A Different World

Martin Luther King-led protest marches were also once accused of creating violence

Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.

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The best-selling “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander is a great resource for those wanting to get serious about understanding and trying to solve the problems in our criminal justice system.

It’s also a good resource to compare and contrast how civil rights protesters are spoken about today versus in the middle of the 20th century. Today, of course, many people (primarily but not only) on the right claim that protests against police brutality cause crime and violence, and they often excuse, or underplay, such abuse of power by noting that the victims weren’t perfect.

A flashback from Alexander’s book:

“For more than a decade - from the mid-1950s until the late 1960s - conservatives systematically linked opposition to civil rights legislation to calls for law and order, arguing that Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy of civil disobedience was a leading cause of crime. Civil rights protests were frequently depicted as criminal rather than political in nature, and federal courts were accused of excessive ‘lenience’ toward lawlessness, thereby contributing to the spread of crime. In the words of then-Vice President Richard Nixon, the increasing crime rate ‘can be traced directly to the spread of the corrosive doctrine that every citizen possesses an inherent right to decide for himself which laws to obey and when to disobey them.”

“... Barry Goldwater, in his 1964 presidential campaign, aggressively exploited the riots and fears of black crime, laying the foundation for the ‘get tough on crime’ movement that would emerge years later. In a widely quoted speech, Goldwater warned voters, ‘Choose the way of [the Johnson] Administration and you have the way of mobs in the street.’ Civil rights activists who argued that the uprisings were directly related to widespread police harassment and abuse were dismissed by conservatives out of hand. ‘If [blacks] conduct themselves in an orderly way, they will not have to worry about police brutality,’ argued West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd.”

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