MLK’s Prescription For Protests: Nonviolent, But Also Unceasing And DisruptiveRoundup
tags: Martin Luther King, racism, civil rights, civil disobedience, Protest, nonviolence
Jason Sokol is associate professor of history at the University of New Hampshire and the author of The Heavens Might Crack: The Death and Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
“In the halls of Congress, Negro lives are too cheap to justify resolute measures; it is easier to speculate in blood and do nothing.”
So wrote Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968, mere days before his own death. King was thinking about the unrest that shook hundreds of American cities in 1967, and he condemned policy makers for their failure to address the oppression that had caused those violent uprisings. King warned America’s political leaders that another “winter of delay” would lead to more “long hot summers.”
With protesters taking to the streets in hundreds of American cities — the vast majority of them waging peaceful demonstrations — it has been common for observers to cite King while they denounce the concurrent episodes of violence or looting.
King did indeed oppose the use of violence, but his understanding of the situation in the late 1960s was far more complex than most Americans might realize. In our current moment of urgency and rage, his words can prove instructive. By recalling King’s words, we might articulate a position that builds on his own — a position that, most importantly, demands structural changes in our society to end police violence, yet readily recognizes the self-defeating nature of looting and destruction.
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