Senior discusses peace vs. Mob Mentality

Kyle Fowler January 31, 2013 0

Eyes watering from tear gas and smoke, clothes soaked from the water that never ceased and the endless stinging of scratches and bites from police dogs. These are but a few of the things that Martin Luther King Jr., and those who stood with him, experienced to free themselves from the claws of oppression.
Etown senior Kelsey Walck addressed these issues both in the paper and presentation that the senior psychology and religion studies major gave during the week of Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations and events. She began by defining mob mentality as, “The tendency of individuals in a group situation to become violent through the action of one or two ringleaders in the assembly.”
Walck used three key events during King’s life to give examples of mob mentality. These three events occurred in Montgomery, Al.; Little Rock, Ark.; and Birmingham, Al. Of these, one of the clearest examples of mob mentality fighting King’s nonviolent protests was the Birmingham case. Walck stated, “The most intense days of violence in Birmingham occurred in 1963. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) decided to stage a protest by boycotting the major businesses downtown during the Easter season.” These peaceful protests were what King was widely known for. Walck stated, “King’s ‘beloved community’” was the best answer to violence. They were subject to anything the mob did to them.” It was clear the best way to fight the violence was through peaceful nonviolent protests.
Due to the actions of white mobs, King was famous for planning acts to negate their influence. Walck stated, “The worse the acts of violence were, the more media coverage his protests would receive. This placed pressure on the politicians to create laws preventing it.” The worse the acts were, the more people began to realize how cruel and wrong segregation was. This is where the pressure on the politicians originated.
Walck revisited the definition of mob mentality before showing examples of it from Birmingham. Walck expressed the best example of the mob mentality from Birmingham was from the police chief, Bull Connor. According to Walck, “He used very overt violence, ranging from police dogs, fire hoses and smoke or tear gas.” In response to the question, “Can the police force be a mob?” Walck answered with, “Their job is to maintain the laws. They can react to violence and make their own.” Other examples of mob mentality in Walck’s presentation were the Klu Klux Klan and the White Citizen’s Council.
Once the presentation was finished, the floor was opened for questions from the audience. During this time, several very good points were brought up and answered thoroughly by Walck. The first question that was asked was, “Can groups change peoples’ morals?” Walck answered, “If you are a peaceful person, you can be conformed to groupthink. Many white people were afraid, and this led them to the rash decisions of being in the mob.” It was through the acts of the mob that King was able to create this idea of beloved community.
Walck explained that before conducting her research, she never really knew when King became active in the fight against segregation: “It wasn’t until I conducted my research for the paper that I became aware that King was not a prominent member of the black community until after the Montgomery Bus Boycott,” she said. “I think it’s important for the audience to understand how hard King worked to combat the violence he was faced with throughout his time as a civil rights leader and how intense that violence could become, especially in light of the principles of mob mentality.”

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