King Through the Lens."  Essaytown.com.  May 30, 2007.  Accessed December 9, 2019.
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