This week in class, one of the questions that came up and stuck with me was the question, “How do you fight the system?” What leads people to make certain choices and react in certain ways? As we’ve explored the texts, we have seen how MLK’s largest approach was centered in faith and rhetoric. He sought to share his messages in a passionate way, but with keeping the peace so that he could reason and share his message with other people in a calm and conversational manner. He knew what he wanted to say and found ways to peacefully but strongly state the change that he wanted to see in the country. He urged the avoidance of violence because he thought that this would never end in a positively impactful way.
After reading Huey P. Newton’s experiences and thoughts in Revolutionary Suicide, his approach was far different from MLK’s. He saw that his job was to give all of himself and to put himself in any and all positions, including dangerous ones, to fight for his mission. He saw violence and theatrics as a way to combat the racial injustices of his time and to make his message heard. Although these were tactics of his, it is also important to note that violence was not his only avenue for change. Newton also focused on social programs and creating a clear mission statement for the Black Panther Party to show that they had a mission and not just violent intentions. However, when discussing his view on Revolutionary Suicide, he explains how he saw that he must give all of himself and be a martyr for the cause, not stopping at anything, even violence, for the movement he was trying to push forward.
In contrasting these two viewpoints, each man took a different approach to changing and fighting the system. Peace and disruption. Rhetoric and theatrics. Which one was the better strategy? It might be easiest to automatically say that the peaceful option was the better one, but is this really the case? Did the theatrics encourage more people to join the movement, thus making the movement stronger? Did it seem to some that the peaceful rhetoric would get their message nowhere? In thinking of this, I think that both movements had their strengths and their weaknesses. Maybe it was important to dramatize the situation so that more people would buy in. Maybe to really get their points across and express themselves fully, people had to go to the extreme and perform outrageous acts. I’m still trying to figure out which approach I consider better, so right now I do not have an answer to the question, but I think it is interesting to think about. Is it important to keep your friends close and your enemies closer through rhetoric, or do you want to make them so frustrated that you physically or psychologically force them into change?