“Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys a community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”
We know that the 1960’s Civil Rights and anti Vietnam movements splintered and that there were groups like the Weather Underground, the Black Muslims, and Black Panthers who were not afraid to use violence to fight violence. We cannot deny that the “Martin vs Malcolm” dichotomy existed.
However, in today’s battle for Civil Rights, I believe we have to be more MLK-like in dealing with the new versions of Strom Thurmond, George Wallace and Richard Nixon.
Free speech is a right to cherish and honor. We must decide how to fairly enforce it. We must also understand the tactics used by these right wing fanatics to exploit it.
In 1978, the ACLU took a controversial stand for free speech by defending a Neo-Nazi group that wanted to march through the Chicago suburb of Skokie , where many Holocaust survivors lived. The notoriety of the case caused some ACLU members to resign, but to many others the case has come to represent the ACLU’s unwavering commitment to principle. In fact, many of the laws the ACLU cited to defend the group’s right to free speech and assembly were the same laws it had invoked during the Civil Rights era, when Southern cities tried to shut down civil rights marches with similar claims about the violence and disruption the protests would cause.
They, by the way, decided not to march.
To not allow them to march was and still would be unconstitutional. But how we allow them to march can be closely regulated and monitored. To do this we need our leaders to set the proper examples and NOT INCITE marchers or protesters to RIOT or threaten everyone by carrying weapons even where the laws allow. We need our leaders (both national and local) to lower the tone of the rhetoric. We need law enforcement to make sure free speech doesn’t turn violent. Hey #45…We also know that it is the Neo-Nazi, KKK, white supremacist militia folks who are far more likely to do that.
We cannot allow this generation of segregationists to steal the language of the Civil Rights Movement.
So what do we do? It is a quandary. Free speech should never be taken for granted.