Martin appropriate time (in the eyes of the

MartinLuther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is a letter to eight white clergymenwhile he’s sitting in a jail cell, the result of a protest in Birmingham, Alabamathat King, a Georgian, traveled to attend. Due to the criticisms of theclergymen, he commences his letter by explaining why he needed to come toBirmingham. King states that he was there for a multitude of reasons, the firstbeing that he had organizational ties to Birmingham, the second that he wasthere because there was injustice in Birmingham. He states that as a citizen ofAmerica, injustice in Birmingham is not removed from justice anywhere elsebecause everything is interrelated, and that injustice anywhere is a threat tojustice everywhere. Consequently, he criticizes the lamentations of theclergymen, stating that the clergymen who so blatantly deplore the protestdemonstrations, but don’t consider the reason for the demonstrations, thusshowing that their concerns were only with the effects of the protest, and not withthe reason for the protest itself.Hethen proceeds to debase the “Wait!” rationale often offered by white moderates byasserting how there is never an appropriate time (in the eyes of the oppressor)for the oppressed to fight for their liberty, describing in excruciatinglypainful detail why it’s so hard to “wait” by offering a plethora of examples. Hethen refers to his earlier statement about the apathy of the clergymen regardingthe reason for the demonstrations, alluding to their anxiety over the protestorswillingness to break the law. However, he brings up a dichotomy: the laxnessand rigidity in which different laws are enforced.

Namely, he sarcastically refersto the apprehensive enforcement of the 1954 Supreme Court decision outlawingsegregation. Well, why are only somelaws enforced? King answers this question by stating that there are two kindsof laws: just and unjust. The former is mainly characterized by one quality:morality. See, for a law to be just, it cannot be forced upon a specificdemographic of the population by another; every demographic must have theopportunity for equal representation in the proposition of said law. Otherwise,there will always be a feeling of being acted-upon for the oppressed ratherthan collectively acting as a nation.  Furthermore, King states that for a law to bejust it cannot distort the human psyche. Yet, segregationist laws do just that,in the oppressed and the oppressors– they replace dignity in the oppressed with a false sense of inferiority andreplace compassion in the oppressor with a false sense of superiority. Any lawthat does such damage to a population cannot be morally nor religiously just.

For a law to be just, it must uplift the population, not divide it, not damageit. There is a moral obligation to disobey unjust laws, for there are moreimportant characteristics of a law than its legality.             Furthermore, King explains that there are laws which arejust, but are used unjustly to oppress minorities.

An example he offers is whenhe was arrested for parading without a permit. He succinctly asserts that thereis nothing wrong with having such a law, however, there is an injustice whensaid law is used to deprive him of his constitutional right of peacefulassembly.Additionally, Kingestablishes criteria for breaking unjust laws, lest the clergymen accuse him ofencouraging anarchy. He states that anyone who chooses to break unjust lawsmust do so with full responsibility, acceptance of the consequences, and love.Furthermore, it is precisely this individual, this unruly individual, that is demonstratingthe highest respect for the law, for this individual makes him/herself a martyrto invoke change to a law that they deem deeply unfair. This is a stark distinctionfrom citizens who apathetically follow the law, just or unjust, for legality’ssake. Truthfully, America was built by people who were unafraid to break unjustlaws, people who realized that laws are man-made, malleable, and multi-faceted,and King alludes to this by begetting the civil disobedience that caused theBoston Tea Party.

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Moreover,it is entirely possible for unfair, and evil acts to be completely legal- thisis most starkly evidenced by the Holocaust. The laws that were legal during theHolocaust are universally viewed as vividly unjust. This suggests that whendeciding to follow a law, the only criteria should not be to follow it simplyfor the law’s sake. It’s fairness, justness, morality, and effects should allbe equally assessed.             Conclusively, it’s evidenced that King was not the sortof person to idly sit while injustice occurred; he actively created change,sacrificing his liberty, comfort, and life. In the most inspirational way, hedemonstrated that our moral compass is greater than any words on any paper thatany group of old white men can devise. It is because of unruly revolutionarieslike Dr.

King that African-Americans have achieved the accomplishments theyhave today.