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Zinn “Or Does It Explode”

In this chapter of Zinn, he discusses the Civil Rights movement, and how the narrative of this historical time has also been altered to portray the U.S. government as playing a much larger role in making progress towards equality among all citizens. Zinn highlights that our government did pass laws targeted at solving social injustices, such as voting equality and employment equality, but they were poorly implemented. It seems that the American government thinks simply making a law is enough when the people enforcing it (white Americans) are the ones that will make the real social change.


In this chapter, I also noticed the difference between non-violent and violent protests. It seemed that the non-violent protests were clearly favored by the government leaders because it caused less unrest within society, but it did not seem to be “enough to deal with the entrenched problems of poverty in the black ghetto”. When analyzing protests and rebellions, American leaders tend to criticize the violent protests, when in reality, the nature of the protest should not be the focus. Instead, all focus should be on the fact that a protest is needed in the first place. Critiquing whether violence with protests is effective or warranted, distracts society from the main institutional problems causing the riots, which is exactly was the corrupt institutions want.

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  1. Zachary Andrews Zachary Andrews

    I agree that the chapter tells us that the non-violent protests that Martin Luther King Jr. believed in were more impactful than the violent ones. This reminds me of one of the past Zinn chapters that stated that violent protests were often not as effective as non-violent ones.

  2. Kayla O'Connell Kayla O'Connell

    I completely agree with your comment regarding criticism about whether violence in protests are warranted. Not only does this distract society, but also decreases the productivity of the movement. In the BLM today, it is important for us to come together and stay focused on improving, rather than criticize one another. There are issues in society that need to be fixed.

  3. Zariah Chiverton Zariah Chiverton

    It’s interesting how you pointed out the different perspectives towards protests by those not apart of it. There are those who look at protesters whether they are violent or not and only focus on the fact that people are resisting and don’t consider why. It is something I also noticed in Zinn’s reading but what made it stand out to me is that because of everything that is going on, it is something I have been seeing a lot of recently. Too many people are focused on the wrong parts of protests and aren’t considering why there is a need for protests in the first place, taking the attention away from the matter at hand.

  4. Christina Glynn Christina Glynn

    I agree especially with the idea that the intentions and motives of the protests should be the main focus as opposed to how violent the protest is. This shows the ignorance of some people to avoid accepting that there is actually a problem going on.

  5. Annie Waters Annie Waters

    I completely agree that critiquing the violence of civil disobedience is extremely counter-productive. I feel that oftentimes denouncing violence offers those indifferent to social justice an excuse remain inactive in labor-intensive movements for change while also presenting a strawman argument against necessary activism. Since you noted that the government typically favors peaceful protest, I think it’s also important to note recognize how the government has often manipulated instances of peaceful protest to portray itself as being responsive to civil movements in which it isn’t very proactive in reality. We see this in Malcolm X’s criticism of the government’s contortion of original plans for the 1963 Civil Rights march in Washington. While the government takes many opportunities to publicly praise peaceful protests for the sake of its reputation, it often suppresses more powerful demonstrations through regulations.

  6. Sophia Peltzer Sophia Peltzer

    I agree with your thoughts on placing so much emphasis on the difference between violent and nonviolent protests. Over the summer, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests and police brutality, so much media was focused on denouncing the violence and looting that came from a small number of peaceful protests. Rather than violence to strip away the validity of entire movement, I wish we could focus our energy on asking ourselves why violent protests sometimes become necessary – black people have been fighting for basic human equality since the beginning of this country, and as evidenced by police brutality and institutionalized racism today, nonviolent protests have clearly not been enough to get the rights they demand.

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