Paper Example on African American Violence and Armed Self-Defense

Published: 2021-06-23
1942 words
8 pages
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University of California, Santa Barbara
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The period between the 50s and the 80s was characterized by plenty of struggle and resistance as the African Americans demanded the end of racial segregation. The African Americans used nonviolent methods to voice out their demands and also employed self-defense mechanisms to shield themselves from attacks from the white racists. Robert F. Williams, who was an aggressive activist during that period, viewed self-defense mechanisms and nonviolent forms of resistant as the options that African Americans had in a situation where the legal system was incapable of meeting their needs.

Robert Williams is remembered as the main protagonist of the armed self-reliance movement and also among the main people that structured as an armed defense on the North Carolina-based, Ku Klux Klan in 1957. He believed in the use of nonviolence forms of resistance and the notion that a man cannot have human dignity if he allows himself to be abused; to be kicked and beaten to the ground, to allow his wife and children to be attacked, refusing to defend them on the basis that hes so pious, so self-righteous, that it would demean his personality if he fought back. He presented the arguments that social chance was important similarly to the way racial aggression entailed plenty of violence and that the power found in oppression cannot be released by appealing to the conscience of the oppressor.

In regards to nonviolence, Williams described the African American militant as a person who had the ability to defend himself, his relatives and friends, his surroundings in addition to his dignity. The militant avoids presenting any form of violence in a social system regarding social structure as the aggression always has and is still present. From his perspective, the violence that remains to be unchallenged is what allows the growth of the racial, social institution. He explains that when individuals make the claim that they are against the Negroes that perpetuate violence, they mean that they do not support the African Americans protecting themselves in addition to fighting against the distinguished stand of aggression that is exhibited by racists from the white community.

In support of Williams sentiments, Martin Luther King Jr asserted that individuals who resort to nonviolent forms of resistance are not the perpetrators of aggression. He explained that the individuals only revealed the tension that was already in existent and that they brought to the public where it could be viewed and handled. He stated, as highlighted by Forman, Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light. Injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured,

While expressing his thoughts about the Montgomery Boycott, William explained that he admired the discipline and the dignity that the participants exhibited in addition to their nonviolent form of courage and commitment. From Williams perspective, self-defense was a reaction to the system of law enforcement that was filled with corruption. While in Exile in Cuba, he explained that the African Americans had formed a group as an army in a situation where the systems of administration would not shield them from the aggressive racists. From his viewpoint, throughout the American history, the law lacked the capability and the will to ensure that there was order in the society and hence the African Americans had no option but to form systems that would protect them. He put emphasis on the formation of groups as significant for both the whites and the African Americans.

King supported Williams notion in regards to the power found in non-violence. His view was that nonviolence effort aimed at winning over rather than humiliating. He stated, Then we had to make it clear also that the nonviolent resister seeks to attack the evil system rather than individuals who happen to be caught up in the system. And this is why I say from time to time that the struggle in the South is not so much the tension between white people and Negro people. The struggle is rather between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. And if there is a victory it will not be a victory merely for fifty thousand Negroes. But it will be a victory for justice, a victory for good will, a victory for democracy,. Therefore, the law only protected the rights of the whites instead of the whole population present in the U.S. The idea of self-defense was what led to the formation of the Black Panther Movement which was popular between the 60s and the 70s.

The Black Panther Party which was initially referred to as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was formed in 1966 by which it operated under the vision of achieving political, economic and social equality in regards to the socialist principles. The inspiration behind the name was the Lowndes County Freedom Organization that was situated in Alabama by which Stokely Carmichael assisted in its formation. According to the partys chairman, Bobby Seals, the Black Panther symbol was relevant in the sense that a panther does not attack when undisturbed. However, when it is attacked, it acts aggressively to get rid of the oppressor. The party used various methods in regards to encouraging more control on law enforcement and in schools by the community in addition to challenging the racial aggression presented to the African Americans. The party took responsibility for several social programs that focused on providing the community with food, clothes, and medical amenities. Some of the members of the party participated in the establishment of schools, political campaigns in addition to working organizations and individuals from other parts of the world who supported their vision. According to their ten point platform, WE WANT freedom. We want the power to determine the destiny of our Black Community. WE BELIEVE that black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny.

The party published a weekly newspaper for the purpose of reaching out to the community, acquire new members in addition to raising funds. By 1972, the party had distributed more than a hundred thousand copies. It was viewed that the commencement of the party corresponded with the transition from moral essentials, essentials such as equality to education and the right to vote that the moderates believed into essentials whose moral credibility was not clear, essentials such as adequate housing and the right to equal job opportunities.

The argument that the law lacked the capability and the will to ensure that there was order in the society and hence the African Americans had no option but to form systems that would protect them by Williams was credible especially with groups such as the Ku Klux Klan who posed threats on the lives of the African Americans. During the 60s, Jonesboro, a town in Louisiana was known extensively for its racial aggression against the African Americans. The Ku Klux Klan, as a way of attacking the African American community, formed a group with the name campaign of terror that propagated various aggressive acts in the town. Some of the aggression included burning of a Baptist center, five churches, and a Masonic hall, burning crosses in front of the houses of the African-Americans, harassing the African Americans publicly, in addition to murder. By 14th July 1965, the aggression had reached its climax whereby an approximate number of thirty vehicles that had about three to four men hooded in the groups attire went through the town to the quarters, the section occupied by the African Americans.

A sheriffs patrol car was also among the caravan and hence showing that the law could not be trusted when it came to protecting the rights and the lives of the African Americans. In the same year, on 20th October, the African Americans took to the streets marching at night and gathered at the towns city hall regardless of night marches being banned. Instead of the police protecting the African Americans who were voicing their outcry on the violence that had been exposed to them, they attacked them and continued with the beating that had been started by the Ku Klux Klan. The law couldnt be relied on to support the African Americans and hence the call for nonviolence forms of resistance.

Williams argument, that when individuals made the claim that they were against the Negroes that perpetuate violence, they meant that they did not support the African Americans protecting themselves and fighting against the distinguished stand of aggression that was exhibited by racists from the white community. The oppression was already in existent and was on the rise, and hence the African Americans had to find systems that would ensure that they were secure rather than leading lives where they were in constant oppression and in fear of what would happen to them when they left their houses. During the Civil Rights Movement, the African Americans were subjected to attacks such as being trampled by the police horses and being hosed down in addition to fainting because of the tear gas exposed to them. The self-defense mechanisms had to come into perspective to resist the white racists and also because the legal system did not favor the rights of the African Americans.

It is important to note that the self-defense mechanisms and threats to cause violence by the African Americans was to curb any form of violence and ensuring that the African Americans, in addition to their movements were safe. Self-defense mechanisms were not opposite of nonviolence forms of resistance but rather mechanisms for ensuring that the African Americans were safe. With such reasoning, it becomes easier to comprehend Williams assertion, The stranglehold of oppression cannot be loosened by a plea to the oppressors conscience. Social change in something as fundamental as racist oppression involves violence. You cannot have progress here without violence and upheaval because it is a struggle for survival for one and a struggle for liberation for the other, in his book, Negroes with Guns.

In the Southern region, only a few people from the African American community viewed any inconsistency between their ubiquitous dependence on weapons and the engagement in nonviolent movements. Despite Williams being an advocate in several violent actions, he took part in meetings and various nonviolent movements. Self-defense was necessary to give support to various forms of activism, to ensure that the lives of people were protected when taking part in demonstrations, for desegregating amenities, and ensuring that the African Americans could register as voters. It also played a part in ensuring that the white administration took action in addition to assisting in situations where the legal systems were unhelpful. A good example was the retreat by the members of the Ku Klux Klan in the 50s in Monroe when African American men who were armed in addition to veterans staged a war on the raiders. The board of the town that comprised of alderman banned motorcades by the Klansmen that went through the town after the resistance. It is important to note that before the resistance, the board members had refused to make the ban. In synopsis, both self-defense and nonviolent forms of resistance had to be used to ensure that the African Americans were protected and heard.

As stated earlier, viewed self-defense mechanisms and nonviolent forms of resistant as the options that African Americans had in a situation where the legal system was incapable of meeting their needs. His main arguments were; the law lacked the capability and th...

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