Interview with Rev. James Lawson
QUESTION 7
INTERVIEWER:

OK, USING SPECIFICS, WHY USE NONVIOLENT DIRECT ACTION AS A MEANS TO FIGHT SEGREGATION IN THE SOUTH AT THAT POINT?

Rev. James Lawson:

Well, they're both, nonviolence, why use it? Well, there are both theoretical reasons and practical reasons. But the most practical reason is that, what are we trying to create? We're trying to create a more just society. And how do you do that? Well, you cannot do it if you exaggerate the animosities. Martin King used to say all the time if you use the law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, then you end up with everybody blind and gumless, or toothless rather, which is right. That of course it seems to me is the conventional wisdom that we're gonna all end up dead and blind using present hostilities and technologies to try to solve what are human problems. So nonviolence had the philosophy that, when this battle is over, we expect to be able to live side by side, our children go to the same schools, we expect black people to have the kinds of jobs they want everywhere and anywhere, to live wherever they want to live, to be what they want to be, and that means, therefore, we have to be able to live with one another. So pragmatically you cannot do this by hating, killing, slaying, torturing, lynching, you will not achieve that. And so from, from a practical point of view, we don't want to blow up Nashville downtown, we simply want to open it up so that everybody has a chance to participate in it as people, fully, without any kind of reservations caused by creed, color, class, sex, anything else. So in that sense, going past any theoretical notions for nonviolence which, you know, many of us hold, is the practical issue of how do you achieve a community where people are people, where they have a fair chance on life.