Martin Luther King, Jr. Philosophy on Nonviolent Resistance, Civil Rights Movement

During the civil rights movement, MLK Martin Luther King Jr. captured the attention of the nation with his philosophy of nonviolent resistance. According to Dr. King, this was the only solution that could cure society?s evil and create a just society. As King emerged as a leader in the civil rights movement, he put his belief into action and proved that this was an effective method to combat racial segregation.

Prior to becoming a civil rights leader, King entered a theological seminary in 1948 where he began to concentrate on discovering a solution to end social ills. Initially, he concluded that the while the power of love was a compelling force when applied to individual conflicts, it could not resolve social problems. He believed the philosophy of "turn the other cheek" and "love your enemies" applied only to conflicts between individuals and not racial groups or nations.

However, after reading about Mahatma Gandhi and his teachings, he changed his mind. King was struck by the concept of satyagraha, which means truth-force or love-force. He realized that "the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.? But it was not until the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama that King's intellectual realization about the power of love was put into action. As nonviolent resistance became the force behind the boycott movement, his concerns were clarified. He recognized that it was a powerful solution and he committed himself to this method of action.

Six Important Points about Nonviolent Resistance

First, he argued that even though nonviolence may be perceived as cowardly, it was not. In fact, it was a method that did resist. According to King, a nonviolent protester was as passionate as a violent protester. Despite not being physically aggressive, "his mind and emotions are always active, constantly seeking to persuade the opponent that he is mistaken.? Second, the point of nonviolent resistance is not to humiliate the opponent, but instead to gain his friendship and understanding. Further, the use of boycotts and methods of non-cooperation, were the "means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent.? The result was redemption and reconciliation instead of the bitterness and chaos that came from violent resistance.

The third point King advanced was that the battle was against the forces of evil and not individuals. Tension was not between the races, but was "between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. And if there is a victory it will be a victory not merely for fifty thousand Negroes, but a victory for justice and the forces of light.? Thus, tension only existed between good and evil and not between people.

Fourth, nonviolent resistance required the willingness to suffer. One must accept violence without retaliating with violence and must go to jail if necessary. Accordingly, the end was more important than safety, and retaliatory violence would distract from the main fight. King believed that by accepting suffering, it led to "tremendous educational and transforming possibilities" and would be a powerful tool in changing the minds of the opponents.

King's fifth point about nonviolent resistance was that the "universe was on the side of justice." Accordingly, people have a "cosmic companionship" with God who is on the side of truth. Therefore, the activist has faith that justice will occur in the future.

King's sixth point was central to the method of nonviolent resistance. He believed the importance of nonviolence rested in the fact that it prevented physical violence and the "internal violence of spirit." Bitterness and hate were absent from the resisters mind, and replaced with love.


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