Lawlessness is synonymous with disobedience. Disobedience is man’s original virtue, and it is through disobedience that progress has been made (Walker et al, 1996, p. xii). Princeton University’s WorldNet (2005) dictionary defines lawlessness as anarchy with the premise of disorder usually resulting from a failure of government, where as the Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines it as “1) contrary to or without regard for the law…2) being without law; uncontrolled by a law; unbridled; unruly; unrestrained” (2006).
In terms of lawlessness as unrestrained behavior, uncontrolled by a law compared to the jurisprudence of “law,” clearly lawlessness has had the greatest impact on American society and politics since 1945. One common impact through the years since 1945 has been racial tension and hatred, of which Bloom & Breines (2003) vividly illustrate through stories of freedom, independence, mobs, and anarchy.
In Taking it to the streets (Bloom & Breines, 2003) the authors state: “Such leaders are most often men of good will who do not condone violence and, perhaps even now, see no relation between the civil disobedience which they counsel and the riots and violence which have erupted. Yet, once the decision is made that laws need not be obeyed -whatever the rationale -a contribution is made to a climate of lawlessness” (p. 340). Concerning the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.
, the President commented, urging “every citizen to reject the blind violence that has struck Dr. King…We can achieve nothing by lawlessness and divisiveness among the American people” (2003, p. 424). Violence is the forefront for lawlessness, as this paper will support. The example of Dr. King’s murder, the War in Vietnam, multiple student movements for peace and nonviolent action in times of conflict, among others indicate that Americans want better circumstances, better obedience of the laws that govern this nation.
However, just as the “law” does not instill refrain in those who commit crimes, the law cannot remove or eradicate lawlessness altogether. The Civil Rights Movement has had a vast impact on lawlessness. In fact, in the years after 1965, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) worked to move to the center of the civil rights struggle, embracing positions more radical than its predecessors. SNCC drew college students from all over the country — black and white, male and female, northern and southern — into the civil rights movement (Bloom & Breines, 2003).
Conflicts over race flowed over into welfare issues, including that of the welfare rights movement. According to Davis (1993), along with black liberation, the New Left, and feminism, the welfare rights movement engendered and brought into popular consciousness expanded notions of rights and participatory democracy. Changes were influenced by ideologies of liberation, as well as programs devised through the war on poverty. It was during this time that low-income women campaigned to address their needs.
According to the 1970 federal census, almost 17 percent of District residents’ incomes fell below the federal poverty line; among these, African American women outnumbered white women by three times. In such a setting, welfare activists’ rhetoric and demands, as well as policy makers’ reactions, reflected the interconnections among race, class, and gender. Although the political and economic context of Washington was unique, the D. C.
welfare rights movement resembled those in other cities in terms of its origin, tactics, and intensity. As Davis (2003) suggests, recipients of public assistance were conscious of and angered by the ways the welfare system acted as a form of social control. Recipient-activists demanded not only increased funds, but also insisted that self-determination and participation in shaping policies would permit them to be better mothers. The demands of activists were two-fold: justified and lawlessly enacted.