Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Etiquette and the Polite Protest

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Judith Martin (aka "Miss Manners") on Civil Disobedience and Politely Protesting

"A riot is the language of the unheard." 

 Martin Luther King, Jr.

Coretta Scott King, shaking hands with Mayor Robert Wagner of New York City, as Martin Luther King, Jr. stands smiling between them.

Martin Luther King Jr. was known for Peaceful Protests That Bolstered Civil Rights in America: Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. believed that nonviolent protest is the most effective weapon against a racist and unjust society. But it required rallying people to his cause. Here is one of the most revolutionary peaceful protests King led.

Lasting about two months in 1963, the Birmingham campaign was a strategic effort started by Dr. King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference to end discriminatory economic policies in the Alabamacity. Some of the protests included boycotting certain businesses that hired only white people or that had segregated restrooms.

When businesses refused to change their policies, protesters held sit-ins and marches, with the aim of getting arrested. King encouraged these nonviolent tactics so that the city’s jails would overflow. Police used high-pressure water hoses and dogs to control protesters, some of whom were children. By the end of the campaign, many segregation signs at Birmingham businesses came down, and public places became more open to all races.

Of the tactic used in the Birmingham campaign, King said, “The purpose of … direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.” ~From The Christian Science Monitor

"Miss Manners"
Protest, like every other human activity, requires etiquette. The saddest thing about using rude tactics is that they damage the causes for which they are used. Rather than the targets thinking that they are being shown a way in which the world would be improved, they focus on the immediate way in which they are being mistreated. These people may claim to want to make the world better, their victims conclude, but are actively making it worse.

Miss Manners would think it obvious that in order to persuade people about an issue of justice they had not considered, you must open their minds to your arguments. People who are humiliated shut down and turn defensive.

But when they see orderly picket lines or sit-ins, or hear speeches or read leaflets and articles by people who seem to be well-intentioned and reasonable, they just might stop to think. ~
"Miss Manners" is Judith Martin of the Washington Post

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator for Etiquipedia Etiquette Encyclopedia