Non-Violence And The Civil Rights Movement

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Over at The Daily Beast, they have a series of photos that are supposed to show the Civil Rights era in a new light, with "African Americans behaving more forcefully, fighting back, organizing, protesting, and doing what they can to wrench the freedom to which they were entitled from the white hands that withheld it."

I say "supposed" because it's not like those people are all dead or struck with amnesia or something. I think they probably remember pretty clearly what they were doing during those times. But I also think there's this tendency to pretend that, if the protesters were non-violent and the movement was non-violent, then there was no violence. Here in Nashville, desegregation is often talked about like Diane Nash just bumped into Mayor West downtown and asked him if he thought segregation was bad and he admitted that it was and everything was fine and dandy after that.

But people were beaten and jailed and poisoned and fire-bombed, in Nashville, in response to their non-violence. People were killed.

Monday, Rev. C.T. Vivian spoke at Bone McAllester Norton's annual fellowship breakfast. Michael Cass tweeted that ".@repjimcooper asks C.T. Vivian why there's no "economic opportunity movement" building on the #civilrightsmovement," And yet, Cooper knows what the stakes in the Civil Rights movement were. Just last year, he gave a speech in which he talked about his dad: "He supported segregation and poll taxes. He opposed busing and intermarriage. In short, he was just like most of your parents and grandparents. That’s why they elected him governor of Tennessee three times."

The Civil Rights Movement, in Nashville, had its roots back in at least the street car strikes of the 1890s — so that's seventy years of demonstrating and striking and being met with violence. Violence at the hands of the people who elected Cooper's dad three times.

I appreciate what Cooper is getting at, but Christ, is that all African-Americans and their supporters are supposed to do? Spend their time agitating to be treated right? It shouldn't always be on the aggrieved to fix things, not when the cost to them for those protests is always so high.

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