A Renewed Commitment to Nonviolence

MLK Day 2017
Opinion • Views: 40,168

“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.”-Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a student at UCLA, I had the extreme fortune to study Nonviolence and Social Movements under the iconic Reverend James Lawson. In this class we learned not only about the civil disobedience actions he led during the lunch counter sit-ins and freedom rides that are such an integral part of the Civil Rights struggle in America, we also learned about Gandhi, the Polish Solidarity movement, and the DREAMERs. Of all the courses I took in college, this one made the most lasting impression on me. I walked away from that course with a strong conviction that nonviolence is the only way to go about effecting social change.

As we prepare to inaugurate Donald Trump, many of us are looking towards the future and anticipating the need to come together for rallies, protest and civil disobedience. We have already seen a taste of this during and after the election, when thousands of people took to the streets all over the country to protest the election of a person who is so reviled. What we saw in these first protests of the Trump era was the eruption of violence, and even some isolated incidences of rioting. While the vast majority of the people protesting were peaceful, the evening news and social media focused on the violence. If our goal is to win people over to our point of view, violence and destruction of property is antithetical to our movement. It is imperative that we train a new generation of activists on the importance of nonviolent civil disobedience and on how to respond to violence that they face during their civic actions.

If what I am seeing with online organizing comes to fruition over the next few years, our “slacktivism” is about to turn into sustained activism. And I am afraid we are wholly unprepared for this moment in time. We must understand that the people who were part of effective social change in the past were trained and disciplined in the art of nonviolence. Reverend Lawson and his counterparts spent months preparing for their sit-ins. They planned everything that they could plan, down to how they should dress, and they anticipated and prepared for the responses they knew they would get. They took turns playing the role of agitator and agitated, they made people commit to responding to provocations with peace.

As I prepare to attend my local Women’s March on January 21st, I have been trying to find videos of nonviolent civil disobedience training. I have been looking for short videos which I can spread to fellow marchers which teach not only the principles of nonviolent resistance, but actually show situations that marchers may face, and illustrate the proper way to respond. I haven’t had any luck finding such videos. If you have a talent for making informative and entertaining videos, you could do us all a real service by producing some training videos for #TheResistance. If you plan to get involved in this movement, educate yourself on peaceful social movements of the past. Find people who can train you, and your friends, and your activist groups. If we want this movement to be successful, if we want to win hearts and minds of our fellow Americans, we need to reinvest in the philosophy of Dr. King and nonviolence.

“When they go low, we go high.” — Michelle Obama

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