Robert Williams was a Civil Rights leader from Monroe, NC. He began his career by staging a walk-out of black workers at 16 years old. This action would initiate the FBI file that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
In 1958, Robert Williams led the defense of two Black boys accused of kissing a White girl. From there, he was able to aid in the prosecution of White men that assaulted Black women. Williams led two protests to integrate the Monroe swimming pool in 1957 and 1961. His actions to free Freedom Riders led him to flee of Monroe and for Havana. While in Havana, he made inroads with all of the Communist world. He was able to travel to Vietnam, then China, to incite rebellions in the American Army. He was finally allowed to return to the United States in the late 1960s.
Spiral Dynamics classifies the Orange Meme by the seeking and obtaining of status. The primary mode of thinking is rational thought and realistic evaluation of consequences. An individual in the Orange Meme would also not be consumed with personal anger or desire. They would take principled and rational stances. Create a plan and see it through to completion, making necessary changes along the way.
Williams began the campaign in Monroe with legal action. Two high profile cases involved White men assaulting Black women in 1959. The Black citizens of Monroe wanted to create a lynch mob to kill the White men. Robert Williams talked them out of it and instead proposed they pool their resources to prosecute the men. The judges of both cases found the defendants innocent despite a mountain of evidence against them. Essentially, the Monroe justice system declared open season on Black people by ensuring these men never met any consequences.
Once the justice system proved they would not aid Black people in need, the only logical next step is self-defense. He makes his infamous statement that blacks will meet lynching with lynching in Monroe due to law and order breaking down. Anger did not motivate this statement. If Williams wanted revenge on White people, he could have just joined the lynch mob as Monroe’s citizens initially planned. Instead, he sent a warning to the White citizens in Monroe. This warning would hopefully stop further bloodshed.
One of the Orange meme tenants is to express self rationally without incurring the wrath of others. Not incurring others’ wrath is an important principle, but one must covet this because of the realities of the Jim Crow South. Black people were always suffering violence or threatened with violence. So the idea of not suffering any wrath is not realistic in the environment of the time. The question then became, did Robert Williams’s self-defense stance lower or increase the amount of harm suffered by the Black people of Monroe?
The sit-in campaign led by Robert Williams on March 1, 1960, used twelve protesters to sit-in for short periods at three Monroe lunch counters. The action forced all the lunch counters to shut down to avoid the protest. The Monroe sit-in protesters did not suffer anywhere near other protesters’ humiliation because Monroe’s White people knew they would fight back. No one poured milkshakes on them, no one put cigarettes out on them, and no one spat on them. The only consequence was the short stint in jail that Robert Williams had to serve as the protest leader. So it seems that not declaring yourself non-violent at the beginning did reduce the violence perpetrated on protesters.
Taking calculated risk is another aspect of people in Orange meme. Robert Williams exemplified this in the Steagall hostage/rescue incident. In 1961, during the Black neighborhood defense in Monroe, NC a White couple was driving through the Black neighborhood. The White couple, the Steagalls, claimed to be lost, but the Black patrol saw they were spying on the defenses being created by the Black Guard. The Steagalls were abducted and brought to the house of Robert Williams.
There are two stories of what happened at the home of Robert Williams. The first told by Robert Williams. Williams claimed the guards wanted to lynch the Whites for spying on the defenses. Williams stopped them from killing the couple and told the Steagalls to leave. The Steagalls feared they would not be able to get away, so they followed Robert Williams in the house. The second narrative given by the chief of police was that Robert Williams took the Steagalls hostage. He then called the police and told him that he would only release the Steagalls if the police chief would ensure the Freedom Riders imprisoned a day earlier were released and sent to the hospital. The Freedom Riders were arrested and beaten the day before in a protest. One of the people jailed was James Farmer, the CORE leader, who sponsored the Freedom Riders. He had severe injuries to his head, and if he did not get medical attention soon, he could be seriously injured or die.
Let us say for a second that the police chief was correct. Would Robert Williams’s plan not be the most logical plan to free the Freedom Riders? They had already been in jail a full day, so it was apparent the commissioner was not planning to give them medical attention. If nothing was done, James Farmer could die. Farmer was one of the “Big Six” organizers during the Civil Rights Movement. If the movement lost him in 1961, it might have never recovered. If the police chief is correct, it is obvious Robert Williams’s actions met the moment.
The difference between Williams’s self-defense strategy and Dr. Martin Luther King’s strategy of non-violence was the idea White people felt remorse on the issue of Black oppression. It was Robert Williams’s stance that Whites did not have remorse for their actions. King thought that if Whites saw Blacks’ resilience in the face of violence, their hearts would change. In reality, some White people could be reformed while others could not. The ability to have leaders in taking both stances was essential to the Civil Rights Movement’s success.
Robert Williams used networks of socialists and communists to procure weapons without himself being a communist. He did not believe the abolition of religion was feasible in the Black community. He also understood White workers would never unite with Black workers. Yet, he strategically used his affiliation with leftist organizations to procure weapons for Monroe’s defense. As all in Orange meme, he could build an alliance based on need. The ideological difference was always secondary.
Some will say Blacks should never advocate for self-defense. In their minds, Black people could never win in and armed conflict with Whites. The stance of Blacks never being able to win in a battle of Whites is a White Supremacist stance. Robert Williams knew a full-scale Black rebellion would cripple the economy of America. If America can’t make money, it will make concessions to Black people.
Don Beck classified the French, American, and Communist Revolution as part of the Orange meme. Why would a Black American Revolution be any different? Robert Williams was very clear that he advocated for self-defense, not revenge. If Robert Williams wanted revenge, he had at least two opportunities. One to lynch the Whites that attacked the Black women in 1959. The second would be the lynching of the Steagalls. Instead, Williams advocated for self-defense. His philosophy was rational and ethical.
Often Integralists try to equate Black Militancy as the Black version of White Supremacy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Black Militancy was founded as a form of self-defense. There was nothing in Black Militancy that is about revenge or exterminating Whites. White Supremacy is a uniquely European problem. When people equate Black Militancy to White Supremacy, they only attempt to justify or deflect from atrocities of White Supremacy.
There very well may be individuals in the Black community that feel Blacks are superior to Whites. However, there has been no mass movement by Blacks that moved to exterminate any other race. Again some individuals preach Black Supremacy, but Whites have never lived in fear of Black violence on a massive scale. There was no Black equivalent of the KKK burning towns of Whites. There have never been public displays of killing Whites on the same level as lynchings in the South. It is just not something that has happened