“The Power of Nonviolence”

Essay three entitled The Power of Nonviolence is perhaps the most historic of the first five essays, as its targeted audience was college students, and its message was one of nonviolence. King was invited to speak at a conference at the University of California on June 4, 1957 by the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) and YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association). King declared that “there was a philosophy undergirding the Montgomery boycott, the philosophy of nonviolent resistance.” King firmly believed that “nonviolent resistance is not a method of cowardice. It does resist.” He emphasized in the trainings that this was “nonaggressive physically but strongly aggressive spiritually.” (12)
King’s philosophy included the idea that the violence breeds bitterness while nonviolence fostered reconciliation and in the end a sense of community for the people. He went on to imply that the resistance was not aimed at individuals but at a system that was detrimental to the African American people. This idea was powerful, as it brought to light for the students how to resist peaceably against the evil that was besetting them. This idea he proclaimed included the fact that the “struggle is rather between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.” King believed it would be a “victory for justice, a victory for good will, a victory for democracy.” (13) King took the focus off the people provoking the situation and brought to light that the real issue was one of injustice not just bad behavior. That message helped people understand the fight was not against a few people, but against a wrong that was being done to a whole group of people.

When looking at the struggle against violence King taught that the biggest struggle was within, an “internal violence of spirit.” King went on to explain how the only way to change society was to “keep love at the center of our lives.” King taught about the Agape form of love found in scriptures as defined “understanding, creative, redemptive good will for all men.” He instructed all involved in the nonviolence movement that until they could use the Agape form of love and love as Christ loved, hating the deed, but loving the person, no end would come to the evil besought upon the African American people. (13) King acknowledged that not everyone believes in God, but all had to agree that there was a force in nature that was working toward justice for all. While preaching nonviolent resistance King continued to press for the fact that they must press on in the struggle against the injustices and fight for their rights, using the agape love techniques of nonviolence. King declared “We must continue to move on. Our self-respect is at stake; the prestige of our nation is at stake.” “We must keep moving with wise restraint and love and with proper discipline and dignity.” (14) King was encouraging the students in the audience that to stop participating in the movement would not help the cause, but only when they fought together in a nonviolent manner would the evil be spotlighted and society would be able to see the injustices beseeching the African American peoples.

Finally King taught that the people should not be “Maladjusted” to the problems of life. This means that they should never adjust to the social circumstances or environment since there was not equality for all. He proclaimed that the people needed to stand in opposition to the treatment that was being forced upon them and not accept it as the way it was. He declared “God grant that we will be so maladjusted that we will be able to go out and change our world and our civilization.” (15) King challenged the young people in the group to stand up and fight with courage and honor as they battled for their civil rights.

This essay is worth considering as it is a philosophy that can be used in life in general. Anytime a power struggle occurs, one party believes they are lord over the other person. It is true fighting never solves anything, and only when one person takes the high road of refusing to sling dirt and throw punches, but to show true love for the other person, can the issues be resolved. This advice would be relevant in personal relationships as well as on the grand scheme of national relations. Kings very precise definition of how to treat others, and still press on for justice is a great motivator. His words carried the students into the march against the injustices of racism and helped to further the cause of fighting for Civil Rights.


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