Peaceful Protests are Obsolete

This is a short paper written for my History and Criticism of Communication at CSU, East Bay.


On December 31, 1964, Malcom X spoke out to a group of students from Mississippi. In this speech, Malcolm X explains that peaceful protest does not work. If you want to make sure that you get what you need, your basic human rights, you can’t rely on using peaceful protest. He says, “But we do not go along with anybody telling us to help nonviolently…You get your freedom by letting your enemy know that you’ll do anything to get your freedom; then you’ll get it. It’s the only way to get it.” This is the gist of his whole speech. We do not go along with this ideology that nonviolent protests are effective. We have to use violence to get the point across. You can’t rely on the sympathy of others. The only way to get what you need is to let those who are trying to keep you from having that, whatever it is, that you are willing to do anything and everything it takes to achieve your goal.

This idea set has a myriad of applications for today. The most important one is the same issue that they were dealing with when Malcolm X was speaking out against this. When we look at Black Lives Matter, everyone on the Right is saying that the protesters need to restrain from using violence in their attempts to get what they need. However, there is no skin in the game for those who are saying that. They’ve never been oppressed by the nation that they live in. They don’t have to fear for their lives for walking down the street solely because of the color of their skin. So, their argument that only nonviolent action is going to get them the desired effect is them using their privilege. When you have privilege, you have the ability to resolve issues nonviolently. But when the justice system targets you for the color of your skin, something you can’t help that you have no power over, you have to fight back. Those of us who understand this who come from a place of privilege are there to help, but to say that nonviolent doesn’t work and that you should protest peacefully is ignorant. Then again, the same people who argue this also criticize people like Colin Kaepernick for kneeling and doing nothing else, doing the exact kind of protest that they argue needs to be done. So the real premise for their argument is you can’t do anything that makes me uncomfortable, regardless of your personal oppression or discomfort.

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