Civil disobedience is not always an option

This month, as the nation and the African-American community celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., perhaps one of the most influential social leaders of the ’60s, the methods through which he affected positive change can still, in my opinion, be called into question.

King influenced legislative and social change through the concept of nonviolent resistance. While the Henry-David-Thoreau-based concept is noble in its intentions, but more radical methods would have been just as effective in achieving social and legislative gains.

The concept of nonviolent resistance attempts to awaken a sense of moral shame in those who oppress others within a society. I question this method in effecting positive, social gains for blacks. In this case, blacks employed a “singular” method of nonviolent resistance, while their white counterparts had both legislative and more unorthodox means of stifling such resistance movements at their ready disposal.

Nonviolent resistance measures make an attempt to reason via dialogue with those who are beyond being reasoned with. In the case of King’s struggle for civil rights in fact, it was oftentimes the leaders in government and law enforcement and the extremist white populous that were one in the same. In such instances, one must speak to the oppressor in the easiest and most universally understood language, the language of pain.

To comprehend such a stance one only needs to thumb the pages of any history book. On the world’s playground, it has been historically proven that whites simply have not “played well with others” that have skin any hue darker than their own.

Opponents of this approach may make the argument that it simply perpetuates hatred and to some degree, I must agree with them. However, the hatred certain segments of minority groups feel towards whites is “reactive” as opposed to the “proactive” approach to racial hatred whites have taken throughout history.

The concept of nonviolent resistance relies, to a substantial degree, on the oppressor being first shamed through public scrutiny, then coming to their senses, resulting in social change.

Those who oppressed blacks through violent means need to come to their senses. Not through methods of moral shame, which they arrive at in their own convenient time , but through having their own senses deprived as they are knocked unconscious.

Donathan Prater, 26, is a graduate journalism student from Spartanburg, S.C. He can be reached at