Nonviolence Response: Mahatma Gandhi Vs. Malcolm X Critical Thinking
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Nonviolence as a philosophy revolves around the notion that when one employs the correct tactics, he or she can trigger the spirit of humanity in people and prevent a social injustice without using force. Advocated by Mahatma Gandhi, the method of diplomacy is only applicable when one does not reserve violence as the last resort but instead, genuinely looks to refrain from causing physical harm. However, since the only thing worse than force is cowardice, then nonviolence is not always an option, especially in the case of self-defense or protecting loved ones where one might need a gun. For this reason, civilians and unarmed groups can be morally justified to use force for defense while military organizations cannot because they always seek to cause harm. The tactics mentioned before to achieving the nonviolence ideology include passive resistance where people refuse to abide by existing laws and non-cooperation where they refute social hierarchies and cultural norms. Expectedly, oppressors can respond with punishments but Gandhi’s methods advise those that adopt peaceful protests from retaliating and instead should be ready for such reactions. Consequently, in Mahatma Gandhi’s views, violence should not be an option in seeking societal changes and one can never be justified to use force if they have a predisposition to cause harm. Therefore, as mentioned above, civilians can readily blame bouts of violence on threats; soldiers cannot do so because they carry firearms and are at liberty to use them when implementing the law.
On the contrary, Malcolm X not only encouraged violence but also did not believe that white people can possess any feelings of humanity towards African Americans. After their liberation from slavery, African Americans were subject to different acts of racism by their Caucasian counterparts at various levels of society. Initially, Martin Luther King employed Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy in fighting for the civil rights of African Americans; Malcolm X did not agree with his methods. According to Malcolm X, violence begets violence and assuming that meeting force with calm will ensure the protection of the oppressed is an illogical theory. In other words, for morality to win in a fight for justice then all involved parties have to be moral, and the existing body of power has to be ready to support the morally right without bias. Consequently, nonviolence to Malcolm X is a philosophy for fools and cannot serve the cause of real freedom for the black race living in the United States in the twentieth century. As a result, violence in Malcolm X’s views is justified when a people have suffered for long under the brutal nature of others because of skin color.
With that in mind, Mahatma Gandhi employed the nonviolence philosophy to fight an outside oppressor by uniting all Indians against the colonial power of the British. Such ideologies cannot be applicable to African Americans because they fought an inside enemy who has throughout history exerted violence towards their lot. Hence, at a personal level, one can safely argue that the decision on whether or not one should use force depends on the factors that led to the situation in the first place. After all, Gandhi advocates a person's self-defense and that of loved ones, and Malcolm X records groups of white people such as the Ku Klux Klan that lynched and harmed African Americans. Thus, violence can be an option when the oppressor uses it when trying to impose their rule and power of the people, particularly when they kill people.
Datta, Dhirendra Mohan. The Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1961. Print.
White, John. Black Leadership in America: From Booker T. Washington toJesse Jackson. 2nd. Boston: Harmondsworth, 1997. Print.
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