Martin Luthur King, Jr. is hailed as a figure of peace and unity. He marched instead of punching. He spoke eloquently and directly about atrocity. He used non-violence to get shit done.
Similarly, Ghandi is hailed as the world’s shining example of a leader who proved that non-violent resistance leads to change. What people conveniently forget is that the British didn’t just go “Oh man, maybe we shouldn’t be shooting and kicking these Indians anymore because they’re not fighting.” And white people didn’t just suddenly lose their racism and make black people legal humans.
The British were pressured by countries like the United States to abandon their violent occupation of India. White politicians were pressured by the citizens who looked on in horror as police abused black people to stop.
Peace and non-violence are used to highlight atrocity. They are MASSIVELY useful, because by standing there and turning the other cheek, you prove that the aggressor is sub-human. They are evil and oppressive and they need to stop. But the problem is, the evil oppressor rarely, if ever, decides that on their own. Their actions continue until outside pressure — from people much bigger and stronger than they are — decide to say “okay, enough.”
You are changing the minds of everyone watching it happen. And you’re making them realize, by standing by, they’re as bad (or worse) as the bully.
And all the while, someone has to be standing there making sure no one silences you before you can be heard. MLK had someone on the other end of his philosophy named Malcom X. Malcom added to Martin’s dream by telling an entire community that they not only had the ability to stand up and fight, but that they should. And it scared the shit out of white people across the country.
That’s how things changed. It wasn’t just one philosophy. There were two messages at the time. Martin said “This abuse needs to stop because we are humans and deserve equal rights.” And Malcom said “And also, if we don’t get it, we’re going to fuck you up.”
Demands are useless without consequence.
Right now, demonstrations are doing the job they’re meant to do. The massive public outcry about the last two weeks of outright un-American policies enacted by Donald Trump (not to mention his refusal to release his tax returns, adhere to Emoulments regulations, his placing of a white supremest on the National Security Board, and other ridiculous bullshit) are having an effect, and that effect is to let the country and the world know that people will not sit idly by and take it. They may not be stopping Trump outright, but they’re working. And the people who are best at it are doing it.
Meanwhile, there are people who aren’t very good at cheek-turning. They aren’t the best at sitting there and taking it. And the smart ones know to step back and protect the podium while the others are doing their thing. They know that being on the front lines will actually undo the hard work that’s being done, because they’re not built for peaceful protest. They’re built for a different kind of action.
I wonder… How long before we begin hearing from them?