Black liberationists Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were two of Black America’s most iconic leaders. Even in death, they are still impacting the culture with the priceless words and legacies they left behind.
The mainstream narrative paints them as two polarizing figures on opposite ends of the spectrum. However, contrary to popular belief, MLK and Malcolm X shared more than just the common goal of liberating Black people.
They were both also outspoken critics of white liberals who they felt hurt the fight for freedom more than they helped it. Here are some of their most powerful quotes on the subject.
“First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” – Letter From a Birmingham Jail, 1963
“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.” – The Three Evils of Society, 1967
“It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society… A riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last 12 or 15 years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” – The Other America, 1968
“The white liberal is the worst enemy to America, and the worst enemy to the black man. Let me explain what I mean by the white liberal. … The white liberal aren’t white people who are for independence, who are moral and ethical in their thinking. They are just a faction of white people that are jockeying for power. The same as the white conservative is a faction of white people that are jockeying for power.”
“The worst enemy that the Negro have is this white man that runs around here drooling at the mouth professing to love Negros and calling himself a liberal, and it is following these white liberals that has perpetuated problems that Negros have. If the Negro wasn’t taken, tricked or deceived by the white liberal, then Negros would get together and solve our own problems. I only cite these things to show you that in America, the history of the white liberal has been nothing but a series of trickery designed to make Negros think that the white liberal was going to solve our problems. Our problems will never be solved by the white man.”
“The white conservatives aren’t friends of the Negro either, but they at least don’t try to hide it. They are like wolves; they show their teeth in a snarl that keeps the Negro always aware of where he stands with them. But the white liberals are foxes, who also show their teeth to the Negro but pretend that they are smiling. The white liberals are more dangerous than the conservatives; they lure the Negro, and as the Negro runs from the growling wolf, he flees into the open jaws of the “smiling” fox. One is the wolf, the other is a fox. No matter what, they’ll both eat you.”
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 66: Jamarlin Martin
The Case Against John Ali: Jamarlin Martin goes solo to discuss Malcolm X and actual facts concerning the allegations that John Ali, the former national secretary of the Nation of Islam, was an operative of the FBI or U.S. intelligence agencies.
“Has the government effort to bribe our people with token integration made our plight better; or has it made it worse? When you tried to integrate the white community in search of better housing, the whites there fled to the suburbs. And the community that you thought would be integrated soon deteriorated into another all-Black slum. What happened to the liberal whites? Why did they flee? We thought that they were supposed to be our friends. And why did the neighborhood deteriorate only after our people moved in?”
“It is the tricky real estate agents posing as white liberal friends who encourage our people to force their way into white communities, and then they themselves sell these integrated houses at such high prices that our people again are forced to take in roomers to offset the high house notes. This creates in the new area the same overcrowded conditions, and the new community soon deteriorates into the same slum conditions from which we thought we had escaped. The only one who has benefited is the white real estate agent who poses as our friend, as a liberal, and who sells us the house in a community destined by his own greedy schemes to become nothing but a high-priced slum area.” – Speech at University of Califonia, 1963
“The Negro revolution is controlled by foxy white liberals, by the Government itself. But the Black Revolution is controlled only by God.” – Speech, Dec. 1, 1963, New York City.
Though Malcolm was known harsher and more frequent in his criticism of white liberals, the quotes above show that King shared some of his viewpoints. It is also widely known that before both men were murdered in their primes, they were evolving in their views. If they had lived to be old men, the critiques they offered of the white liberal who says he or she is committed to justice, but not at their own inconvenience or expense may have been much more expansive.
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