Civil Rights And Black Power Movements History Essay
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
Civic rights and black power moments gained momentum in the 1960s in the USA. These were protest by the blacks against unfair treatment they received from the whites since abolition of slavery. Major strides towards the freedom of the blacks had been made, only they were not satisfactory enough. To the civil rights and black moment’s leaders, whatever, the end o f segregation was not freedom yet. To have to attend the same college with whites or have lunch in any hotel was not enough, while the blacks languished in abject poverty. Integration, thus, was laughed off by the civil activists and black movement leaders as the new guise of discrimination. It is with this premise that the civic activists splinted into two factions: those who advocated for violence means as the only way towards liberation of the blacks and those who believed peaceful negotiations would bring the desired change (Martin). Violent means succeeded in cultivating fear and sometimes elicited cooperation, but its price was too high. Life and property disproportionate to gains made by violence were destroyed.
Among the major proponents of black power movements in the USA were martin Luther king Jr., Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad and Stockely Carmichael. Martin Luther advocated for non-violent means while Elijah and Stokely were for more radical moves like violence in order to bring the desired change (Martin). At the beginning of his activistism Malcolm X approved of violence in order to bargain for the rights of the oppressed, but would later change to embrace peaceful means.
World over, violence has been used as a strategy to fight oppression. A valuable example would be the Tupamaros guerillas of Uruguay who struggled through violent means to bring the then corrupt government to be accountable for its misgivings. The Tupamaros were an urban guerilla movement whose membership drew from across the Uruguayan population. It had in it the college graduates and professors, peasants, people in the government and even in the Uruguayan army. The Tupamaros tried peaceful engagement, but nothing meaningful came out of it. It is then that Raul Sendic, the leader of the Tupamaros shifted tactics and adopted violence. The Tupamaros would commit assassinations, political kidnappings, murders and robberies. All these things were made in the name of liberating the people of Uruguay from a repressive regime (Martin). The activities of the Tupamaros heightened in the late 1960s to coincide with heightened activism in the United States. Non violence means had failed to have any meaningful impact on the Uruguayan government.
The Tupamaros fought, but it is hard to tell what came of their efforts. The government was adamant to cave-in on the force exerted by the Tupamaros. The government went on with its corruption and poor policies. The Tupamaros doubled their efforts and were later crushed by the Uruguayan army early in the 70s. This is one instance of failed armed struggle.
Back in the USA, the SNCC was upfront in the black power movement and was establishing itself as the negotiator of the rights of black people. It was increasingly being viewed as an anti-white outfit (Martin). The goal of this outfit was to empower the black people. The blacks had been suffered to believe that they were an inferior race throughout slavery, and later through segregation. It is the sentiments that this group harbored which were geared towards achieving its goal that made it appear an anti-white outfit. Whereas there was considerable integration achieved over the years, the black power movement thought that the blacks should separate from the whites, so that they can be counted as an entity on their own in history, without being referred in relation to the whites. They glorified the blacks. Slogans like ‘black is beauty’ were coined and chanted.
The black movement acknowledged that many of the civic rights gained to that point in time were won by whites. President Abraham Lincoln, for instance was instrumental in the abolition of slavery in the United Sates (Martin). The black power movement thanked these people of good will but maintained that African Americans had to fight for their own battles to prove their own worth. They had to send a message to the world that they would make it without the whites. The SNCC, an anti-violence outfit accomplished much of what it set as its target. It cultivated pride and sense of belonging amongst the whites, and this did not take loss of life and property.
The SNCC was instrumental in championing the rights of blacks in many peaceful ways. They organized bus ride though states that were predominantly white to illustrate the black’s freedom of movement. Some such rides did not go well but their intentions were not to elicit war but to display black pride. They organized freedom ballot in the fall of 1963 to illustrate the discrimination the blacks faced when it came to voting, it this led to the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (Varney, and Brien 123). They also played a role in organizing peaceful gatherings where civil rights leaders would address the people. One such is the famous gathering at Lincoln memorial in 1963 when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered “I have a dream” speech. The SNCC strategy of non-violence was efficient.
The Panthers, another black power movement did not believe any gains would be attained through peaceful means. They advocated for violence. They led militant activities against the government. The group was founded on Marxism-Leninism, Maoism and socialism. They initiated armed citizen patrols to investigate the activities of the police. They employed violent means towards the government. It was the view of the group that poor people from both the racial divide should unite against the rich who controlled the economy (Martin). Due to their militancy outfit, the government through the FBI designed the COINTELPRO program that brought down the panthers. Many of the group’s leaders were either assassinated or ended in jails. Many more people were killed by the police in militancy related operations. Though for a good cause, many people had to die, and the Panthers were contained by the government.
In Africa, many countries liberated themselves from colonial masters through armed struggle. In Kenya, the mau mau, led by such daring leaders as Dedan Kimathi and the first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta waged guerilla warfare against the Britons (Randall, and Burnell 236). Efforts had been made by various Kenyan leaders to bargain for peaceful end of colonial occupation in vain. The Mau Mau, ill equipped and strategically inferior, did not stand a chance with the British army which had fought greater battles. The Mau Mau, however kept the British forces on their toes, and the British settlers had many sleepless night. This occasioned fresh talks for Kenya’s independence, with a more cooperative British government this time.
It is evident that civic rights cannot be won merely through violence. It is equally clear that the oppressors and abusers of civic rights are not willing to relinquish their high position easily, thus negotiations will not bear fruits all the time. In Uruguay, the government paid little attention to Raul Sendic when he organized peasant farmers and attempted to at the government through dialogue. It took violence for him to be taken seriously by the government, yet violence did not win freedom for the people of Uruguay (Martin). This violence, however was responsible for the success of dialogue late on. The Tupamaros were even assimilated into the government. It is the same case with the Independence struggle of Kenya against British colonial rule. The Mau Mau could not triumph over the British army, yet it led to open dialogue. From this argument we deduce that violence may become necessary, yet it will not win any civic battle (Randall, and Burnell 239). The best violence can do is necessitate dialogue and other non violence means. If the oppressors feel threatened they compromise their stand, then meaningful dialogue follows, and later liberation of the oppressed. In most instances, however, violence is uncalled for. The SNCC illustrated that non-violence means can be effective in championing for the rights of the minority.
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