AFRS 100 Sec 02 5511 Composition II
December 15, 2014
Nonviolence in African American Culture
Is violence actually a strategic method of obtaining equality? Throughout the years, African Americans have struggled to find the answer to this question. Quite often, violence rather than verbal or written communication has been used throughout history as a means of th
subduing people of color. For example, in the last half of the 19 century, blacks were terrorized
by many discriminatory groups, the Ku Klux Klan perhaps being the most famous. Due to the centuries of racism against African Americans, they have struggled to find a solution to this dilemma. There has been much debate as to which path is more effective, violence or nonviolence. Martin Luther King Jr. and many other influential historical figures have debated on the matter and the majority has come to a strong conclusion. When it comes to methods of eliminating racism, violence incites more violence and causes catastrophic damage, whereas nonviolence promotes peace and understanding from each of the opposing sides and is far more effective.
Violence is a never ceasing strategy of eradicating racism against African Americans. For
instance, in the early 1800’s African American slaves were forced via several methods, primarily violence, to work for Caucasians. As a result, the slaves revolted. Time and time again, they
retaliated. Several of these retaliations were well thought through and planned. Several men directed revolts, Gabriel Prosser led one in 1800, Denmark Vesey in 1822, and perhaps the most successful and famous, Nat Turner in 1831 (Americans of African Ancestry). Though these attacks were without much success, they did inflict a fair amount of damage and struck fear in the heart of white slave owners.
Most often, situations involving violence will be revisited rather than abandoned. While there might be a short period of peace, the issue still lurks in the background unsolved, and in time the issue will be raised again and fought over. After each bout, v
iolence leaves the losing side feeling not only defeated but resentful. It is only a matter of time before the resentment of being discriminated against builds and enough of a force is mustered to retaliate. The aforementioned skirmishes, however brief, caused many deaths and failed to bring about the end of racial discrimination.
Throughout history, violence has been the cause of ruinous damage and deaths. The result of this violence has affected African Americans heavily. In his article “Nonviolence: the Only Road to Freedom,” Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “In violent warfare, one must be prepared to face ruthlessly the fact that there will be causalities by the thousands” (579). Also in this text, King writes that 200,000 men were slaughtered in Vietnam due to violent warfare (579). The Civil War, though it ended with freedom for all enslaved blacks, came with a heavy toll. Over 650,000 lives were lost due to the years of violence (McPherson). Due to racism, misconceptions were spread stating that it was the African Americans who were causing damage in riots. Charles Whitman, a 25 year old Caucasian murdered 16 people and injured thirteen more. Not one person was killed or even injured at the hand of a person of color in these riots. King points out the fact that “one young man killed more people in one day than all the Negroes
have killed in all the riots in the cities since the Harlem riots of 1964” (578). King does acknowledge the fact that people of color were not completely nonviolent; indeed they were guilty of brutal fighting amongst each other. However the damage was kept between themselves and did not affect any whites. King concludes that nonviolence would reach a far more peaceful ...
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