The picture below is the iconic photo of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X. This picture is shown in portraits, history books and shown many times throughout the movie being held by “Smiley” the mentally challenged man. MLK Jr and Malcom X are widely accepted as two of the most influential civil rights activists in American History. Both are seen as the pioneers to leading African Americans to fight for equal rights in American society. However, despite having the same intentions in mind, their methods where completely different. Even I ask how these two could possibly get along when their morals and methods of achieving civil rights were so different.
Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to fight for civil rights but believed it could be achieved exclusively by non-violent protests. He wanted for blacks to accepted by whites and fully integrated into their society rather than just the “equal but separate” tactics imposed by Jim Crow Laws. Malcom X was different. During his time in the Nation of Islam, a time where he made most of his speeches and teachings, he rejected white society. He promoted the Nations ideals that Blacks were superior and should form their own society and culture to be better than that of whites. He was criticized for advocating violence as a means to achieve his goals, though he would disguise it as “self-defense.” The duality in this movie isn’t immediately shown, but does drive the events that lead to the end of the movie. What starts as a push to get equal representation escalates to riots and destruction of property and the death of community member.
Other examples of duality come up in a few places in the movie like in the scene where Radio Raheem is showing Mookie his new knuckle braces and gives him a speech about love and hate. The speech he gave was about how love and hate coexisted, but did it have a deeper meaning of how one cascades into the other. He says “If I love you, then I love you. And if I Hate you…” He doesn’t finish the line about hate. Is that significant to how he is uncertain of what will happen when he allows hate to take over. I feel that the duality in this movie isn’t just about how whites and blacks go about life separately, but how a clash of ideologies in civil rights leads to disaster. Is there any other meaning one can derive from this? What was the significance of this photo being held and sold by someone who was mentally handicapped? Do you think the ideologies of this movie led to its outcome? Professor Zinman said this movie was very relevant today more than ever, and I believe him. How relevant do you believe this movie is?