Each Martin Luther King Day, i post his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is much more widely cited, but I have always seen his “Letter” — scribbled on scraps of paper in an Alabama jail cell — as the quintessential indictment of a society that professes liberty and justice for all, but ensures it only for a select few.
Dr. King’s letter excuses no American for the abuses of institutionalized bigotry. Some of his most eloquent words condemn the apathy of armchair progressives who praised his cause but not his methods, which were nonviolent and usually met with violence. An excerpt:
“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’
“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection…”
Please read the letter here. And God bless The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a true American patriot who died for the country he loved.