The Blog for the Civil Rights Movement class at Rhodes College, Fall 2010
First of all, I find that the approach to nonviolence is equivalent to learning math. One cannot start with calculus but rather start with the basic fundamentals of math and take steps to approach the more complexed forms of math. By taking these steps, one will better understand the principle. Thus, the nonviolent concept is executed through taking the time to learn the steps to achieve a mindset of dignity and discipline.
Nonviolent methodology that many individuals used during the struggle for civil rights is more useful than violent approaches. In the nonviolent system, the goal is to win people to your side rather than to retaliate; retaliation typically only escalates matters, which leads to more hatred and discord. However, adding to the hatred, as happens by applying more violent approaches, does not help to end the struggle, but rather it perpetuates the cycle of hate. Using Martin Luther King’s works in Testament of Hope, the nonviolent approach promotes agape love, or compassion and understanding for fellow men. The technique seeks to create harmony among individuals, and therefore creates understanding which SHOULD lead to equalization of rights.
Because we have the ability to look backward in the history of our nation, it's easy to say that nonviolence was an effective tactic during the Civil Rights Movement. That being said, it was not a tactic that came into prominence without conflict and dissidence from other groups who preferred more active protest. Though it was extremely effective, and widely recognized, it is reasonable to note that becoming a follower of nonviolence would have been unbelievably difficult. First, because of the opposition from those in favor of the old system of segregation, and also resistance from fellow protesters, who were unwilling to participate in the quiet disobedience.
Nonviolence was as successful as it was because it gave the average citizen a chance to partake in the movement. While many popular leaders of the movement were involved with the nonviolence tactic, it was not necessary to have fame attached to one's name to get involved. Individuals who were merely looking to help the fight were able to do so. That is not to say that nonviolence was not difficult. Strength of character was key to keeping this tactic effective; nevertheless, it was a source that many could rely on to take one more step toward justice.
explain some more about this
The movement would not have been what it was without the role on nonviolence. The concept of nonviolence was complex in that it was more than peaceful protest. It was also a way to win over supporters to the cause. The source of nonviolence is Agape love. This love is rooted in compassion and is spontaneous and unconditional. What is striking about this concept of nonviolence is that it is more of a mindset and a lifestyle rather than a technique for activism. Activists and supporters have to take this mindset and focus it on institutions rather than individuals. The institution of segregation is the problem, and people are just the manifestation of that. With this mentality, the movement garnered support from those who saw images of peaceful protesting.
Non violence was one of the best strategies of the civil rights movement because it made the best come out of men and women at one of the most difficult and controversial times in American history. Non-violence resistance embodied noble values, control over ones emotions, calm, discipline and reflection. These values of peace in the fight for freedom were what gave it moral strength and strength in action. This state of mind united African Americans in the vital battle for equality. I think the unity that came from that tactic is what led to its success.
I think that if it were not for non violence, all the progress that was made in the Civil Rights Movement would have taken much longer and probably not nearly to the extent that it did progress. Non violence was key in the movement because to the rest of the country as well as the rest of the world it portrayed the southern whites as the oppressive aggressors and showed the African Americans as the victims, which was the case. If however the civil rights activists had fought fire with fire and violently lashed out back the whole situation would have changed. The outside viewer would probably not feel nearly as sympathetic towards the civil rights activists, which, perhaps, could have stalled the movement. Also the states in question could use the civil rights activists violence as an excuse to continue in their attempt to maintain the status quo.
In class, we discussed Gandhi's philosophy of satyagraha when talking about nonviolence. Satyagraha, meaning "soul force", is a strong practice of nonviolence and was used heavily during the civil rights movement. I believe the term "soul force" better suits what activists were doing at this time, rather than nonviolence. When one uses soul force, they intend on placing themselves wholly into a movement, no matter what they have to do. Soul force was what pushed activists to use nonviolence, it was what, I believe, started the movement. I believe nonviolence was the correct way to react to the injustices during the civil rights movement and I believe that the life-principle of satyagraha was a large factor in why nonviolence was successful.
Nonviolence as a tactic is equivalent to community organizing, and when looked at this way, I don't think that it was as much Nonviolence or holding hands and singing "Kumbaya" that strengthened the movement. In my opinion, it was more of the idea that people got themselves together (organized themselves) and said, "Look, we are going to gain this right, whatever the means necessary. If we have to threaten a few people, so be it. If we have to go on strike, so be it. If we have to gather ourselves and build a monument that commemmorates the freedom that we believe will eventually have less value to us, so be it." With these thoughts, people organized themselves and they did these things. Yes, the strikes were nonviolent, no African Americans tried to kill any white people. No, threats were not followed by bombings. However, I think that because the intentions of Black people was to "shake up" the white people and show them that they have just as much power, it then took a shift towards Community Organizing. Just because someone is physically nonviolent does not mean that they are not attacking a personal mentally and I think that the reason why the Civil Rights Movement was successful is because African Americans bruised the minds of a substantial amount of white people in order to get things done.
I think that nonviolence is an effective strategy, but only sometimes when its necessary. At other times violence is necessary when the person who is burning your house down and hanging your children is white. Especially when laws were not really enforced in small rural towns, you're angry. You want to fight back with violence no matter how you are punished when your one well being is put in danger, nonviolence is not the answer. You want to instill inside your enemy the same fear that he put on your family. Because if you just sit back and fight everything nonviolently in a place where laws were rarely ever enforced nothing would ever get done and you'd be sitting, scared waiting on the world to change.
The role of nonviolence was so important to the Civil Rights Movement because it was not a tactic that spread fear and further enmity among the people, but aimed to create a bond between people of all races. Leaders of the movement taught that in approaching white racism with nonviolence, it created a mutual understanding and changed white attitudes one person, or community at a time. Those who preached the ways of nonviolence advocated that it should be followed because men and women should love their neighbors based on the face that they’re human. I think this tactic is so beneficial because it works to eliminate violence, which is key in any movement. When violence is involved, there is always a loser, as King and Lawson pointed out. This creates more open hostilities and feelings of a need for revenge. Even when the violence subsists and there is a “winner,” there is still so much animosity. The nonviolence tactic shows much more strength of character as well. It seems easier to fight back when one is being attacked, rather then staying calm and trying to either leave the situation or engage the perpetrator in conversation. In any movement, but especially a civil rights movement, feelings of anger and hatred make progress much more difficult, so approaching change with nonviolence is much more advantageous.