What’s the Use of Non-Violence in 2021

I cannot remember exactly when Stokely Carmichael said this but in reference to Martin Luther King Jr., he said “‘Dr. King’s policy was that nonviolence would achieve the gains for black people in the United States. His major assumption was that if you are nonviolent, if you suffer, your opponent will see your suffering and will be moved to change his heart. That’s very good. He only made one fallacious assumption: In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience. The United States has none.’”

When we think about Martin Luther King Jr. and even when we read about how James Baldwin thought and felt about Martin Luther King Jr., his legacy is non-violence. He exists in the American imagination as a saint, close to Jesus in virtue for his ability to turn the other cheek. However, it is clear (seeing the state that we are in today in 2021) that sainthood and turning the other cheek does nothing for the state of the world and the plight of Black Americans. 

As Stokely Carmichael states, America and other Western countries feel no remorse for what they have done to or continue to do to Black people. They do not believe that what they have done in the name of extending their reach, power, and riches was and is wrong (it was and is all for the greater good of their reign, country, or empire). They feel no compassion for the plight and the state of Black people in their countries to this very day. If America and other Western countries felt any compassion for Black people and Black nations they would not have murdered Black political leaders, unlawfully jailed Black political leaders, and usurped democratically elected Black officials in Black nations. 

If non-violence worked, why do Western nations still have their foot in Africa, Haiti, and Latin America? Why does the IMF put these nations into debt? Why do white billionaires determine whether or not these nations deserve the covid vaccine? Why are Black people second class citizens who are killed and assaulted for sport or for simply existing? 

We have advanced past the age of non-violence. When I say this, I do not necessarily mean that we have to start a revolution (although we really need one) but people need to stop thinking that allowing others to walk over you is going to get the attention of those in power to make them change things.

My sophomore year, I was in Professor Pierce’s class about the civil rights movement starting from the 1800’s. We read and I wrote a paper on a book titled: Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power. This book is a biography of Robert F. Williams who was a part of the NAACP, at the same time as Martin Luther King Jr., but was also militant. There is one story about how on his way home, Robert F. Williams was being tailed by these white men who planned to kill him and once he got home, his wife came outside with a shotgun and that was the end of that attempt on Robert F. Williams’ life. 

Another story is that once Robert F. Williams was asked to step down from his position in the NAACP, one of the girls who was integrating into a white school essentially said that his way of fighting racism (ie: not being non-violent) was wrong. Later on, once her house was being shot into and terrorized, Robert F. Williams sent her a letter asking her if she still did not believe in owning a gun to protect herself and her family. 

Excuse my language but Robert F. Williams did not take any shit. He was the embodiment of “I won’t start shit but I will end it if I have to”. His ability to utilize and teach others how to utilize guns as a form of protection essentially saved Black lives in the town he lived in many times. Out of all the people in the movement (Martin, Malcolm, Medgar), Robert F. Williams died peacefully of old age. His idea of protest is essentially what we need to have in 2021. No more being sitting ducks allowing things to happen to us.

The Myth of Martin

Sometimes, it feels as though I know too much about Martin Luther King Jr.. I first learned about him in kindergarten after watching Our Friend, Martin. The movie frames Martin Luther King Jr. as the sole reason why segregation ended and why racism stopped existing in America. It is an interesting take. But it is also a movie that came out in 1999. In that time, little was really known about Martin Luther King Jr.. However, it was 1999 that the trial where the United States of America that was put on trial for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. where it was ruled that our government had coordinated the assassination.

It is so interesting to think about the way Martin Luther King Jr. is talked about today. He was a martyr. He was lovely. He was perfect. Yet, he continually cheated on his wife and allowed someone to push Bayard Rustin out of the movement because Bayard Rustin was gay. The man was essentially hated by the end of his life. As he began to speak out about poverty and the Vietnam war, his approval rating dropped. I believe this was prime time for the US to assassinate him. However, I doubt the US completely thought out the impact Martin Luther King Jr.’s death would have on the movement. In fact, they probably did not predict the riots that would break out after his assassination.

I guess that is part of the reason the US pretends to love Martin Luther King Jr.. It is almost funny how Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by the same state that pretends to venerate him and drags his corpse and name through the mud in an attempt to quell Black discontent. It is almost funny that a car company sampled part of one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches to sell a truck. At this point in time, Martin Luther King Jr. no longer represents the people. He has become a part of the American imagination and has been run through the propaganda machine that so many go through.