The Freedom Riders: the Longest Route to freedom

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Today, my friends, I’ll be analyzing the efforts of the 1960’s civil rights group known as the Freedom Riders.  I’ll tell you right from the jump, I don’t believe that their efforts brought about any substantive change, and in fact, made things worse. However, I recognize that not all their points were invalid, and I intend to highlight them in addition to their shortcomings.  Once I have presented the plain and simple facts,  I do believe that you will have the tools to see the entire story from an objective perspective, so that in the future, we may disregard their mistakes and build upon their effectual ideas. That is being truly progressive.

The objective of the Freedom Riders, as they came to be known, was to ride the bus from Washington D.C., through the heart of the south, all the way down to the city of New Orleans, spreading social awareness and testing the effectiveness of recent federal legislation prohibiting racial segregation in public transportation. If the laws were being obeyed, fabulous, if not, and they were instead met with violence, well . . then this would just expose the reprehensible racial prejudice and violence that pervaded the American south, provoking international embarrassment and rebuke for America.

Freedom Rides | Encyclopedia of AlabamaThe senseless persecution of theRemembering The 'Freedom Riders,' 50 Years Later : NPR Freedom Riders caused people to sympathize with them, and grow increasingly contemptful towards the south for its savagery.

In short, “Let us be and we win, Harm us and we win even more.”, the Freedom Riders essentially declared. And, in this respect, it actually worked. When the peaceful Freedom Riders were violently attacked by white mobs, as they were in Anniston, AL and again in Montgomery, AL, it spawned international rebuke, especially from communist countries, like the Soviet Union, who found in the racial violence of the American south easy and effective ammunition to put a few more holes in the image of the U.S. and the capitalist imperialist system that it represented. (Not that racism wasn’t levied against any black people that happened to stop in Russia, but, it’s not about where it occurs, it’s about where it’s most visible.) Propaganda Political Civil Rights Racism Communism Black Liberation Poster Print: Posters & PrintsIf anything could turn people away from capitalism and make them run towards socialism, it’s racism and racial terror. Thus, the racial turmoil in America was becoming a liability in her war against the spread of communism.

Okay. . now for the venom.  “Nonviolence”, at least in the way it’s commonly practiced, does not remedy any social ills as many people believe it does. The philosophy does not go beyond simply expressing discontent with the status quo, and relies entirely on other people to carry the torch (which is highly unlikely), as seen by how the protests of the Freedom Riders, MLK, and countless others did not directly do anything to help the oppressed black population in America. As Frederick Leonard, who was a student at Tennessee State University said, “You’re saying that you’re going to start a movement, you’re going do something to change this (the racial segregation and prejudice of the American south), and then you quit. Your parents tell you: Don’t start something that you can’t finish. Finish it.”. Not that I believe change must come through violence, but I simply think that there are more constructive and effective ways to bring about societal change.  Nowadays, this method of activism, first conceived in America by groups and individuals like those who made up the Freedom Riders, provides but a minor annoyance to the powers that be who are no longer frightened by them. To compound this, the practice of nonviolence has taken on an increasingly weak, contradictory, and outright pathetic appearance.

Protests Seen as Harming Civil Rights Movement in the '60sI can't breathe': Hundreds lie down in protestProtesters lie facedown for eight minutes in Pickens SC

Back then                                                                                                     Nowadays

For instance, lying across floors in protest while saying flatly through a megaphone “This is what democracy looks like.” or the “Hands up, don’t shoot” position of the Black Lives Matter protests of recent times, which gives the appearance of anticipating one’s own demise rather than of fearlessly demanding change. An absolutely pitiful excuse for a “protest”. I do admire the freedom riders tenacity, they refused to allow themselves to be cowed by the senseless violence of the white bigots of the south, I just think their unwavering persistence could have been better utilized in community work or other methods of social progression that don’t involve setting dangerous precedents  -or essentially storming heaven’s gate. For example, they could have devoted their time and effort to protest the unconscionable number of liquor stores, pawn shops, abortion clinics, and sleazy cash advance places, all disproportionately located in black neighborhoods. It also seems to me that the Freedom Riders did not have a thorough enough understanding of the south, the inner workings of Jim Crow, or the complex political machinations that kept these unjust laws in place. As Mr. Frederick Leonard also said in his interview regarding the Freedom Riders, “And CORE, I think, they felt. We’ll go down there, and you know, they’ll let us ride the front of the bus and go into the white station, the white waiting room, and everything will be alright. We’ll just go all the way to New Orleans doing this and then come back to New York and . . .See, we did it! It wasn’t like that.”. In addition, many of the members of CORE and the Freedom Riders were not even black, and thus, even if they sympathized, simply lacked the empathy to fight directly alongside black folks against racism. . . At least in the way they were trying to.

In summation, although the Freedom Riders were crucial exposing the racism and that pervaded the southern psyche,  they ultimately did more harm than good, as they contributed to setting the dangerous precedent of turning the other cheek to copious instances of increasingly sinister atrocities and endorsing the unrealistic expectation that pitiful pleas for justice will somehow appeal to the conscience of the powers that be -which possess none- and instantly solve all problems. I genuinely think that if they did more research and devoted their time more to the community and their non-black members focused on trying to educate the ignorantly prejudiced in their own community (as ignorance exacerbates prejudice to violent proportions), their infinite tenacity would have made them very successful in creating positive social change. I do believe that if we adopt their same tenacity and learn from their mistakes, we will be able to give ourselves an expressway ride to freedom, liberty, and equality, for all men . . If not, then we will simply be in for the longest route to freedom of all: FOREVER.

Twitter 上的 Douglas I. Oliver:"“Power concedes nothing without demand. Find out what people will submit to, and there you find the exact amount of injustice which will be imposed upon them until