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The second amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right of American citizens “to bear arms shall not be infringed” by the United States government (2nd Amendment). Robert Williams understood how significant this right was to the protection of Black lives which were targets of racism and violence. He advocated the use of violence as a means of self defense and organized local blacks into a “rifle club with a charter from the National Rifle Association” (60). Skip Curtiss defends this position saying, “any steps that (Williams) had to take in order to prevent his family and his people from being slaughtered like cattle were completely within his rights” (Curtiss). This is certainly true regarding Williams right to own guns, as explained above, but below the surface of Curtiss’ statement, lie many questions regarding the results the threat of violence has produced. Retaliating against racism with violence actually produces effects which are detrimental to the integrationist movement. Whites felt threatened by Williams militaristic statements, which caused them to hold onto their power with a increasingly tighter grip. Non violence has moral superiority to, is more logically sound than and has produced much more favorable results than armed self defense, and is thus a much better method in the struggle to achieve equality.
The most famous advocate of non violence was Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In his essay “A Letter From a Birmingham Jail” he articulates the position of non violence. Justified is King in his civil disobedience because certain laws treat people unequally, and are therefore immoral. He demonstrates out of protest of these laws, but knows that by breaking laws he must accept certain penalties. King feels that resorting to violence only equates the abused with the abuser. Thus in the fight for a morally just cause, Blacks must not resort to immoral tactics else they becomes victims of hypocrisy.
The major problem with armed resistance to protect Black’s lives is that it is does not have a means to produce the ends, which is equality. Williams Asserts that “the basic ill is an economic ill, (Blacks are) denied the right to have a decent standard of living” (40). No one can logically disagree with this, but threatening to use violence is not a solution. As Williams found out, his position actually made matters worse.
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"Blacks' Attempt To Achieve Equality." 123HelpMe.com. 24 Feb 2020
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It is hard to argue that arming Negroes with guns has been more effective than non violence. Williams himself won “better rights for negroes: economic rights, the right of education and the right of protection under the law” through a non violent organization, the NAACP. But other organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Southern Christian Leadership Council have produced far more results than the Monroe Board of Aldermen run by Williams, or the Black Panther Party. We no longer have segregated lunch counters, water fountains, rest rooms, inter- or intra-state buses, or schools, because non violent civil rights workers had enough courage to “turn the other cheek.” In fact, Jim Crow as we know it ceases to exist in the United State of America because of the efforts made by non violent workers.
Finally, there is so much that can be done in a positive manner, that it seems silly to think holding a gun will affect any change in the long run. According to Williams: “The majority of White people in the United States have literally no idea of the violence with which Negroes in the South are treated daily,-nah, hourly” (5). Then would it make more sense to educate the white masses about the truth in an attempt to bring them into the struggle. According to Williams: the “African American struggle was merely a disjointed network of pockets of resistance” (29). Should Williams have worked to improve communication within the race, so local groups would do the work of a national Black agenda? (29). If Williams identified his struggle with “the struggle of our brothers in Africa, and the struggle of the oppressed in Asia and Latin America,” it would make more sense to appeal to the morality of these nations, and urge them to suspend trade with America until segregation had been destroyed? (70).
These are real problems that Williams identified. But he felt that holding a gun would be more effective than education, communication, solidarity, and morality. This, despite the profound success of King and other non violent groups. Clearly protecting one’s self from harm is important, but in 1962 Blacks needed a ways of achieving equality, a means to their end, not a false sense of security.