Martin Luther King's writings

Focus: Letter From Birmingham Jail

Numerous writings had already been written advocating that freedom belongs to all men and women, but only few were able to reflect the true state of racial injustices the oppressed are experiencing and its effects to the people. Only few were able to serve as catalysts for a peaceful revolution for the purpose of conferring freedom to the exploited race. One of these is the Letter from Birmingham Jail. Written by Dr. Martin Luther King, it provided categorical answers to the questions and criticisms thrown at him by his fellow clergymen due to his leadership of the nonviolent direct actions against racism.

The Letter from Birmingham Jail afforded a clear and concise view of the different aspects of racism towards the African-American people. It presented the reality, without biases, as to how the Negro people suffered under the clutches of racial discrimination. It offered an alternative solution to end the racial inferiority concept.

The letter was written when Dr. Martin Luther King was imprisoned in Birmingham Jail; thus, I can easily see the author's courage that despite the loneliness of incarceration, he still managed to continue Martin Luther King, Jr. Biographythe black man's cause for emancipation from racist prejudices. As what was said, he is in Birmingham "because injustice is here." What he was saying was that whenever and wherever injustices and racial discrimination occur, he will be there to lead the fight against these prejudices.

Reading the letter can evoke a feeling of patriotism in each one of us. The writer somewhat contended that the United States is composed of different states but is one cohesive nation; thus, the differences in race in the citizenry is immaterial in creating a strong nation. In his words, Martin Luther King wrote that "we (the citizens of theUnited States) are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial 'outside agitator' idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds." Hence, I feel that racism has no place in a united and progressive nation. Racial discrimination only leads to the corrosion of the foundation and structure that make the United States of America great.

I find that there is truth in the writer's statement that "freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." I can say that racism is a euphemism for dictatorship. As what history is telling us, persons in authority find it hard to relinquish their position and tend to be corrupted by power itself. This creates a state of dictatorship wherein the freedom of the people is greatly limited.

Enumerating the four basic steps of a non-violent campaign, Dr. Martin Luther King was able to provide guidelines to engage the public and let them know the plight of the African-American race in a non-violent way.

It surely feels right that before a protest rally is to be conducted, facts should be collected first to determine if injustices are existent. Without this first step, individuals make hasty generalizations that often lead to misunderstanding, and eventually lead to the commission of violence by the two opposing parties; what ensues after is anarchy. 

It seems that there is a thin line separating violence and success if direct action is employed as a means to get the attention of the public. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote that "nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue." Therefore, this mode of protest should be exercised with care for the "creation of a crisis" and the "fostering of tension" are volatile actions; one wrong step and this crisis and tension could blow into a full-scale chaos.

Laws are created in order to maintain order in a society, but it is contended that laws are either just or unjust. Dr. Martin Luther King's answer as to what is the difference between the two is a brilliant one. He wrotMartin Luther King, Jr. Quotese that "a just law is a mad-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law."

However, I disagree to his suggestion to break the law whenever people see this as unjust. This would open to capricious violations of the law, the citizens breaking the law at their own whims. Laws are meant to prevent disorder, not to assist mob rule. Instead of using this mode of protest, what the protesters have to do is to maximize the potential use of the legal ways of airing grievances.

Nevertheless, the Letter from Birmingham Jail demonstrates to us the excellent argumentative skills Dr. Martin Luther King possesses. I believe that all his contentions in the letter far outweigh the arguments proposed by the clergymen. In fact it provided us a picture of what really happened during the turbulent years of widespread racism in our country, and put forward alternatives to violent mass actions.