What do you think of Martin Luther King Jr.'s style of protest?What do you think of Martin Luther King Jr.'s style of protest?
The previous post was extremely lucid. I would like to amplify the moral positioning that was involved in King's style of protest. One of Dr. King's greatest contributions to the history of American political resistance was his ability to conceptualize the issue of race relations in America as a moral objective. To be able to reconfigure racism as not merely political truth, but an aspect of moral righteousness helped to bring about the social change of the late 1950s and 1960s. The social order had seen racism as something that had become tradition and a part of the Status Quo which was not really examined on a racial level. Dr. King changed that by configuring it as a moral evil. This appealed to many people. African- Americans saw their struggle as a moral one, something that had always been there, but King's language allowed it to be clarified as one. White Americans also began to sense the moral outrage at racism, and a sense of courage emerged within this sector of the social order to speak out and act against racist attitudes and policies. The abilty to transform something that is into something that should be and the ability to reconfigure an issue of race into one of morality is an extremely compelling component of King's brand of protest.
It's pretty hard to argue with MLK's style of protest. This is true for a couple of reasons.
First, it seems morally unassailable. The idea of passive resistance seems to me to be admirable. Demonstrators who meet force and abuse with calm and nonviolence are impressive and seem to have the moral high ground.
Second, his style clearly worked. It is hard for outsiders to look at the peaceful protestors being attacked by dogs, fire hoses, etc without feeling sympathy for the demonstrators and their goals. So I think it's a pretty effective way to demonstrate.
That being said, his protests probably wouldn't have worked if their goal hadn't been so hard to disagree with. It would have been much harder for him to succeed if he were protesting for something more complicated or morally ambiguous than equal rights.
Obviously, as previous posts have stated, Dr. King's protest methods were effective and influential. For example, King was able to influence Malcolm X--someone who once believed in "black-only" protests and using any means necessary--to convert to his style of protests. Malcolm X even left the Nation of Islam, in part, because of his siding with Dr. King's methods.
I think it's nearly flawless in that, as long as they stayed non-violent, the media time and time again saw blacks being oppressed for their identity, and white southerners looked backwards and cruel. While it took time, and that may be my only criticism - how slow this strategy works - it was almost impossible to defeat this strategy.
His style of protest was modeled after Ghandi, and it was non-violence protest to encourage others to use their voice and following to make change and not violence.
It was clever and more or less flawless- it was hard to argue or to counter non-violent resistance. However, it indeed caused the protest to take a much longer time; however, as this does help to weaken the stereotype of blacks, it is indeed an effective strategy.