Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Essay, "Letter From Birmingham Jail,"

1047 words - 4 pages

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s essay, "Letter from Birmingham Jail," answers the charges of eight of his fellow clergyman who labeled his civil rights activities as both "'unwise and untimely'" (153). Although, as a reader, we can detect the anger that King feels towards the accusation, he attempts to answer the charge in a "patient and reasonable" manner (153). For example, he quietly explains that he is in Birmingham "because [he] was invited; because [he has] organizational ties [there]; and because injustice is [there]" (154). More specifically, King asserts the main reason for his presence is because of the inequity manifested; comparing himself to the eighth century prophets who left the area of their birth to convey their '"thus saith the Lord'" greatly outside the confines of their own homes, "so [was he] compelled to carry the gospels of freedom beyond [his] home town" (154). Justice to King is all-important, playing a large part in every aspect of his life that he felt the need to travel forth replacing injustice for justice. In order to understand King's concept of justice: let us examine his distinctions between just and unjust laws; the danger of the white moderate; and his disappointment with the church. The distinction between just and unjust laws is key to the understanding of King's concept of justice, for it explains why his acts of civil disobedience are moral acts. For example, whereas a "just law is a manmade code that squares with the moral law or the law of god," a law that is unjust "is out of harmony with the moral law"(158). In other words, a law--if just--should not constitute to the demeaning of a person because of their race, religion, or creed. It therefore follows that "all segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority" (159). In a nation based on freedom and equality, it should be obvious that any law that represses the individual is unjust. King asseverates that one should break an unjust law, and "do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty" (160). For example, in the history of the United State, our nation fought for freedom, from the British monarchy, because of the inequality between the colonists and the citizens of England, and the unfair taxes, laws, and stipulations levied against the colonies. Segregation too levies unfair laws and stipulations against a people, "relegating persons to the status of things," rather then as equals and individuals: "difference made legal" (159). Even with these all too evident justifications to condemn unjust laws, the white moderate chose to ignore them: desiring only order. This desire for order left King disappointed in the white moderate "who constantly says, 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action,'" and shallowly cannot see the...

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