With rampant killing of unarmed Black men through this country, everyone is talking about racism in America. The death of Michael Brown and failure to indict the officer who killed him, sparked prolonged protests in Ferguson and throughout the United States. As such a hot button topic, it has clearly made its way to social media sites, even garnering it’s own hashtag, #blacklivesmatter, Now while there are many differing opinions on the response to these incidents and even to the incidents themselves, one question that I have seen repeatedly has struck me as strange. I have heard multiple African American friends ask why people are “wasting their time,” protesting and “what does protesting do?”
Are you kidding me? Ever heard of the Freedom riders?
“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a sword that heals. It cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From 1955 until his death in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was a spearhead in the US civil rights movement. Highly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King believed that nonviolent protest was the most effective tactic to fight racism and oppression. Several of the protests planned by King were effective in evoking change; especially the March on Washington and Bloody Sunday, which as a turning point in the civil rights movement. Even as counter protestors exercised brutality, King’s insistence on continuing with nonviolent tactics, was a major factor in the support garnered nationally and internationally during the civil rights movement.
As a result of the march on Washington and the speech, people began to put pressure on the then President John F. Kennedy, encouraging him to advocate for Congress to pass Civil Rights laws at a national level.
Non-violent protests and civil disobedience brought light to the injustices being endured by Black people and the disunion in America and forced the government had to take action. Notable legislation that came from this period included:
Civil Rights Act of 1964 - This banned discrimination in employment and public accommodations based on "race, color, religion, or national origin".
Voting Rights Act of 1965 - This act restored and protected the right to vote.
Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965 - This allows immigration from groups other than those from the traditional European countries.
Fair Housing Act of 1968 - This banned housing discrimination for sales or rentals.
So, if you know your history, you know how very important marching and protesting can be. The overall force that people of color can provide when they galvanize can move mountain; so it can certainly affect change. #marchon #blacklivesmatter