The Effectiveness of Civil Disobedience and Uncivil Disobedience Throughout History

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Throughout history, different problems have been resolved through either violence or peaceful methods, and the question remains about whether these actions were justified. These issues, often related to societal goals, have been addressed through civil or uncivil disobedience. Civil disobedience means intentionally breaking laws to achieve a social goal, using nonviolent approaches.

Uncivil disobedience is akin to civil disobedience, albeit utilizing violence as a method for attaining a specific objective. Although civil disobedience proves more efficacious in terms of advocating for an issue, there arise instances where uncivil disobedience becomes imperative. Civil disobedience holds great power as it resonates with people and gains greater backing. Nevertheless, the purpose behind uncivil disobedience lies in startling or arousing individuals to comprehend the gravity of the underlying cause.

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Civil disobedience is powerful because it unites people to combat a shared problem and generates an indomitable force that effectively conveys their objective. An illustration of this unfolded when African American civil rights advocate Martin Luther King Jr. rallied his fellow African Americans through nonviolent demonstrations and influential speeches addressing the pervasive racism in America. He firmly rejected violence as a means of attaining change, emphasizing that “The greatest danger is that it will fail to attract Negroes to a real collective struggle” and recognizing that “if he seeks it and organizes it, he cannot win” (Page 13).

“I have a Dream,” delivered by Martin Luther King Jr., is one of the most well-known speeches in U.S. history. This powerful speech, delivered to an audience of about 250,000 people, brings together individuals from all races to stand against a freedom-restricting and dehumanizing issue. What sets this speech apart is that King achieves unity solely through his words, without resorting to actions or violence, truly embodying civil disobedience. The Civil Rights Movement also demonstrates civil disobedience as African American students engage in sit-ins at lunch areas designated exclusively for white individuals.

The student’s showcased their opposition to segregation and racism in America by engaging in sit-ins, denouncing these issues as significant problems in the United States that should not be tolerated. Despite facing physical retaliation from white individuals, the students remained nonviolent. Eventually, they were even imprisoned as an act of protest for their freedom. This act carried immense weight as these students not only disobeyed the law but also endured imprisonment due to their convictions.

Although civil disobedience is typically a safe and effective approach, there are situations that necessitate resorting to uncivil disobedience, especially in extreme cases. One notable instance of this occurred during colonial times when the colonists penned a response to the King of Great Britain outlining their grievances over his tyrannical and unjust actions. These included occurrences such as soldiers being quartered against their will during peaceful periods, imposing taxes without their consent, and a violent attack on Lexington residents resulting in eight deaths and numerous injuries.

The text emphasizes the extreme desperation and oppression experienced by the colonists, highlighting their peaceful protests’ ineffectiveness in addressing grievances. The unbearable unfair treatment endured eventually led to a breaking point. It is important to note that civil disobedience had support both during colonial times and in the 1800s. Malcolm X, an African American human rights activist, promoted self-defense among African Americans and asserted their right to employ any means necessary, even violence, for self-protection. This belief greatly unsettled white individuals.

In one of his speeches titled “The Black Revolution,” he cautioned that unless white people take action, a war could break out between African Americans and whites. He drew a parallel between the frustrations of the 22 million black people, who were exhausted from being taxed without representation, and the circumstances faced by colonists during the colonial era. Similar to how the colonists resorted to violence when all other possibilities seemed ineffective, he insinuated that African Americans might do likewise. This analogy compelled others to pay attention and become aware.

One current issue is the racial profiling and misuse of authority by law enforcement.

Recent events have exposed cases where police exhibit aggressive conduct without facing repercussions. For example, an off-duty officer brandished his firearm in front of a gathering of middle school students and discharged it. Additionally, a child was unlawfully slain by a police officer who has yet to face trial.

To address this issue, I propose restructuring both the police academy and system to offer officers more comprehensive training. To effect change, civil disobedience plays a vital role in this scenario. By uniting as a group or community, we can instigate transformation and motivate others to participate and demonstrate their support. A large assembly of people protesting cannot be easily disregarded in today’s world, particularly when media coverage and protests apply significant pressure on law enforcement agencies until they are compelled to respond.

However, engaging in uncivil disobedience should be discouraged due to the fact that the police possess weapons and could potentially pose a threat. Uncivil disobedience should only be considered if law enforcement initiates violence against peaceful protesters through the use of firearms or physical assault.

Civil and uncivil disobedience, although utilizing different approaches, are both effective and supported by historical evidence. Examples include the Revolutionary War, the Civil Rights Movements, and various influential figures throughout history. In their own unique ways, these individuals and events fought for their beliefs, ultimately proving that certain causes are worth the fight.

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The Effectiveness of Civil Disobedience and Uncivil Disobedience Throughout History. (2023, Apr 12). Retrieved from

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