Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Six Principles of Nonviolence “Principle Three: Attack Injustice, Not Persons Doing Unjust Deeds”!

It didn’t take long for the visceral response felt by the African American community to become public, after actions taken by the Syracuse Police Department under Union President Piedmont. Choosing the St. Patrick’s Day Parade to make a point about divisions within the department was wrong, it hurt the entire community.

In a reaction to Mr. Piedmont and the SPD Union, there are those who are attacking and calling for the removal of SPD Union President Piedmont. Instead of attacking the action and the condition, there are those who want to attack Piedmont; that breaks every rule in the Civil Rights handbook. You never personalize the fight. If you notice of the thousands of signs immortalized in pictures of protests, rarely if ever, did you see a name. It was about the conditions brought on by these individuals and the systems they controlled.

Syracuse Police Chief, Kenton Buckner

Instead of wrapping a blanket of community support around Chief Kenton Buckner, activists are creating a firestorm by going directly after the SPD Union President. What would any union do, if their leader was under attack? They’d recoil in disgust and prepare for a battle with Chief Buckner, and the community they’re employed to serve and protect.

The Martin Luther King Institute published Six Principles of Nonviolence and The Six Steps of Nonviolence.  Before mounting any “protest” people need to keep in mind several things, especially embedded in The Six Principles of Nonviolence. Pay particular attention to Principle number 3;

“Principle Three: Attack Injustice, Not Persons Doing Unjust Deeds.

Humor, anger and indignation about conditions were the focus of Dr. King’s energy and attention. People are not the problem; what must be changed are the conditions under which some people operate.

Focusing anger and indignation on personalities is not only violent, but often produces more violence or apathy about the real problems and conditions.”

That being said, I leave you with the following questions;

  • What’s the purpose of the protest?
  • And how does that ultimately protect both Chief Buckner and the African American community?

We need to wrap a blanket of support around our Chief of Police and seek solutions, before pouring gasoline on an already volatile situation.

Please review the Six Principles of Nonviolence and The Six Steps of Nonviolence listed below for reference.

Six Principles of Nonviolence

 * PRINCIPLE ONE: Kingian Nonviolence is Not for Cowards.

Nonviolence has a complete disrespect for violence. It will not adopt violent tactics to reach its goal and will avoid violence in resolving conflicts and problems.

Dr. King stressed the importance of resisting violence in any form. He preferred and recommended nonviolence because it represented a more humane, noble and honorable method in the path to justice.

Nonviolence is affirmatively standing not only against what is wrong but also for what is right and just.

PRINCIPLE TWO: The Beloved Community is a World of Peace with Justice.

The Beloved Community is a framework for developing a future in which one can deal effectively with unjust conditions.

The “Ends and Means” is dealt with by this principle. You cannot achieve just ends by unjust means; you cannot use violent means to achieve peaceful ends.

PRINCIPLE THREE: Attack Injustice, Not Persons Doing Unjust Deeds.

Humor, anger and indignation about conditions were the focus of Dr. King’s energy and attention. People are not the problem; what must be changed are the conditions under which some people operate.

Focusing anger and indignation on personalities is not only violent, but often produces more violence or apathy about the real problems and conditions.

PRINCIPLE FOUR: Accept Suffering Without Retaliation for the Sake of the Cause to Achieve a Goal.

Suffering is not to be confused with further harm to one’s self or “self-victimization.” Acceptance of harsh and unmerited punishment for a just cause helps the individual and the community grow in spiritual and humanitarian dimensions.

Willingness to endure hardship for a clearly defined just cause can have an impact on those committing acts of violence as well as on the larger community.

PRINCIPLE FIVE: Avoid Internal Violence of the Spirit as Well as External Physical Violence.

Our attitudes and commitment to practicing nonviolence, when faced with violence or issues are communicated through our actions, which in turn are determined by our attitudes.

Body language as well as verbal expression communicates our real feelings and thoughts about a particular situation. Internal conflicts and violent feelings color these expressions.

PRINCIPLE SIX: The Universe is on the Side of Justice.

The Six Steps of Nonviolence

STEP ONE: Information Gathering

Information gathering is not simply a fact-finding process, but must relate to a specific context, people and place.

Dr. King believed in listening and respecting the opinions of other people, whether they were poor people, uneducated or of a different color.

 STEP TWO: Education

Nonviolence uses all available communications and media to educate the public about the issue or injustice at hand.

Education can mean helping people to realize their ability to effect change and to act on solving major social problems.

Like holding a mirror up to the community, nonviolent approaches to education reveal the unique situation and reflect the need for a better and just image.

STEP THREE: Personal Commitment

Self-examination of all the ways that one may have helped to perpetuate a problem or unjust situation or where one has failed to use the nonviolent approach.

Developing spiritual and intellectual habits fosters nonviolence by dealing with one’s own emotions or lack of understanding the truth.

STEP FOUR: Negotiation

Nonviolent negotiation does not humiliate or defeat your opponent.

To prepare for negotiation, Dr. King always stressed the importance of learning about your opponents: their religious traditions, personal traditions, personal or business histories, and educational background.

Nonviolence always allows your opponents to save face and “winning your opponent over” allows for joint responsibility in correcting the problem.

STEP FIVE: Direct Action

This step has two meanings.  The first is to take responsibility for doing something about the situation and not waiting for someone else to do it. The second is to take direct action when all attempts at education, personal commitment, and negotiation have failed to resolve the problem, and more dramatic measures are necessary.

STEP SIX: Reconciliation

The goal of nonviolence is a reconciled world so that we can move forward together to tackle the larger issues we confront as a community.

This step grows naturally out of Dr. King’s belief that we focus not on persons but on conditions and if the issues remain clear throughout the process, reconciliation will facilitate the feeling of joint accomplishment and enhance acceptance of the change.

*Principles are from the MLK Institute