Martin Luther King’s remarks in “Letter from Birmingham Jail were a response to remarks made by white clergy men saying that he was an outsider and his move for direct action was untimely. His remarks in the letter considering it was quite long addressed many issues about injustices of segregation saying they could wait no more to have their right granted, and that justice for the oppressed does not come from the oppressor willingly, which is true and saying that justice long delayed is justice denied. His remarks responded to the statements of the clergymen in details ensuring to leave none of the statement out and going further than the clergymen could have expected. He sought to prove them wrong by justifying his action was wise and required no timing. I believe that Martin’s remarks went too far considering that he used a lot of rhetoric to appeal to his remarks (Kirszner, & Mandell, 234).
In the second paragraph as he answers why he is in Birmingham, he says he was invited and had ties to Birmingham being a president of the southern Christian Leadership Conference that operates in all the southern states. He further affirms that he was invited by the affiliate organization to his organization stating he was there because he was invited. In the third paragraph, he goes further to say he is there because; injustice is there, supporting his argument with examples from characters in the Bible. This point makes me feel that he went too far in attacking Birmingham considering that racial segregation was not only here but also in other states, and further using support from bible looked like a direct attack to the state, that it was not aware of the current situation and needed an outsider. More so, some of the statements used such as saying he cannot sit idly in Atlanta express some degree of anger.
Another point I feel goes too far in his remarks is his justification of their direct action. He says that they the Negroes are left with no choice by the white power structures, except to use their bodies as the way to move forward in their course in presenting their point of view to the community and the nation. I feel that this statement was a little bent towards physical action that might suggest violence. More still he portrays Birmingham as the worst place where segregation is deeply rooted and attributes it to the white power, which I believe had truth in it but the statements used amplify the situation. He further uses more rhetoric questions asking whether one can accept blows without reiteration, to justify their call for direct action. In the tenth paragraph as he justifies direct action, he does not mind saying that it is meant to create enough tension that will raise concerns to consider negotiations or dramatize the issue. I feel that such tension could worsen the situation in case it is interpreted wrong even though the motive might be right, also considering that he says its motive is to create a crisis so that negotiations can be sought.
Moreover, the remarks go too far when he is appealing to the reader making the situation look bigger than one would think it was in the 1960s, in a way that creates some resentment of the oppressor. In the twelfth paragraph, describes what blacks have gone through due to segregation, putting phrase after phrase to lay emphasis of the injustices committed due to segregation going far back to 340 years, when blacks had no rights to use the same facilities with the white race. Considering that he meant to justify why the direct action could not wait, I feel the remarks in the previous paragraph about justice that is delayed is equal to justice being denied and remarks about the elections being enough reasons to justify timing of the action, and using the experiences just went a little more far.
His remarks are further taken too far by the inclusion of Adolf Hitler and his laws that prevented anybody from helping to the Jews who were being killed at the time, saying that according to Hitler it was illegal to do so. Further, he cites the Hungarian fight for freedom as illegal in terms of the law at that time and they still fought on to attain their freedom. This remark went far to say that blacks had the right to fight for their freedom no matter the laws that prevented them from their course. In response to the statement saying that his actions precipitate violence, he remarks by saying that this equates to blaming a person for being rich that the robber is attracted to his wealth, or blaming Jesus for his crucifixion for being God.
In his response to the extremist statement, he goes further to say that even Jesus was an extremist of love and Amos an extremist of justice to justify himself as an extremist of desegregation rights. He further says that the three men on Calvary hill were crucified for being extremists, which goes quite far considering that the other two were thieves. His remarks have further gone too far when he talks about the police saying that the white clergymen commend them for their discipline during the direct action since they did not use violence. He says that it makes no difference when they use violence on the blacks since the church leaders just watch and do nothing and neither do they commend them, saying that the only reason they did the right thing was to maintain the status quo of segregation. I feel this was a kind and disciplinary gesture of the police in, while he finds it to be the opposite.
I feel that martin’s remarks went too far in response to the statement made by the white clergymen whose statements concerned the wisdom of the direct action and its timing. Martin went too far in responding to the statements by use of rhetoric questions and phrases aimed at appealing to the reader, though they were exaggerated to put more emphasis (Kirszner, & Mandell, 234). Reading the letter for the first time one feels the weight he carried by the use of many examples of experiences the Negroes had gone through. More still, he portrayed Birmingham as the worst place that segregation took place with much weight.
Kirszner, L.G. and Mandell, S.R. (2006). Patterns for College Writing. New York, NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s.