Civil Disobedience as a Form of Protest

There has been a long debate about civil disobedience in our country. Is it an appropriate response to things that we do not like? Or should we never engage in it? Depending who you ask, some may argue its ok when there is a need for change, whiles others state that we should never resort to civil disobedience. Those who agree with cultural relativism will side with the idea that civil disobedience is never an appropriate response. Jessalyn like all who agree with cultural relativism argue that civil disobedience is wrong as our society creates a set of laws or norms and as a society have agreed to these and expect everyone to follow them (CITATION).

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Jessalyn sides with cultural relativism which means that she find the anthem protests morally wrong.Cultural relativism is one of the theories used by philosophers to try to understand morality, or in other words, what is right and wrong. Cultural relativism states that there are no universal or objective moral codes. What is considered right or wrong is determined by culture you are in (CITATION). With cultural relativism you cannot judge one culture over another by saying that one is better than another and you cannot compare cultures to look at progress or regression (CITATION). Since our society has created these laws and social norms Jessalyn and cultural relativists believe that any action that goes against these laws and norms are wrong.Civil disobedience is the deliberate act of breaking the law, in a non-violent manner. It is usually done in order to attempt to bring about change. According to John Rawls, an American philosopher, there are five specific criteria that must be met in order for an event to be classified as civil disobedience (CITATION).

First, it must be public. Others need to know that you intent to participate in an event. Second, it needs to be non-violent. Once it becomes violent, you are looking at revolutionary actions rather than civil disobedience. Third, it has to morally motived or be a conscientious breach of law. Finally, the event is intended to produce a change and those who are involved understand that there will be consequences for their actions but chose to engage anyway. In the case of kneeling for the flag, it does not go against any law but it does go against the social norm for our culture. For this reason, some may see this as an act of civil disobedience. When the national anthem is playing you are expected to stand and face the flag as a sign of respect for the flag and what it represents for our country. Not standing for the flag is a sign of disrespect in the minds of some. Since this goes against expected social norms, Jessalyn believes that this protest is wrong. The anthem protest is being used to bring awareness about police brutality, specifically against African-Americans. There has been numerous instances of young black men being killed by police officers and there are some who believe that these are racially motivated.

While it is important to follow the rules and laws of our society, what happens when the laws or social norms are wrong? Are we supposed to just accept it police brutality against other citizens or should be try to bring awareness to it and try to change what is happening? Are there examples of civil disobedience that have brought about social progress? While Jessalyn and others believe that cultural relativism would tell us that all instances of civil disobedience is wrong, these questions should make Jessalyn look at whether cultural relativism gives us the correct perspective on civil disobedience. One example to show how civil disobedience brought a change is to look at the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr organized sit-ins, marches, and boycotts to lead a social change in response the segregation laws. While he doesnt condone acting against all laws he states that we have a moral obligation to act against unjust laws (CITATION). He also believed that non-violent direct action was the only way to elicit change to these laws and direct defiance of these laws are justified (CITATION). He did not initially go to civil disobedience, but rather tried other ways to communicate the need for change. After they proved in effective, he resorted to direction action. In the eyes of a cultural relativist, Martin Luther King was wrong.

Take a moment to think about what our society would look like today had he and others so involved with the civil rights movement did not do what they did. It is not hard to picture what it would look like.The civil rights moment was one of the many examples in our countrys history to show positive outcomes from civil disobedience. You can also look at the suffragette movement to see how those involved secured voting rights for women. Look at the actions by those of the Boston Tea Party to protested again England and led to the Revolutionary War and the independence for our country. Looking at these examples from a cultural relativist perspective Jessalyn would feel that all of these examples are morally wrong and if they wanted change, they should have done it through other means.

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Civil Disobedience as a Form of Protest. (2019, May 05). Retrieved November 29, 2022 , from
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