Source: Poynter
Source: Poynter

IS PEACEFUL ENOUGH?

Does peaceful protesting bring the real results?

November 17, 2020

With the Black Lives Matter movement, the question of an effective method for their protests have come up a lot in recent months. The question has existed since the early 1800s when people of color began fighting for their god-given rights through protests. 

Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil right activist in the 1960s who supported and was committed to a peaceful way of action instead of a hostile one. According to Stanford University, “King called the principle of nonviolent resistance the ‘guiding light of our movement. Christ furnished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi furnished the method.’” 

Through his peaceful methods, he had much success and the movement prospered due in part to him. For example, his Montgomery Bus Boycott was a peaceful demonstration of people of color not riding the bus until they desegregated the buses. The boycott lasted 13 months and success was achieved― the buses were desegregated. This shows how King’s method of peaceful demonstrations worked, no matter how long it took. 

However, King was not against the use of force when it was absolutely necessary. He delivered a speech called, The Other America, where he stated, “And so we must still face the fact that our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. As long as justice is postponed, we always stand on the verge of these darker nights of social disruption.” Riots, or violent protests are caused by the lack of attention and change of the government, people want action now, not later. 

Junior Brittney Jones thinks that a peaceful approach is the way to go. Jones stated, “[A] peaceful [protest] because it brings more people [to the cause] and sends out a clear message,” Jones also states, “Violent protests tarnish[es] the message of the protest and misrepresents people protesting.”

Malcolm X was a man of action similar to Martin Luther King Jr. He stated at once, “We want freedom now, but we’re not going to get it saying ‘We Shall Overcome.’ We’ve got to fight to overcome.” He was a fierce leader and dedicated his life in advancing the lives of black people. He advocated for African Americans to pick up arms and basically have a revolution similar to that of Cuba to get their freedom. In a 1964 speech regarding the congress filibuster on the Civil Rights Act, he gave “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech in which he stated, “We suffer political oppression, economic exploitation and social degradation. All of ’em from the same enemy. The government has failed us. You can’t deny that. Any time you’re living in the 20th century, 1964, and you walking around here singing “We Shall Overcome,” the government has failed you. This is part of what’s wrong with you, you do too much singing. Today it’s time to stop singing and start swinging.”

Junior Nisa Pierre disagreed and stated, “Violent protests do not get things done and only creates more problems [for the issue at hand.]” However, according to Vox, “But riots don’t just lead to more attention — other urban upheavals in the 1960s and 1990s led to real reforms in local police departments and governments . . .” a riot can change things for the better in our communities and it gets things done.

To get real attention and to be actually heard, you must demonstrate your strength. Do not get me wrong, a peaceful protest does have their benefits. It just does not force the opposing side to do anything, that is why I agree with Malcolm X’s method. It presents the opposing sides true colors through reaction, how they respond to it.

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