Loyola Marymount University professor of African American Studies, Stefan Bradley, recently argued in an essay titled “Civil Debate is Fine, Protest is Even Better.” The essay was published in The Chronicle of Higher Education last week. Bradley argued that “violent or destructive demonstrations” were beneficial ways to gain public attention. He also claimed that civil debate doesn’t “often yield just results.”
Bradley stated in the article. “It is the violent or destructive demonstrations that draw the attention of the wider public and motivates decision makers to act.”
“Failures of moral suasion have been especially profound for black students.”
The “so-called marketplace of ideas,” Bradley claimed, “only works when the opposing party is sympathetic and willing to act.”
Bradley expressed in the article in question that “violent or destructive demonstrations” are more effective at garnering more significant local as well as national attention. He also claims that institutions are much less likely to change in response to “nonviolent disruption.”
“The powers of persuasion do not often yield just results.”
— Stefan Bradley
Bradley continued in his article with a reference to the civil rights protests of the 1960s and 1970s. He argued that the “activist agitation” on college campuses that influenced their “indifferent administrations” are now simply a part of “radical lore.”
Furthermore, Bradley cited an incident at Yale University. A group of students demanded that the university rename John C. Calhoun College, an on-campus residence hall, on the basis that the namesake was a slave-holder and pro-secession. When the university failed to do so, the students took to the streets and blocked traffic in an effort to change their minds. These protests eventually garnered national attention and the trustees eventually changed the name of the hall.
While there is merit in his argument that violent protests do gain more national attention than peaceful protests, Bradley failed to note that often times the more violent protests are discredited due to their methods. For example, the violent riots at the University of California, Berkeley against Milo Yiannopoulos did, in fact, gain national attention, but the rioters were received negatively by the public for their destruction of the property on campus.
Noted by Campus Reform, Bradley also gave expert commentary on the protests at the University of Missouri in 2015, when he praised student protesters for being “on the pulse of progress.”
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