Dr. King begins his letter by responding to the all the clergymen and their concerns/critics towards his actions. King’s first claim is that it is not his place as an “outsider” to come cause conflict in Birmingham to start with. He tells them that the organization he’s in was invited to come to Birmingham and that’s the reason why he’s there in the first place. He adds that part of his reason for coming to Birmingham is to fight “injustice”. He explains this as the reason that got him into jail adding that his was protest act was purely a nonviolent action.
King was also the president of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), an organization that had been practicing “direction action” for nonviolent protests. He compares himself to Apostle Paul as the both fought for freedom in their own times. “…just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.” King’s third reasons is “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” King means by this that what might affect some affects others too.
King was also criticized on his ways of getting his point across. He explains his nonviolent act in four basic steps “:collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action.” King argues that Birmingham is one of the most segregated cities in the United States if not the most one. He says the White Power didn’t leave them with any other options but to “fight back”. “The signs remained. As in so many experiences of the past, we were confronted with blasted hopes, and the dark shadow of a deep disappointment settled upon us. So we had no alternative except that of preparing for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and national community.
We were not unmindful of the difficulties involved.” King argues that their intention was to create smart tension by getting on everyone’s faces in order to see change faster. They’re tired of waiting. He tells them they won’t wait any longer. “For years now I have heard the word ‘wait.’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘never.’ It has been a tranquilizing thalidomide, relieving the emotional stress for a moment, only to give birth to an ill-formed infant of frustration. We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’
King then explains the difference between just and unjust laws. “An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.” I personally think that King argued his actions pretty well by saying this. He argues that direct action is the path to negotiation saying arguing that’s what they were doing. King has a very powerful paragraph in which he explains how hard it was for black parents to explain to their children why white people treated them the way they did.
Or why they can’t do certain things they want to do. From a young age parents answer their children’s questions about these injustices with nothing but the hard truth.“…When you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people…”
King opens up about his disappointment towards the white church. “Things are different now. The contemporary church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s often vocal sanction of things as they are.” King concludes his letter by awkowldeging the nasty behavior of the policemen towards black people including kids. He then apologizes for his long letter and hopes for forgiveness from the clergymen and God for his actions.
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