Transcript: 98. Meena Krishnamurthy on Martin Luther King Jr

An interview about the role of the emotions, including anger and feelings of dignity, in the non-violent protest campaign of King.

Note: this transcription was produced by automatic voice recognition software. It has been corrected by hand, but may still contain errors. We are very grateful to Tim Wittenborg for his production of the automated transcripts and for the efforts of a team of volunteer listeners who corrected the texts.

PA: Today's episode will be an interview about Martin Luther King Jr. with Meena Krishnamurthy, who is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Queen's University. So we're going to be talking about Martin Luther King Jr., who I guess literally needs no introduction for our audience. So I'm going to dive straight in and ask you a question about a quotation that we actually came across reading your work on King. So this is from an interview in which he's talking about the "new Negro" as "a person with a new sense of dignity and destiny with a new self-respect." And for us and for our listeners, this phrase "new Negro" obviously evokes the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, which would have been a while ago in King's time, but in our podcast is only a few episodes back. So we wanted to start by asking you whether you see King as being an heir to that earlier phase of African American thought. 

MK: Yeah, this is such a great question. So when I think about the term "new Negro", I mean, I think of it as being associated with a wide variety of black political thinkers, including people like Booker T. Washington. But obviously, when we really think about it, and as you've discussed in your podcast, the term is really linked with the work of Alain Locke. And it's important just to track a little bit like what he means by "old" versus "new" Negro, and then I'll kind of link it to King. So I think when Alain Locke talks about the "old Negro", he sort of talks about it as linked with this idea of being more myth than man and as being a creation of the white imaginary or white imagination. And it's sort of a passive reflection created by conditions of forced dependence. But it's also the result of like, he said, the practice of black social mimicry and I would say strategic acquiescence that was performed by black people to survive in conditions of forced dependence. But when we think about the "new Negro", it's quite different right in Locke's view, which is a person who sees herself anew and is no longer obscured by the perception of other people, including white people. She has an invigorated sense of self understanding and self acceptance and in turn a new sense of self respect. And so for him, it's also important that the new Negro is an agent, somebody who acts rather than is acted upon. 

And then in terms of thinking about this transformation, this process from the old so called old Negro to the new Negro, historical processes are really key, in particular the great migration right from the American South to the North, particularly like urban city centers like Harlem. So that sort of historical process is really key to this transformation. And like what was great about your question is I think this really just picks up on something that we see in King and his understanding of the new Negro because like Locke, King really thinks that a bunch of historical processes sort of come together to give rise to new sense of self respect and dignity among black Americans. And when King is looking at the circumstances that led up to the civil rights movement, what he sees is a country that has rapidly and radically modernized. So black Americans who had little reason or ability to travel start traveling more. He's thinking about especially black Americans of the South. There's a spread of the automobiles, there's the depression, the upheaval that's caused by the two world wars. All of these things he argues led black Americans to move from the rural South to urban communities, which in turn means that economic life starts changing pretty dramatically, right? So purchasing power increases, housing conditions improve, there are more educational opportunities than ever. So in turn, literacy rates start sort of skyrocketing in comparison to the past. We see more university degrees being conferred to black Americans than had ever been done before, even degrees of like the very highest level. So all of these things, all of these new experiences, all of these new social contacts, along with those very important educational advances in King's view, led black Americans to a broadened outlook of the world, but also most importantly of themselves. 4.20

And then so that process is sort of being coupled with the fact that the Supreme Court's decision to outlaw segregation in public schools happens. And King says that kind of engenders a new sense of pride and further enhances a sense of dignity among black Americans. And then that's simultaneously happening and the sense of dignity is being reinforced by the fact that there's a success of global struggles against colonialism. He's thinking like Ghana, India. And so he says that black Americans sort of see that this struggle for dignity among the oppressed isn't something that's just like isolated to the United States, but is happening on the global stage, playing out with spectators and supporters from, you know, countries all around the world. Because all this together leads black Americans to have this reinvigorated sense of self-understanding, self-acceptance and in turn a new sense of dignity. So we can see that King really has a view, I think that is quite similar to Locke's view of the nature of the Negro, but also like its development. 

PA: Something I just wanted to pick up on there is maybe a minor point, but I think interesting because you in what you said, you mentioned that in both the case of Locke and in the case of King, they associate the "new Negro" with moving around, right? So migration to the North or even migration within the South maybe, and also a move from rural settings to urban settings. So is that a really key idea for King that there's a kind of, I mean, it almost sounds a little bit dismissive, right? So the South and the rural is going to be bad and the North and the urban is going to be liberating. Is that unfair? Or is that really how he sees it? 6.00

MK: Yeah, I think that's a really interesting question. I mean, definitely movement is key. I think King has a kind of cosmopolitanism in a way that is implicit in this discussion, right? It isn't just about the migration from rural to cities. It is also the awareness of the globe and the world struggles. So I think there it is more just people who perhaps he thinks maybe had sort of narrow perspectives, hadn't seen the world, but are now being exposed to all these different things. But I do see that there is a kind of tension, this idea that one must travel and interact with a broad range of people. But I think for King, that is really part of the way that we gain knowledge about freedom and justice and how to secure those things. 

PA: But it might be enough to read about Ghana in a newspaper?

MK: Yeah. And I think for him, because I think in so many ways, he really values lived experience. And so I think it's the experience of feeling a sense of community is what we're also getting here, right? Seeing our struggles are ones that people have not only in the rural south, but maybe when we go to the cities and see the same struggles are being replicated in some ways and we see them being replicated globally. So for me, I think there's the idea of lived experience, a sense of a community with people everywhere facing the same struggles, which kind of renews our sense that these struggles are important. 7.20

PA: So going back to that quotation that we started with just for a moment, something else he mentions there along with the "new Negro" is this, as he says, new sense of dignity. And I know there's something you've been thinking about a lot in your current book project on King. So could you say something about that? What role does he see for dignity and maybe self-esteem, which seems like a closely related concept, particularly in motivating the civil rights struggle? 

MK: I think maybe before we get in to the question about the motivational role of dignity, we maybe need to get a little clearer on what King means by dignity, partly because people think that he means different things and also because he uses the word in so many different ways. And sometimes it is hard to know what he really means. At least in my own work, I sort of argue that most often King is using the word "dignity" to refer to two things - a certain type of attitude, and a certain type of conduct. And so in the first instance, dignity really refers to a kind of attitude that a person has of self-acceptance, acceptance of her own self physically and non-physically, like just as, you know, as she is. It's also an attitude of self-worth, a belief in and a felt sense of her own equal worth and social status. So for King, it's really important that a dignified person cannot maintain a belief in her own inferiority. 8.40

Why is that? Well, in King's view everybody has equal worth and significance, and this view stems from his Christian commitment to personalism. So he believes that humanity is created in the image of God and the image of God is universally shared in equal proportions among all humans. But he also believes that that commitment to the equal dignity and worth of all humans, including women and children as well, is a central American value that's most clearly expressed in the Declaration of Independence. 

So we've had a little sense of sort of "dignity" and like kind of his views and his sort of value of dignity, but he argues too that dignity is best and perhaps even necessarily expressed through dignified action or conduct. So we have to express that inwardly believed and felt sense of dignity through action demanding acknowledgement of our inherent worth - this is really key for King. And so he says that dignified action is characterized in part by an honesty and a kind of truth-telling. So he says the Negro in no uncertain terms sort of said that he doesn't like the way that he's being treated. So the new Negro no longer strategically acquiesces to survive. I think this is key for King. She's willing to take a stand even when it might cost her personally, right? This is very key to King's sense of self-sacrifice and is kind of important to the movement. And you know, part of the reason that King thinks this, and I think this is really fascinating, is that it's a kind of self-regarding duty because when you fail to act, you're actually acting against yourself. And when he builds on this idea, he talks about Rosa Parks and he says Rosa Parks had a very similar view. So in his view, when she was asked, you know, why she refused to move from the back of the bus, she said it was a matter of dignity - I could not have faced myself and my people if I had moved. So failing to act would be a kind of collusion and injustice and a disregarding of oneself and one's worth because it would involve accepting social conditions of inferiority, and in this case, you know, such as bus segregation. And that for King is just not something a self-respecting and dignified individual can do willingly. So in some sense, in King's view, this idea of expressing one's equal worth through dignified resistance, that is kind of a key motivation behind the civil rights struggle of the 50s and 60s. 11.00

PA: It's interesting because when I think about, you know, someone feeling that their dignity has been affronted, the thing that really comes to mind as a reaction is anger. Right. And what you just described sounds very sort of high minded. Right. So like it's about self-respect and self-esteem. And it also sounds in a way very kind of rational and even calculating. Right. So I see that I must do something to maintain my dignity in this situation rather than sort of groveling in front of the person who is assaulting my dignity. And we might expect that he'd be pretty down on the concept of anger because as you just mentioned, he's a deeply Christian thinker. Right. So does he think that there's just no role for anger at all here and that you should react to affronts to your dignity always in this kind of more positive, high minded way? Or does he think you can also get furious?

MK: Yeah, I love this question and I have a lot to say about it. That's a really great question. So I think what's fascinating is obviously, the kind of popular view of King is very fuzzy and it kind of emphasizes King is like all about love and hope and the dream. But the truth is like when we really get into King's writings, especially his autobiographical writings, we see something quite different. Right. And we see that what King refers to as righteous indignation plays a very important role in his sort of theory of the political emotions and political motivation. And we see this maybe most clearly when he tells us about his own motivation for writing the Letter from Birmingham Jail, which in part was a response to his white moderate critics. But as he described it, righteous indignation was the driving force behind the letter. That's what motivated him to respond in the way that he did. 

And when he's trying to explain to us more about the role of indignation and the role that it plays in kind of his views about motivation, he tells us about some formative events that kind of happened when he was a kid. And one of the ones that really stands out in my mind is this, this time when he's at sort of in downtown in, you know, at a shoe store with his father. And as he tells it, they are in the shoe store and the store clerk says to King's father, sure, I'll give you service, but you've got to move to the back of the store. And King's father doesn't miss like a beat. Right. And you know, like we'll either buy shoes sitting here or we won't buy shoes at all. And then he takes his son by the hand and storms out of the store. Now, according to King, this is the first time he had seen his father so furious. So what we get as this discussion continues, because then King tells us more about other experiences of anger that he had in similar kinds of situations. But what we get is that for both King and his father, indignation is something that arises when there is affront to their dignity. So when the store clerk asked King to go to the back of the store to receive service, he's conveying a message, right? That as a black man, King's father isn't worthy of equal treatment, he lacks equal status and is inferior to white Americans who can be served at the front of the store. But of course, as a Baptist pastor, and as King says, as someone who really possessed a deep sense of dignity and self-respect, King's father knows that this kind of treatment and this message is not consistent with the inherent worth that he truly possesses, both in the eyes of God, but also under the American Constitution. And so the affront to his dignity is just too much. And this appropriately leaves King's father to sort of dislike the consequences. You have to think about the moment, the consequences of sort of being angry, but it leads him to be angry and he stands up for himself by challenging the store clerk. 

But this isn't all, right? So the practice of racial segregation means that black Americans are treated in this way as inferior across a number, a variety of social domains and in multifarious ways. And as King tells us, he comes through time to see how his father and his own particular experiences of racial segregation fit into a larger systemic experience of the practice. And I think this is very important for King because when he was young, he sort of blames individuals. He even says, I hated white individuals. He sort of put a lot of the blame on white individuals like the store clerk who are engaging in wrongdoing or bad actions. But over time, he comes to see that it isn't just the wrongdoing on the part of individual white people like the store clerk, but it's also the result of an unjust system, a system that he says like his father, he could never accept. And it's actually this knowledge, right? This knowledge that there's this systemic injustice that's being supported by the white store clerk and obviously more generally by his white moderate critics that leads to a sense of righteous indignation. Because in his view, it seems to me anyway, that righteous indignation is a particular form of anger. It's a form of anger that arises when the affront to one's dignity is experienced, not just as like a personal injury, but is also experienced and seen as a kind of an understood as a kind of systemic injustice. 16.15

Now going to the motivation question, this is kind of the last piece, which is that as Myisha Cherry explained, any form of anger is motivating because anger makes us feel uncomfortable. And the more uncomfortable we are, the more we want to eliminate that source of discomfort. And so this is why King was motivated by his feelings of righteous indignation to write the Letter from Birmingham Jail - and I would argue to participate in the civil rights movement more generally - because he was pained at the indignity of the practice of racial segregation and the injustice that expressed across its various forms. And he felt that he had to act immediately to end the practice, but also to eliminate the cause of his suffering. So in the end, King thinks that righteous indignation is not only an appropriate response for a dignified individual, but it is also a useful one because it can spur political action. And Harry Belafonte in his own memoir talks about King and says that Martin really thought that anger was central to the movement. And this is why - because it is a dignified way of acting, but it's also like really drives us to engage. 17.20

PA: And how does that fit with the thing that I guess everyone would think of when they think of King, which is the concept of nonviolent protest? Because I mean, I guess I always imagine the nonviolent protester as someone who has to have incredibly disciplined attitude towards their own emotions, right? Because obviously if someone hits you, your reaction is to hit back out of anger, indeed. And so isn't there a sense in which the very concept of nonviolent protest is an idea about keeping your emotions under control? Is it maybe just about channeling your emotions in a different way? Is that the idea? 

MK: Yes. I think that's right on the money. So as I suggested a bit earlier, dignity is of course like a set of beliefs and feelings of self-acceptance and self-worth, but it's also, as Derrick Darby argues and as I elaborate on in my book, it is also about acting in accordance with certain standards of dignified conduct, especially when we're confronting oppression. So King constantly asks people as they're sort of pressing for justice to move with dignity, and he preaches calm action. And he tells us that protest has to be conducted in an orderly fashion and has to exhibit what he calls - he says this over and over again - "wise restraint and calm dignity". And for him, you're right, that means that protesters can't engage in violence. This is obviously a very central part of his view. And so you might wonder like how exactly do these claims about dignified conduct square with King's views about indignation when he himself says anger can be a destructive emotion. In particular, he worries that it can lead to violence, right? 

And so yes, he absolutely worried that anger could go wrong, but he also believed, just as you suggested, that anger could be appropriately harnessed by directing that same passion into constructive channels. That's what he says. So he didn't feel that anger should be overcome or eradicated, as some commentators have actually suggested. Rather, he felt that it could be and was expressed through what he calls good or dignified conduct. And in fact, I think this is really important to understanding his views on anger because he draws a distinction in a way between mere anger and morally appropriate anger, which he refers to as righteous indignation. And righteous indignation just is that form of anger that's appropriately channeled through dignity and in turn, love. So what I argue in my book is really that love has to function as a moral and King's view of a moral constraint on anger. It's meant to direct anger down appropriate paths that are both just and useful to the movement. And so to temper our anger with love, to channel it and harness it, it means that we in our actions have to be loving enough to turn our enemy into a friend. So we can't engage in violence in spirit or in body. That's just what love demands of us. And acting in a loving way is actually what we must do as dignified individuals. So that's sort of the argument for kind of calm action, but it's still consistent with being angry. 

PA: It actually reminds me of some of the things we looked at in James Baldwin. So this idea about like confronting racism with love, sort of counterintuitive, but also a very powerful way of responding to it. So speaking of anger, even though he's famous for having engaged in nonviolent resistance and led his followers to do it, I guess that at the time, a lot of other critics of King's, including so-called white moderates, right? So people who said, yes, your goals are correct, but you're too angry, even though it was nonviolent, right? So it was too confrontational, too provocative, what they were doing. So how did he, I mean, this is sort of like a criticism from the other direction, right? So not that he's not angry enough, but that he's too angry. So how did he respond to accusations of that form? 21.20

MK: Right. So King obviously had a lot to say in response to his white moderate critics. And he gave his clearest and most well-known answer in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, which was written in 1963 in response to an open letter written by eight clergymen. And just as you suggest, the eight clergymen counselled patience - they asked King to stop the demonstrations that he was engaging in and to wait for the courts to act. So what is interesting about the response that King sort of gives in this piece is that on the one hand, he argues that black American sense of impatience is justified because in his view, little had really changed after [the Supreme Court case] Brown vs Board of Education, schools hadn't really been desegregated. And he knew that it would take more than the courts to assure real change. It would take creative acts of nonviolent direct action. And he also argued that non-violent direct action was justified as a form of civil disobedience as a way of challenging unjust laws. 

But he also argued importantly that nonviolent direct action was a middle path between two extremes on the one hand of violence, but on the other hand, acquiescence or what he called "stand-still-ism" or "do-nothing-ism". And as we see like indignation can be expressed in a calm, dignified and loving manner through nonviolent action. And for him, that's really the middle path, a form of action that is neither overly confrontational nor overly passive. And that's kind of his response to this view that this is too confrontational. Because in a way, what he suggests in response to the clergymen is that what you're really asking us is to do nothing. What you are really asking us to do to continue in strategic acquiescence and stand-still-ism. But for him, again, the new Negro who is dignified is not willing to do that anymore. Black Americans at this time are rightly impatient and indignant. But the point is that it's not too confrontational because all these emotions of impatience and indignation are being channeled into loving action, non-violent direct action. So for him, this really is the middle path between being overly confrontational and not doing anything at all. It is very key for him. 

PA: I guess that the white moderate message to him and his followers would have been, well, trust us, the white moderates, to use like the law courts and the standard democratic process to get what you want. You don't have to take these extra-legal or extra-democratic means. And presumably part of King's response to that was, well, you've had long enough to fix this and you haven't done it. And also he probably doesn't trust them. Right? So does he just think that... Is the idea more that he thinks it would be nice if this could have been settled through some kind of straightforward democratic process, but it didn't work? Or is the idea more that standard democratic processes will just never bring in the kind of change that was needed? 24.05

MK: Yeah, that's a great question about what he thinks overall about democratic processes. I think what he thinks in a way is that the current processes are incomplete and they're sort of missing something, and that democratic protest can serve as a kind of corrective to flawed democratic processes, and as such, is I think a really important part of these processes. Because roughly his view is that when traditional processes such as voting are occurring in ways that persistently exclude marginalized peoples and the traditional paths of contesting that exclusion, which in this case would be through the courts, are not really available to people, then what other choice is there? Right? For him, there's little choice but to engage in non-violent direct action. And this is in some sense why it acts as a kind of corrective because it puts pressure on people, those in power, those in the majority, to listen to voices that they might otherwise ignore and that they have been ignoring persistently. 25.00

So in my own work, I sort of argued that nonviolent direct action can be an especially good way of tempering tyranny. And I think what's really most interesting about this is that it really shows that direct action has this capacity to engage in creativity and invention. And I think this is something that we sometimes miss as democratic theorists, that creativity and invention are very important to securing democracy because sometimes the traditional processes that we have are not working. And so King and people who influenced him, like Ella Baker, organized and engaged in new forms of political expression, including non-violent protests, sit-ins, marches, and of course, child demonstrations, all of which had not happened before, especially on such a large scale in the United States. So both King and Baker sort of see these political actions as essential to securing democracy and racial justice. And they do this because they're tactics that really force change, both in individuals but also in institutions. And they do this by encouraging productive and progressive negotiations and by ensuring that the voices of black citizens were heard, considered, and responded to. So in some ways, this is what the traditional democratic process had been failing to do, and so these sort of new methods kick in and then correct the flaws of the old ways. And so I really think that when we look at this, not only the corrective aspect, but the creative inventiveness of these that comes along with nonviolent protests, that we see it as, I think, very essential to democratic processes because we need to constantly think anew. Because democracy, as you know, in the United States, is so fragile. We constantly need to be rethinking and finding new ways and processes to ensure that democracy is robustly secured. 

PA: Also those new methods would have been capable of actually shifting public opinion in a way that like a Supreme Court judgment is not going to do, right? Instead the Supreme Court says, OK, from now on, you have to desegregate all the schools. Well, if no one wants to do it, then either it won't happen because it can't be enforced or it will happen in this very kind of cynical way that doesn't actually achieve what it's meant to achieve. Whereas something like the sit-ins might have actually persuaded a larger percentage of the American people to actually sympathize with the plight of people who were victims of racism? 

MK: Yeah, that's a complicated question actually for King because on the one hand, he thinks that what he, and this is something I talk about in the book, that there's a small group of people that he refers to as "the best of America" that are really capable of moral change and moral learning. But he also believed that there's a huge group of white Americans that are just going to have to be forced to obey the law. And for him in so many ways, and you see it most pronounced sort of at the bookends of his work at the beginning and the end where he talks about the importance of nonviolent coercion or pressure. And the reason that these processes of non-violent direct action really work is partly for reasons of moral suasion and persuasion yes - for the best of America, but for everybody else, by putting economic pressure on people, it sort of forces them to do what's right. And the hope is perhaps by practicing doing what it's right, that maybe it'll become inculcated. I actually think, I mean, this is something I talk about in some work of mine, but I think there's a kind of situation that happens to social movements and processes like this, it kind of forces us to act as we should, and then we just get better at it hopefully over time. I think that's the best King can hope for. But he identifies himself as a realist - he is very aware there's a large group of people who are just not going to do it. You know, so we've got to put pressure on those people. 28.35

PA: Yeah. Speaking of realists, there's this kind of traditional contrast that is, I mean, it's almost a cliche, but we're leaning into the cliche as they say these days, because this sort of mini series of episodes, we're looking at Martin Luther King Jr. alongside Malcolm X, and there's often this contrast drawn between them. So King is the sort of the prophet of love and nonviolence, and Malcolm X is realist, to use the word you just used, or perhaps even pessimistic. And of course, is much more prone to be open to calls to violence, right? But what you just said, it sounds like it already starts to kind of undermine that nice neat picture of sort of tough guy, Malcolm and nice guy, Martin. So do you think that the two of them are actually much closer together on this sort of issue than is usually thought? 

MK: Yeah, that's another really great question and one that I'm really invested in thinking more about. So I think in the end, Martin and Malcolm, you know, were more similar than they were different. And I think this is a claim that Reverend James H. Cone, you know, sort of makes it as well in the book, Martin, Malcolm in America. It's one of my favorite books on the two thinkers. Cone really suggests that by the end of their lives, that Martin and Malcolm sort of move toward each other in their views. And it takes like the course of their lives to kind of come closer and closer towards each other. But I actually think that we see a lot of similarities between them right from the beginning of both their political careers. And that might be because I'm interested in rhetoric. And I really think that we see that both Martin and Malcolm saw an important role for rhetoric in their political speech. They both hope to rouse people to action through emotionally stimulating or what we might call fiery speech. And sort of interestingly, in some of my current work, I also suggest that both Martin and Malcolm had a healthy and democratically useful form of distrust of political institutions and the individuals that sort of support them. And then the hopes of stimulating a sense of Black self-reliance and political action, this is something that they both hope to convey to their Black audience through their speeches and writings. I think this is something that they had in common. And I think we sometimes miss this again, because we so often link King with like happy, fuzzy, warm emotions of hope and optimism. But the truth is when we look deeply into King's writings, we see a very different picture. That is much more as we were saying, a realist in its orientation. 

So then the main difference between sort of Malcolm and Martin might be in their emotional appeals to faith. So while both people had a tremendous amount of faith in Black people and their abilities to promote racial progress, they may have had different views about white people. Obviously, some interpreters of Malcolm believe that he didn't have faith in white people, that he didn't believe they could change and grow. Whereas King clearly thought that this kind of change and growth was at least a possibility in relation to, as I said, the best of America. I'm not entirely sure about how deep this difference is between them, because as we know towards the end of his life after his pilgrimage to Mecca, Malcolm really does have a change of heart. He did think that white and Black people could live together harmoniously under the right conditions. And I think the question for him is whether these conditions could ever be realized in the American context. And I'm not sure for Malcolm that they could be. But more controversially, in one of the opening chapters of my book, I suggested something is similarly true for King. So King sort of believed that desegregation required the removal of legal barriers to equal access to schools, parks, restaurants, and libraries, and bringing people, black and white, together physically. While he believed that true integration was something different, actually, it required something more. Namely, he says, personal and intergroup feeling. What he says is a positive acceptance of desegregation, but also the welcomed participation of Black Americans in the total range of human activities. So King was actually, interestingly, really optimistic about securing desegregation in the American South. He believed it could be basically achieved in 10 to 15 years. But I argued that he was much more skeptical regarding true integration, perhaps believing that it was something that really could only be achieved in the kingdom of heaven. So in the end, my own view is that Martin and Malcolm were actually very similar indeed. And this is something I hope to say more about in my own work as I continue to think these topics through. 

PA: Yeah. Maybe if that's right, then maybe the difference between them really does come down to rhetoric. So I mean, you wouldn't see Martin Luther King describing white people as devils, right? 

MK: Exactly.

PA: But on the other hand, it sounds like what you just said. Well, most white people in America are never going to get with the program. So they're just going to have to be compelled by the government to do what's necessary. That's not something that Malcolm X would have disagreed with, presumably. 

MK: Exactly. And I think, you know, in some ways, I think Malcolm is sometimes maybe sharper about how to get the American government to do these things. And maybe not sharper, but had different views. I think in many ways, Martin obviously thought bottom up processes, having social movements on the ground in the US was a way to put a pressure on the government. But we know for Malcolm that he was appealing to a collective of African nations and trying to get them to put pressure through the UN to put pressure on the United States and the American government, because he was in some ways maybe even believe in the best of America. So there might be these small differences, like for King, there's a very small group of people, perhaps that could be convinced, maybe for powerful people that could potentially lead to change in the government. Whereas maybe Malcolm didn't even buy into that small group, which is why he was appealing to people outside of America to put pressure on the United States. So that might be one small difference, but I think at the end, they both believe that like at its core, and I think you get this, you know, from many other thinkers that you're covering that the United States is sort of very difficult to change, difficult to change American mindsets, but also to change institutions and processes. So in that there's a shared kind of skepticism. 

PA: Yeah. And that global perspective goes back to something you were saying at the beginning of our discussion, right? If you are aware of what's going on in today, the newly decolonized African nations that would maybe change your perspective on what's happening in the States as well. 

MK: Absolutely. Yeah. 

PA: So actually that sort of sets up a lot of the episodes that are coming in the future, because we're going to be continuing to look at Martin and Malcolm in the next few episodes. But we're also going to be looking at figures like Kwame Nkrumah, who were involved in the decolonization movement. So lots to look forward to. 


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