This past week the best and worst of protesting in America was on display, Isaac Newton Farris Jr. writes.
First published in June 2020.
The best display of protesting stood on a foundation that Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed is the true greatness of America, “the right to protest for rights.”
The worst display of protesting stood on a foundation of disrespect for, shaming the memory of, and lying on the legacies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
Malcom X & Martin Luther King Jr.
The original 13 colonies could never have grown to be the American world superpower without the pain, labor, and sacrifices of American Blacks. But the greatest contribution American Blacks have made to America occurred when Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement taught America and the world how to achieve social and economic change through non-violent protesting.
The 1960’s Civil Rights Coalition of American Blacks and some American Whites bent the most powerful government in human history to its will, this was accomplished having never fired a shot and without the destruction of a single piece of property. They forced America to obliterate all forms of legally sanctioned discrimination based on race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.
Unfortunately, the significance of this victory and the strategic importance of TRUE non-violent protesting is under-appreciated by the current generation of protesters.
In part, because they were born into a world where attending school with people that don’t look like they do is normal, socializing, dating or marrying people who don’t look like they do is normal, and having the right to vote is normal if they are smart enough to exercise it.
The other part is their misunderstanding or ignorance of the following 3 factors:
Kingian Non-Violent Protesting
We now have at least 3 generations who did not live through the Civil Rights Movement and their only knowledge of it is through newsreel footage of the time, brief Black History Month lessons that focus primarily on the protest marches and not on the non-violent philosophy that undergirded them, nor the coordination and planning that went into staging non-violent protest demonstrations.
Dr. King developed the 6 Steps of Non-Violent Change and successfully used them along with countless other protesters to inflict non-violent change on America. The 6 steps are:
▪ Step 1. Information Gathering
▪ Step 2. Education
▪ Step 3. Personal Commitment
▪ Step 4. Negotiation
▪ Step 5. Direct Action
▪ Step 6. Reconciliation
Current protesters not only fail to apply the 6 steps to protest issues they also make no use of the step template in planning protest demonstrations, they skip steps 1-4, and jump straight to step 5, Direct Action, or protest marching. No attempt to gather information on the best strategic location for staging the protest, for instance. If the protest is against police brutality, what’s the purpose of protesting in the middle of downtown shutting down traffic for citizens who have nothing to do with police operations, as opposed to protesting at a police precinct or police headquarters?
The strategic importance of TRUE non-violent protesting is under-appreciated by the current generation of protesters. | Des Moines. / Flickr - Phil Roeder | 29 May 2020
Most current protesters hold impromptu protest rallies and marches. Dr. King NEVER conducted a protest rally or March without first seeking a permit from the local government. This is a key pre-protest step, it establishes an information dialogue between protesters and police and assures that police don’t show up in riot gear with a predetermined adversarial attitude to shut down the protest, because they have been informed about the protesting upfront.
The permit process also forces protest March organizers to plan the March route so they can inform the police, who then make advanced plans to clear the route of unrelated traffic or activity, avoiding the chaos that currently happens when March crowds wander around with no clear direction wreaking havoc on surrounding traffic and businesses, thus increasing the chance of conflict between police and protesters.
Dr. King was never denied a permit even when the local government initially did so. If they did he would simply march into court and remind the judge that the greatness of America was embodied in every American citizen’s right to protest for rights, prompting the judge to issue an order to the government to issue the permit.
Non-Violent protesting does not change anything
There is a popular sentiment among some current protesters that simply holding a non-violent march is no longer powerful enough to force change, that a more radical and aggressive approach is required in 2020 to effect change. They are correct that in many cases more is required than a non-violent March, but they are wrong to say that a more radical and aggressive approach can only be achieved by abandoning non-violent protesting.
Wreaking havoc on surrounding traffic and businesses increases the chance of conflict between police and protesters. | Minneapolis. / Flickr - Hungryogrephotos | 28 May 2020
Dr. King and his non-violent protesting approach have always been open to radical aggressive protest tactics which is why his first non-violent protest demonstration, The Montgomery Bus Boycott, completely shut down the main transportation system for an entire city for an entire year.
For current protesters who are frustrated with a government’s slow or no prosecution of a rogue policeman, why not radically, aggressively, and non-violently shut down their courthouse. Thousands of protesters would surround and deny entrance to everyone making court proceedings of any kind impossible. As police move in to arrest those blocking the courthouse entrances protesters would not resist but would be replaced by a new fresh batch of protesters, as was the case during the 1960’s lunch counter sit-ins, until the jails are filled to capacity, also a common experience in the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement.
At that point, the Chief Judge, the Mayor, and the Police Chief are all saying frantically to the County Prosecutor “We are out of jail space and court cases are piling up we’ve got to do something!!!, When are you going to charge and make an arrest?” Not only is the goal of getting a rogue cop charged and arrested achieved, but it is done so with no disruption to innocent bystander citizens or businesses, no destruction to property, and protesters go to jail for the misdemeanor of disturbing the peace and not for the felony of the destruction of property.
This is the way radical aggressive non-violent protesting with a pre-determined achievable goal is accomplished.
A Misunderstanding of Malcolm X’s “By Any Means Necessary”
Protesters who proclaim “We’ve tried King and got nothing, now we are trying Malcolm” and proceed to destruct, burn, and loot property, even if it’s only police vehicles, are lying and doing a disservice to the sainted legacy of Malcolm X!!!
They are implying that Malcolm X was a proactively violent man, nothing could be further from the truth!!! When Malcolm X proclaimed “by any means necessary,” what he was saying was: White man if you start a fight with me I will finish it by any means necessary, he was not saying: White man I will start a fight with you by any means necessary.
This was the true point of separation between Martin and Malcolm. Malcolm X was prepared to use violence of any kind to RETALIATE, NOT TO INITIATE, for a violation to his humanity. Dr. King would not use violence under any circumstances. Malcolm X NEVER called for or participated in looting, burning, or destruction of property. In fact, until his eye-opening trip to Mecca, where he discovered the true Islam religion and also that he had been a member of a clever man’s cult, Malcolm X was a staunch separatist who wanted to avoid all contact with the “blue-eyed devil white man.”
In Malcolm X’s pre-Mecca Nation of Islam, American Blacks were encouraged to stay away from the American White world as much as possible, the Nation of Islam had their own schools for education, their own businesses for food and clothing, their own news media to inform members, their own housing, and of course their own temples for worship. The question a pre-Mecca Malcolm would raise is: “Why are you as a black person in a white neighborhood to burn, loot, or destruct the white man’s property? We black people don’t need anything the white man has”
The only way Malcolm X would turn to burn and looting property is if the white owner had burned and looted his property first, which even under those circumstances would still be wrong and antithetical to Kingian non-violence. Last but not least pre-Mecca Malcolm and the Nation of Islam did not believe in protesting for rights because their leader, Elijah Muhammad, forbid it and encouraged his followers to seek rights in their own black Muslim world, so the notion that Malcolm X would be involved in protest of any kind, by any means necessary to achieve justice or equality in what he considered the white man’s world, is a pipe dream.
Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement gave America and the world an UNDEFEATABLE weapon when it demonstrated how to non-violently protest for change. Anyone who doubts this needs only to reach out to the surviving family members of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi or Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, they will confirm that both these dictators would have paid any price necessary to face the violent provocateurs who are looting and burning up America, instead of having to face the non-violent protesters of the Arab Spring who overthrew them.
Because Arab Spring protesters were non-violent it prevented Gaddafi and Mubarak from using the violence that would have saved them but would have also been witnessed by the world, had the protesters been violent the dictators would have had a greenlight with world approval to use the violence necessary to defeat them. China currently finds itself in the same predicament with its non-violent Hong Kong protesters, knowing its use of violence to crush the non-violent protesters will not survive world scrutiny.
All we’ve tried King, now we are trying Malcolm police brutality protesters should take note, and avail themselves to the use of successful time-tested Kingian non-violent protest tactics. Lest they will continue to achieve nothing but a felony prison sentence for themselves while rogue cops will remain free to kill American Blacks.🔷