“Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere,”are the words of Martin Luther King Jr. penned in a 1963 letter he wrote while incarcerated in a Birmingham Jail during the height of grave racial tensions and segregation. King believed in a nonviolent approach to combatting racial inequalities and injustice and I too, support the approach he took. MLK cites in his letter that his non-violent approach was more instinctive than anything else. He was from a line of preachers, people who embodied the church and believed in treating each other equally and taking the “christian approach.
I could see myself using such an approach because as a young man growing up I was taught in church and by my parents to treat people equally, respectfully and to resolve issues in a non-violent manner-that’s without fghting. King also cited in his letter that during this racially charged period he served as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating In every southern state, with it’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
One of the affiliates in Birmingham had asked King and his group to participate in a direct action program if it became necessary. That moment came and they engaged in emonstrations, marches, sit-ins and other civil disobedience. I can definitely relate to these efforts. I recall police brutality in a community in which I lived. People were crying out for Justice so we (community leaders and residents) blocked the streets with all sorts of objects, lit tires on fire, wrote placards and staged demonstrations.
We also sat In the streets obstructing the flow of traffic. Like in King’s case that direct action brought about negotiations on both sides. It came at a cost as some of us got arrested and were given citations. King also responded to criticism of him advocating o follow and obey the laws yet he was also breaking them. King said that not only should one have a legal but also a moral responsibility to obey Just laws. On the other hand one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.
These “sit-downs,” boycotts of stores, marches and demonstrations were done at strategic times to create maximum impact. These were great ideas but I would have taken it a step further. I would have worked on a strategy to gain occupancy of the stores and restaurants that continued to display emotionally charged signage. Upon full agreement to dismantle such signage, full control would then be returned to their ightful owners. King’s main reference to disobeying the law was a Supreme Court’s 1954 decision to outlaw segregation in public schools.
King said although the segregationist did not comply with the court’s decision he was in no way advocating, evading or defying the law but when such law is unjust one must approach it lovingly, openly and with the willingness to accept the consequences. Obviously King and his followers accepted the consequences and that in part is how he ended up in the Birmingham Jail. King said that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.
Martin Luther King referenced that had it not been for the influence of the Negro Church the path of nonviolence would not have been an integral part of the struggle. Even in today’s society when as King saw it, and so do I would have been bloodshed and chaos. In conclusion on this brief take on Martin Luther King’s letter from Birmingham Jail I could understand fully why he took the nonviolent approach in trying to combat racial inequalities and justice for humanity. One has to exhibit a sense of calmness and tolerance , though difficult so as to distinguish one’s self from the perpetrators of evil and injustice on others.