The definition of civil disobedience given in class was that it is a public, non-violent and conscientious breach of law that attempts to bring about a change in laws. According to this definition, there are a few characteristics that define if an act or protest is considered to be following civil disobedience or not. The act must be conscientious, it must be public, and it must be non-violent. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X are the two thinkers I chose to compare in how each one viewed and executed civil disobedience.
Civil disobedience requires conscientious because the protesters are willingly breaking the law. Usually, protesters are choosing to participate because it is a law that they believe should be amended or completely thrown out. When participating, you are showing support for what you believe is right. Engaging in such acts of civil disobedience entails that the person is accepting the fact that there can be legal consequences against them.Civil disobedience requires publicity in the sense that the protest takes place in a public setting, not in a secretive location. Sometimes legal authorities are even notified in advance of a protest. Being open and public about the protests demonstrates the participants compliance to working fairly with legal authorities, as well as showing that the respect the law enforcement officers.
However, the open publicity can also hurt a protest, as it gives law enforcement a chance to prevent it, or for the public to prepare to stop it or fight against it as well. Though the protest must be held in the public eye in order to be considered a form of civil disobedience, it does not require giving law enforcements a warning in advance.Civil disobedience should be non-violent in such a way to reduce the negative effects of breaking the law. Non-violent protests provide an excuse for others to rebuttal with non-violence as well. This minimizes the risk of people getting hurt during the protest. It can also make law enforcement hesitant to use violence to stop the protest, again, making it safer for participants.Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were both civil rights activists who wanted justice and equal rights for African Americans. The difference was how they believed it should be done. Martin Luther King exercised civil disobedience with peaceful and non-violent protests, while Malcolm X believed in doing whatever it takes, even if that involved violence.Martin Luther King believed violence was not the answer. He based his protests off of non-violent acts to make powerful statements.
Many people acted violently back at him, but he did not retaliate with any aggressive actions. He thought that reacting back with the same violence would lead to even more violence, just fueling the fire. Instead, Martin Luther King made strategic, peaceful plans, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, to show his emotions towards things he considered unfair and wanted to have changed. To Martin Luther King, civil disobedience meant just what the definition stated at the beginning of this paper said. He protested publicly, non-violently, and conscientiously, trying to bring attention to the matters he knew to be unjustified and morally unacceptable. His goal was for white people and black people to live in integration with equal rights. He wanted to end racism and segregation. Malcolm X, on the other hand, challenged the views of Martin Luther King. He believed in self-defense, and argued that if people tried to fight and beat up either him or any other participants of his protests, that they should fight back. I believe that to Malcolm X, civil disobedience simply meant defending yourself against others and to fight for what you believe is morally right.
Malcolm X believed in separation. To him, there was a difference between segregation and separation. He stated Separation is when you have your own. You control your own economy; you control your own politics; you control your own society; you control you own everything. You have yours and you control yours; we have ours and we control ours (Malcolm X, speech at Michigan State University, 1963). His goal was to end racism and segregation as well, but not by the same methods as Martin Luther King.I think that the concept of civil disobedience has not changed much since back then. Civil disobedience has its set definition, but people still interpret it in whichever way they see fit. Martin Luther King agreed with the non-violent protests, however Malcolm X did not. Both were considered to be breaching the law with their protests, however the methods they used were complete opposite of one another. Today, I think this mentality has continued more than changed. People still exercise their right to protest, and can do so either non-violently or not. The Constitution does state that people have the freedom to peacefully assemble or petition, which goes along with civil disobedience.
However, there will always be people who feel that violence will solve problems, and it will continue to be an issue in todays world of politics. Wolins idea of specialized vocabulary for political science was critiqued for being too vague. People argued that it seemed to be vague deliberately, as to avoid describing the political experience. I think it seems very fitting with the definition of civil disobedience as well. The line between civil disobedience can seem vague, as there are different ways to interpret the definition of it. Overall, I think that in order to see a change in todays world, a more clear sense of the word civil disobedience must be established, as well as defining the concept of it as a whole.
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