In his famed “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was able to continue to express his views and his messages while behind bars. Dr. King was a rallying point for the Civil Rights Movement as a whole, and he was well aware of the injustices going on outside his prison cell. It was very important Dr. King maintain his communication with the outside world to continue to perpetuate his message of a peaceful and passive resistance. In many ways this letter was also intended to speak to Dr. King’s critics who questioned his nonviolent methods, and to reaffirm the peaceful message he saw for the direction of the Movement as a whole.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his piece “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” directly named and discussed steps necessary for the necessity of a campaign of passive resistance. This is a very important part of the text, as it directly states that the black population was given no other alternative. This was a very important and powerful message coming from a public figure such as Dr. King, who was largely respected by men and women of both races (by comparison to someone like Malcolm X).
The first step Dr. King mentions specifically is the presentation of the facts that a true injustice does largely exist within an area. Right within the text of the speech he states himself Birmingham’s infamous reputation for being segregated, as well as being a hotbed for racial tension, mentioning home and church bombings in the area.
Next, he names the necessity for an attempt at negotiation to solve the problem. Again, he cites where this went wrong in Birmingham–where the local government directly lied to the black community about change. When negotiation proves itself to be ineffective in resolving the conflict, and in his speech specifically Birmingham, Dr. King cites the very internal process of self-purification.
As Dr. King explains in the text, self-purification is a process by which nonviolent protesters are trained to resist the urge to give in to impulses. Through a series of workshops taught on nonviolence, Dr. King and his associates prepared, and help others prepare for questions such as:’ “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?”‘, as well as whether they are able, or ready, to endure the real possibility of jail.
The final step in completing the steps toward nonviolent protest as named by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is what he called “direct action”. This refers to the carrying out of various means of nonviolent protest, such as sit-ins and peaceful rallies.
I think that passive resistance can be extremely effective to a certain extent. It certainly should be attempted first, before a violent protest–and taking nothing away from the amazing work of Dr, King–eventually a violent aspect is bound to be necessary. A perfect example is the peaceful demonstrations going on in Tibet for many years–and yet their problem remains.
There are many positive aspects of peaceful resistance. The number one positive aspect, that can be used to the passive sides’ advantage in many cases, is the media. When people see images of violence inflicted on peace, it pulls on heartstrings. It gives an adult, clear and coherent message to go along with the movement.
The negative–it is rarely very effective.