King’s Civil Disobedience and the Black Lives Matter

Similarities and Differences of King’s Civil Disobedience and the Black Lives Matter

Racial inequality in America has always existed in American society ever since the introduction of slavery in the continent. There have been cases of structural racism through segregation on institutionalized racism, with the most recent example being racially motivated police killings. Efforts to address the racial inequality, especially concerning the inequalities African Americans face in the society, can be traced to the civil disobedience period led by Martin Luther King Jr. King’s civil disobedience allowed the African America community to reduce some of the policies that made the society unfair for them such as their inability to vote and segregation in public places. Recently, the Black Lives Matter movement has tried to follow in King’s civil disobedience footsteps as it tries to fight for the rights of African American people. Tracing the similarities and differences between the Black Lives Matter movement and King’s movement is critical to help readers understand the group’s contribution to the fight against racial injustice.

The major similarity between the protest groups is the nature of their non-violent protests, such that both groups protest against racial injustices or laws promoting injustices peacefully. King’s civil disobedience was anchored on using non-violence acts such as the famous march from Selma to Montgomery to protest racist rules(). The march was the epitome of the protest against the policies that made it impossible for African Americans to vote and those promoting racial segregation. It attracted media attention that eventually led to the President interceding, an act that eventually led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Similarly, the Black Lives Matter movement protests have been anchored on non-violent acts of civil disobedience to bring the world’s attention to the racially instigated police killings in America(). Like King’s movement, the movement conducted marches and staged non-violent protests to communicate that they had reached their tolerant limit for the wanton killing of members of the African American society. The movement’s protests led to the spread of taking the knee to stand against any form of racism that has now been adopted globally.

The message of both movements to stand against racial injustice is also similar, although the movement’s contexts are different. For King’s movement, the fight was against a more outright form of racism seen in the society through constitutionalized segregation. On the other hand, the Black Lives Matter Movement fights a more de facto form of racism soon through racially instigated killings of African Americans by the police and other structuralized forms of racism such as higher incarceration rates for African Americans. Although the contexts are different, the motivation of the two groups has been to fight for better outcomes for the African American people who the American society has mistreated since King’s time. What both movements have achieved for the African American community also indicates their mutual intention to fight for racial injustice. For example, both movements created awareness of the injustices the African Americans were facing, and both prompted the need to review the nation’s laws and policies that encouraged racial injustice. Today, thanks to the efforts of the Black Lives Matter, the police killings were exposed to the Americans and the globe, putting pressure on the need for police reform just like in King’s period where the pressure led to the change of the constitution.

The other similarity can be understood from the time aspect of the environmental conditions in which the protests occur. Both protest groups are triggered by the fact that the environmental conditions in the environment had already been compounding the injustice the African Americans face. For King’s period, the civil disobedience movement came after years of lynching of African American people, their experiencing of poor conditions in segregated public entities like schools and hospitals, and the intervening of the nation in Vietnam in the name of democracy, yet some Americans did not enjoy their democratic life. In the case of Black Lives Matter, the movement came to life after several killings of African American teenagers by police officers and the police officers escaping unpunished. The killings had gone on for years, but when George Floyd’s murder occurred, the last straw motivated the movement into protests against police killings. Both movements were formed in response to a protracted period of injustices to which the government failed to respond. Often, the immediate environment makes the protracted injustices unbearable such as the Vietnam war during King’s period, and the worsening economic situation due to the pandemic for African Americas during the Black Lives Matter period.

Although there are many similarities between the protest groups, several differences, the major one has to do with the level of support each group enjoyed. For example, the Black Lives Movement group has more support from other ethnicities and even countries due to the advancement in media and the portrayal of the group’s intention by the media. For example, the depiction of the George Floyd murder changed the stance of the media that in the past tried to argue that the police killings were due to the “threatening” nature of the African American victims. Before George Floyd’s murder, the media propagated the narrative that the African American victims were dangerous. However, thanks to social media, Floyd’s killing spread fast throughout the globe, forcing all media houses to report the case as it was. Americans from all races banded and went into the streets to protest such blatant racist acts by the police. President Trump’s controversial racist policies also played a role in the negative outcomes racism has on minority groups in America. The controversial presidency brought Americans together to groups that fought for the rights of minority groups in the nation. King’s period was not as welcoming to the protests and the period’s media coverage was not as nearly as friendly or extensive as that of the Black Lives Matter Period.

American society has always had a racial injustice problem to which different groups have tried to respond. One of the great contributors to the response to racial injustice was King’s through his civil disobedience group that fought for the rights of African Americans in the 1950s and 60s. Recently, Black Lives Matter has taken up the role of fighting for the rights of the people that continue to face extreme cases of racial injustice. The similarities and differences discussed in this paper have illustrated some of the ways in which the two groups have tried to eliminate racial injustice in American society.


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