With faith comes confidence. A person that stands on faith stands on a solid rock that cannot be shaken. When a person of faith walks into a crowd of doubters the sense of confidence is contagious. The most striking characteristic of Martin Luther King's speeches is the faith that he exuded to the crowd. By the end of the speech, the crowd embraced the same faith that change will come that was expressed by Martin Luther himself. This contagious confidence produced a crowd of people that exuded confidence beyond belief.
Fear is the most common cause and association with violence. When a reasonable person has been pushed to their limits, the will often turn to violence, when they have nowhere else to turn. Fear gives the impression that a person is frightened and that they are down to their last resort. This is the point that Malcolm X missed, and the one that was the key to success for Martin Luther King. Malcolm X tried to create fear in order to effect change. Martin Luther walked the streets with a quiet, but confident crowd.
In order to understand the effects of fear and faith on the message, one must image themselves as a person of non-black origin on the streets of Atlanta. If one encountered a group of Malcolm X followers, they would initially be fearful and would probably get out of their way. The observer of this crowd would have an initial fear of personal harm. However, after they went home and sorted the events of the day out, they would probably not have any more fear after the initial threat were over. Observers of the protest would tend to see violence by the police as justified in this scenario (Ling, p. 29).
However, if one encountered a calm and confident crowd of Martin Luther King followers, they would see solidarity and confidence. As they marched through the streets shouting their chants and carrying signs, one would still get out of their way, but for a different reason. One would not see them as fearful and using their last resort. One might fear the Martin Luther King crowd because of their confidence. In addition, an observer of this protest might be swayed by the violence of the police for no apparent reason (Ling, p. 29). Martin Luther's style of protest would elicit sympathy and compassion for the oppressed. Instead of disapproval (Ling, p. 29).
Martin Lither King spoke of this type of courage in a speech. King said,
Right here in Montgomery when the history books are written in the future [Yes, Lord], somebody will have to say, "There lived a race of people, of black people, fleecy locks and black complexion, of people [Yes!] who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights " (in Lischer, p. 121).
The difference between the Malcolm X crowd and the Martin Luther King crowd is the faith that they exude as they move through the streets. Faith cannot come from the outside, it must be solid on the inside in order to become outward confidence. Martin Luther had the ability to spread his confidence and faith to the crowd. In order to have this effect on the crowed, he had to have a solid foundation of faith himself. Martin Luther King had solid faith that the black cause would prevail.
How did Martin Luther King transform Society?
Malcolm X was essential in the reaffirmation of black identity. His reformation can be seen in the black culture and how the individual defines them as black. Martin Luther King promoted unity and political freedom. King's legacy can be seen in the number of black politicians in office today. Martin Luther saw the need to build a solid foundation before blacks could move forward in America. He emphasized unity and need to become an integral part of America. Malcolm X felt that the road to freedom was separation and isolation from the rest of America.
Martin Luther King felt that separation would only lead to more violence against blacks, as he had seen in the past. King felt that he had to emphasize the inclusion of blacks in the population of America. This was a very realist approach. He knew that blacks could not go back to Africa as "Americanized" people. They had to be seen as individuals. King felt that the road to freedom lie in the ability to help blacks gain acceptance into white society, although not in such a way that they lost their identity and their connections as a race. Martin Luther loved the uniqueness of the black race and the people that made it up. This was yet another form of Martin Luther King's love.
King's nonviolent protest methods and his continual reminder of the people o have faith made him a symbol of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. There were many groups that were attempting to end the Vietnam war and end racism, some of which did follow Dr. King's philosophy of love and faith. Others did not. Martin Luther King cam at a time when he was needed the most.
Black history is immersed in violence against blacks. Violence among or between blacks was considered to be evidence of their station in life. Martin Luther King knew that in order to change society, he needed to change the imagery that was associated with blacks. He replaced violence with love and faith in the dream. By doing this King won over the onlookers at many of the protests. Peaceful protest juxtaposed against the stereotype that allowed slavery in the first place. He knew that in order to change the sentiment that continued to plague the black community even after the passage of the Civil Rights movement.
When one examines Martin Luther King's actions and methods through the lens of love and faith it is easier to understand his philosophy. He was not a complete pacifist as many believe and was appalled at the atrocities that blacks had to endure. He felt that it was acceptable to defend yourself, especially when one's loved ones were threatened. His underlying reason for pursuing his dream was out of love for the black people. His faith gave him the ability to exude a confidence that was transferred to the crowd. It was love and faith that plummeted Mr., King to develop his plan that would help change the image of black Americans. Malcolm X saw the differences that King made with his philosophy based on faith and love,. Martin Luther King's methods taught the world that they could live together in a less colorblind world.
James Cone, Martin and Malcolm in America. New York: Orbis Books, 2006.
Hall, S. I May Not Get There with You: The True Martin Luther King.. The Western Journal of Black Studies.. Vol. 25. Num. 4. 2001. pp. 240-246.
King, Martin Luther Jr., Strength to Love. Fortress Press, 1981.
King, Martin Luther Jr., Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech. Oslo, December 10, 1964. < l.> Accessed May 25 http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-acceptance.html. Accessed May 25, 2007.
King, Martin Luther, Jr., an excerpt from Strike toward Freedom: The Montgomery
Story. San Francisco: Harper Publishing Co., 1958.
King, Martin Luther Jr., Why We Can't Wait. New York: Signet Books, 1964
Lischer, R. The Preacher King: Martin Luther King, Jr. And the Word That Moved America.: Oxford University Press: New York. 1997.