"Ignorance of each other is what has made unity impossible in the past. Therefore, we need enlightenment. We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity. Once we have more knowledge (light) about each other, we will stop condemning each other and a United front will be brought about."
"The majority of white Americans consider themselves sincerely committed to justice for the Negro. They believe that American society is essentially hospitable to fair play and to steady growth toward a middle-class Utopia embodying racial harmony. But unfortunately this is a fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity."
And every single time, they have been unable to identify the first quote as belonging to Malcolm, and the second to Martin. But it is not just a few students that have gotten it wrong. The American education system and most mainstream portrayals of Martin and Malcolm have been simplistic and sanitising.
Martin is the perfect hero who preached non-violence and love, and Malcolm the perfect villain who served as his violent counterpart, preaching hate and militancy. The result is not just a dishonest reading of history, but a dichotomy that allows for Dr King to be curated to make us more comfortable, and Malcolm X to be demonised as a demagogue from whom we must all flee. Reducing these men to such simplistic symbols allows us to filter political programmes according to how "King-like" they are. Hence, illegitimate forms of reconciliation are legitimised through King and legitimate forms of resistance are delegitimised through Malcolm X.
Malcolm was never violent, not as a member of the Nation of Islam, nor as a Sunni Muslim. But Malcolm did find it hypocritical to demand that black people in the United States commit to non-violence when they were perpetually on the receiving end of state violence. He believed that black people in the US had a right to defend themselves, and charged that the US was inconsistent in referencing its founding fathers’ defence of liberty for everyone but them.
Malcolm knew that his insistence on this principle would cause him to be demonised even further and ultimately benefit the movement of Dr King, which is exactly what he had intended. Just weeks before his assassination, he went to Selma to support Dr King and willingly embraced his role as the scary alternative. In every interview, in his meeting with Dr Coretta Scott King, and elsewhere, he vocalised that the US would do well to give the good reverend what he was asking for, or else.