How Acts Of Defiance That Changed The World Essay
Throughout history there have been countless acts of defiance in hopes of change. Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, and Ghandi are powerful leaders who have changed society with their protests and resistance. These changes were necessary as there were unjust and broken civil laws that negatively impacted the victims' lives and gave them a feeling of inferiority. The act of defiance/disobedience brings awareness to the cause and helps gain public sympathy to support causes. This is most powerful when used civilly and non-violently. When defiance is used in a nonviolent way towards unjust laws, change is possible.
Defiance must be used when unjust laws are present as these laws are morally wrong and need to be changed for society's benefit. MLK states in a “Letter From A Birmingham Jail,'' that “any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.” MLK’s definition of an unjust law helps society determine where it's appropriate to use civil disobedience. Throughout history numerous laws degraded humans, one being segregation. This law creates a feeling of superiority of one raceover another and oppressed African Americans. There were “bombings of African American homes and churches, policemen killing black brothers and sisters, and vicious mobs lynching mothers and fathers”(King, “Letter”). The law allowed for this treatment which prompted MLK to advocate for change, but this change did not come easy because the powerful desired to keep their power and were not willing to hand it over to a race they believed to be inferior. Being complacent and waiting for the “perfect” time to take action caused Afican Americans to be discriminated against for far too long. It was not until the people decided the wait was over and decided to start performing acts of defiance that change was forced. Rosa Parks refusing to sit in the back of the bus after a white man demanded her to move from her front seat spot (fig.1), young men and women sitting-in at segregated lunch counters in Greensboro and then across the south (Grebbell) , the Montgomery bus boycott which prompted the supreme court to rule segregation was unconstitutional: These acts of defiance were necessary steps towards quality and removing the unjust laws that haunted African Americans everyday. (fig 1. Rosa Parks ignites bus boycotts) (fig 2. A&T students at Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, 1960)
In truth, defiant acts have the ability to change unjust laws in many situations and the greatest change is achieved when the defiance is peaceful. It was an effective way to end women's suffrage because non-violence protesting created sympathy for the cause. The law that prevented women from voting degraded them as human beings and made them inferior to men. They were looked at as weak and incapable. To combat this, women stood before the capitol building, sentinels for change, and when they were arrested, they went on a hunger strike. By refusing to eat their starving bodies were a form of speech which the government hoped to end by brutally force feeding them (Wolcott). The women did not respond with violence and public sympathy increased as the actions of the government sparked outrage amoung the nation (Wolcott). These defiant and peaceful acts allowed for voices to be heard and change to be brought for women across the nation as the 19th amendment was added to the constitution allowing women to vote.
Some may argue that defiance is not necessary and unjust laws will be resolved over elections and government officials. They say the public has a chance to voice their opinion every four years for change. This way of changing unjust laws is not reasonable for every situation though as four years is a long time for discrimantion against a human being and suffrage against a gender. By leaving the outcome of change in the hands of the powerful, they will try to keep power. For example the civil rights movement was one situation where defiance was necessary for change as the government was not on the side of African Americans. They were constantly being barred from voting and segregation laws were manuvered to keep white families and black familes from co-existing(History). Here they were left with the only option: to disobey the unjust laws.
When disobedience is used for change non-violent tactics and moderation must be taken for positive change to occur. MLK states that,”Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love”(King, “Strive” 1164). Using violence will not bring the nation together because it creates hatred in people and builds tension between both sides. Moderation must be used to keep disobedient acts nonviolent and not be blown out of proportion. When such acts are blown out of proportion and turn violent, the message becomes lost and the attention turns on the violence being used. This was shown during the Black Lives Matter protests when protests turned to looting and were used as an excuse to become savages. The goal of the protests were no longer brought to attention but was the damage to the cities and chaos it created. This can also be seen in the 1999, “Carnival Against Capitalism” protest that took place in London. This protest was meant to bring awareness to the burden of debt but instead made headlines for the violence that broke out and the many injuries people sustained (McIntyre). On the other hand Gandhi’s 1930 salt march shows just how powerful nonviolent disobedience can be. He and thousands others marched to protest British rule in India and this resulted in 60,000 people getting arrested including himself. This raised global awareness of the situation and eventually helped India gain its independence in 1947(Grebbell). Malcom X argues that violence is necessary though when non-violent tactics aren't working and the government won't protect their citizens (X.1168). But this will only fuel the fire and create a war between the oppressor and the oppressed. MLK states that “by using violence it brings momentary results and creates new ones”(King “Strive” 1164). Using non-violent tactics helps keep acts of defiance within reason and keeps the message clear.
There are instances where defiance is necessary for change. It has been shown in the past that defiance does work and helps society progress. Without civil disobedience many unjust laws would still be present affecting the lives of millions. When fights for change are peaceful they hold a more powerful meaning then if violence were to be used and helps keep acts of disobedience from going overboard and ruining the message/purpose.