Did Black Power groups harm the struggle for civil rights? - Part 2
Did Black Power groups harm the struggle for civil rights? - Did Black Power groups harm the struggle for civil rights? introduction?? After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Act of 1965 it seemed as though those who advocated peaceful protests had got what they wanted. The government passed laws which theoretically gave black people an equal standing with white people. However, in reality discrimination was still rife in many parts of America and the majority of black people lived in poverty, a hard condition to break out of.
It can be said that Black Power groups actually helped Martin Luther King’s passive resistance policy as people didn’t want to support violence and King’s less controversial methods were then able to appeal to a wider group. However, Black Power groups can also be blamed for harming the struggle for civil rights. Two contrasting groups were both fighting against the ill treatment of black people and Americans were made to choose who to support.
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With Black Power groups using such violent methods many turned to Martin Luther King and began to support him. Having groups using physical force and demanding unrealistic changes suddenly made King’s methods seem much more attractive and his aims far more reasonable. Nonetheless, King’s tactics were proving slow to procure any drastic changes and particularly in the North, Midwest and West, black Americans had gained little from King’s Civil Right Movement.
Groups turning to violence to obtain results sent a message to the Americans that something should be done about the economic and social deprivation that black people faced. Black Power groups brought a sense of pride in being black and in the beginning during fundraising; Black Power was able to have an impact in many different areas of America, they helped in the ghettos which had not felt King’s influence and provide help for poor school children.
However, seeing black people using violence only cemented some Americans views of black people being inferior to whites. They saw the brute force being applied by Black Power groups as typical for every black person and thus were reluctant to give any rights to black people. The use of violence may have even brought back King’s own movement, in white people’s eyes he was tainted by association, they placed black people all in the same class.
The ghetto riots between 1964-1968 hindered the civil rights movement, black people fought among themselves and there were hundreds at fatalities and thousands of arrests and injuries, the government was loath to give rights to the people who had caused such devastation in America. The relative unity that King had created within the Civil Rights Movement during the Freedom Rides was disrupted by the formation of Black Power groups, this hampered the movement as previously all the groups had been working together toward a mutual goal.
Black Power groups did not really have defined aims, leaders such as Carmichael were constantly changing their ideas leaving people unsure as to what Black Power groups were actually protesting against. In conclusion, Martin Luther King’s policy of ‘passive resistance’ and using love as a ‘weapon’ were not producing the results that black people wanted, poor people especially found it hard to relate to King as he was well-off, those living in ghettos responded more to the philosophy of Black Power.
The moral high ground that King had worked so hard to obtain was shattered by Black Power and their idea that white people were inferior. Black Power groups enabled people to realise that something had to be done about the level of injustice that black people faced and although their methods were questionable it cannot be denied that they produced results.