I. IntroductionThe problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the colour line, - the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia, Africa and the islands of the sea.
W.E.B. DuBois in "The Souls of Black Folks" (1903)
The twentieth century has been a century of many wars and great social problems. The gap between the poverty stricken countries of Asia, Africa, and South-America and the industrialized countries of the northern hemisphere increased steadily. All major crisis were characterized by the conflict between the white and the non-white people, the conflict between the "civilized" West and the communist East, and the conflict between the North and the South. In World War I the "white" countries fought to gain more colonies to exploit the non-white people. World War II was fought against the establishment of the supremacy of the white race in Europe and the open discrimination and genocide of ethnical and other minorities. But there were also battles fought against the increasing power of non-white countries in Asia, like Japan, Korea, or Vietnam, because the Western countries feared that the growing idea of communism might endanger their power and wealth, which became even more obvious in the Cold War.
During the 1950s and 60s, the people of Africa tried to throw off the yoke of colonialism and sought their independence, which could only be gained through bloody revolutions, like in the Congo and in Kenya. In the middle of the twentieth century the problem had shifted from conflicts among the white countries of the North , who only fought to get more power, more money, and more land, to a conflict between the "haves" and the "have-nots" - "a global rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiter."1
Money has always been the main reason for human conflicts. There have always been some who were able to amass a lot of money and who tried to keep the others down and to accumulate even more wealth. The capitalism of the Western countries has helped the rich to become richer by exploiting the workers and paying low wages. So economic competition has increased, which has struck the minorities the hardest - too often the slogan "last hired, first fired" was put into practice. They have been discriminated against just because of their religious beliefs or their colour of skin. In some countries this discrimination was confirmed by law, and it took mankind a very long time to finally abolish discrimination. But it is still existing in the society and probably will always exist, because "people are not [...] terribly anxious to be equal [...] but they love the idea of being superior"2 and therefore need someone to suppress.
In the second half of the twentieth century people tried to prevent the conflicts of the past from breaking out again. Today more than 160 countries are members of the United Nations and have signed the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, women have gained equal rights all over the world, and there are big efforts to improve education. Especially the mass media has made it possible for everybody to see what is going on the world. But racism and poverty still exist.
So this essay wants to take a look at two personalities who gave their life for the struggle for equal rights in the richest and most powerful country of the world, the USA, in a country, where everybody seeks to fulfil "the American dream", but where many people live in a nightmare.
two persons, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, travelled on
different roads towards freedom of oppression , one used the means of
non-violence, and the other was willing to gain "freedom - by
any means necessary.".3
1.) Breitman, George, ed. Malcolm X Speaks, p.217, Malcolm's last formal speech, Feb. 18, 1965
2.) Baldwin, James, The Fire Next Time, p. 76
3.) Breitman, George, ed. Malcolm X Speaks, p. 135