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Argument: The Case for Black American Self-Defense The Case for Black American Self-Defense...
In the United States, Martin Luther King Jr. reigns over the collective imagination, a prince of peace immortalizing nonviolent resistance as the only effective means to effect political change. Black Americans, in particular, are chastised if they stray from this nostalgic reinvention of King, the nationally admired so-called good protester who rejected all forms of political violence and succeeded in ending racism by the power of Christian faith and love alone.
But it is also true that the Sons of Liberty in Revolutionary Boston are revered for fomenting armed revolt. It is conveniently forgotten that President James Madison advocated for a free militia to stand up to state tyranny. Crispus Attucks, a Black man, was the first to die in a rock-throwing mob facing down British soldiers. Calls for Black violent resistance grow from an intrinsically American brand of patriotic insurrection that needs to be recognized for its moral and political validity.
I am not advocating in support of the riots that often accompany social unrest, though King would and did disagree with those who use his example as a nightstick against any radical action for social justice. But the Black tradition of organized, armed self-defense should be regarded as one of the many tools in the repertoire of modern protest movements.
African American communities have always been well aware of the cost and tactical range of violence in the name of liberty, and yet they never stopped resisting by any means necessary. Slaves certainly did run away from their captors, and freed African Americans engaged in nonviolent moral suasion for years. Still, the image of the meek slave waiting to be freed by the grace of the state is a sanitized oversimplification that begins in public school curriculums and is rarely corrected.
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