Group think refers to the mode of thinking that individuals engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group as the members strive for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise other alternative causes of action (Zaremba 172). In groupthink, do people follow the quiet-moral voice or the aggressive-loud voice? Malcolm X, an outspoken civil rights leader in the 1960’s said, “Nobody can give you freedom.you take it” (YouTube, 2008). Obviously, Malcolm x was the aggressive-loud voice of civil rights in the black American community. In contrast, Elijah Muhammad, another black civil rights leader, was characterized as a quiet-moral voice. Both men attempted to gain freedom for blacks in 1960 America using their distinct groupthink techniques. The term groupthink was coined by the social psychologist, Irving, J Lanis, describing the phenomenon in which people look for consensus within a group. Through use of groupthink, both civil rights leaders gave the people a chance to express their own ideas against the social norms. Many people strongly believe that the confrontational loud voice used by Malcolm X was more fruitful than the friendly approach used by Elijah Muhammad during the times of civil rights movement. Malcolm X injected the political concept of Black Nationalism into the Civil Rights Movement which is kept religious in nature. Malcolm X carried a special relationship with Elijah Muhammad in the sense that the full power of Malcolm’s intellect was drawn to influence of Muhammad and the special role he played during Malcolm’s. Elijah became the father figure of Malcolm of great power and prestige. Malcolm followed Elijah’s Black economic nationalism in encouraging the Black people to form their own economic base by owning factories and hiring each other.
The effects of groupthink can be interpreted in two different ways. The first is that future work should do more to consider the potential of groupthink as against non-groupthink explanations at particular occasions. The second theory is that short of a separate test of the theory on each decision, in relation to the strong partial leadership which depends on the type of decision that has been made (Golledge 51). The civil rights leaders utilized the phenomenon of groupthink to their advantage to ensure that their followers believed in their cause. Malcolm X asserted the use of an aggressive voice, while Elijah Muhammad advocated the use of the quiet moral friendly approach to seek the attention in a much polite manner. Malcolm’s views were strong by exposing the oppression of the whites, who had taken away the rights and freedoms for blacks unjustifiably. Malcolm X was a charismatic speaker and embraced the group’s simplicity. He had the rhetoric ability to influence people who were more willing to follow a courageous leader to eliminate all the issues they had to contend with. The leadership approach of Malcolm X represented the catalyst for the community to explore the possibility of social change. He became an organizational and community leader by using his role to act against social inequality. Malcolm X became a community change agent by publicly condemning racism which led to inequality which encouraged him to fight for social inequality. He identified with the Black working poor struggling for survival at the margins of society where he became successful. His leadership approach was to create a support base at the grass roots level for the organization leading to greater influence in Black communities nationwide (Youtube, 2008).
The use of an aggressive groupthink strategy became a new approach for the Blacks to fight against oppression. It is a common phenomenon that the opposing parties try to convince ruling parties to compromise and negotiate through pressure to resolve the conflict. This often results into hasty solutions that may not solve the underlying problem in its entirety. Some people believe that Malcolm’s aggressive groupthink strategy was not effective because it failed in addressing the issues in their entirety. However, several results of Malcolm X’s model of groupthink were not practical. Even after the constitutional amendment declaring the equality of white and black, Malcolm’s followers resorted to protest for lack of lawful grounds due to the aggressive groupthink method they were accustomed to. However, there are some who believe that the results of Malcolm’s campaign concerning the civil rights could have been more fruitful with the application of Muhammad’s lighter tone for the sake of appropriate persuasion of conflicts. Elijah Muhammad, as the mentor of Malcolm X, advocated for a more friendly and accommodative tones in solving the ills that plagued the nation. Elijah Muhammad in a very polite, persuasive and logical made the rulers aware that the black people should not be discriminated due to their color as this was unlawful. Muhammad for this reason adopted a more assertive way of dealing with the ruling class in America to which many individuals believe was the right choice.
The opposing viewpoint of Elijah Muhammad was different from Malcolm X in the sense that he understood the fundamental truth about the Black rage and that it must not be ignored or ignited (Sales 15). This is what makes the leadership style of Malcolm X to standout in the sense that he articulated Black rage in an exceptional manner where his broad Black Nationalist platforms were too vague to give Black rage a concrete direction. In the case of Elijah, he knew how to handle Black rage in a constructive manner, shape it through moral discipline, channel it into political organization and guide it by visionary leadership (Sales 15).
Implementation of constitutional rights need not be a gradual process. The governed have every right to bring into accountability those in power in case of suspected complacency. Often, the ruling class hesitates to make any changes regardless of the required urgency as long as those in power do not feel threatened. Being friendly like Elijah Muhammad only gives those in power more time to think of more ways to continue oppressing the poor. Elijah Muhammad achieved notable success in developing a model to help the most down-trodden Black people to rehabilitate themselves (Sales 15).
In this regard, Malcolm X believed that a confrontational style to groupthink was the best remedy to holding the oppressor to account. He introduced modifications into the Black religious nationalism of Muhammad’s approach, which achieved widespread popularity in the Black community (Sales 15). It would create a sense of urgency for those in power to address the inequalities and prejudices that were deep rooted in the American society of that time. If they were not going to act, the American people would not bring about the equality that they had sought for so long. This is because previous governments had not done much to resolve this crisis and therefore it could not be business as usual. Therefore, without a strong-aggressive and powerful motivational methodology to groupthink was a need of time and Malcolm X was right at adopting his aggressive persuasive strategy. Elijah Muhammad once said that “We cannot be equal with the master until we own what the master owns” (Farrakhan, “The Final Call”). But he failed to address the question of how you can own what the master has when that master fails to recognize you. This shows that the perception of being recognized by the other as an equal required adoption of confrontational rather than friendly strategies. This required knowing what one is entitled to and agitating for it through mass action, demonstrations and boycotts.
In a nutshell, it is contradictory to adopt a friendlier style of addressing the pervasive problems that existed in society since the ruling class would continue their suppression. According to Malcolm X, adopting a friendlier and reconciliatory stance would ensure the perpetuation of the same evils. Confrontational styles would be perceived by the rulers as more urgent since they would challenge their exercise of authority. In order to succeed, it was essential that the blacks seek engagement with the other races so that they could voice their concerns and grievances in a collaborative and engaging manner. This way they could reduce the wide racial divisions that prevailed in America. In conclusion, groupthink is an advantage in the sense that there is more knowledge and information through the pooling of group member resources. There is an increased acceptance and commitment from the decision since all the members have contributed their voice in the decision. Finally, there is a greater understanding of the decision since the members are involved in the various stages of the decision-making.
Farrakhan, Louis, “Muhammad’s Economic Blueprint: Ending Poverty and Want.” The Final
Call.12 August 2013: Part 31. Web. 29 October 2013.
Golledge Reginald G. Wayfinding Behavior: Cognitive Mapping and Other Spatial
Processes. Maryland: JHU Press, 2010. Print.
Sales, William W. From Civil Rights to Black Liberation: Malcolm X and the Organization of
Afro-American Unity. USA: South End Press, 1994. Print.
Zaremba, Alan Jay. Crisis Communication: Theory and Practice. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2010.