April 12, 1963 Dr. Martin L. King’s Letters from the Birmingham, AL Jail to the Clergy

March 22, 2016

(The Judeo-Christian's technics of Dr. King in the civil rights movement)

 

The Issue of Injustice and Protest in Dr. King’s day:

Reverent Martin Luther King Jr. was known by many names. For many, he was a reverent, a civil right activist, a non-violent protestor, an organizer, a teacher, etc. For others, he was just a trouble maker and an agitator. But among all these names he was called, whether positive or negative, there are two of them that made him a remarkable person, an icon and they are; reverent and civil right activist. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came at a time where people of minorities especially the colored ones were experiencing serious social injustice from their own local leaders.
They did not have the right to vote, to sit in front of the bus, the right to decent and well-paid jobs, the opportunity to get a quality education, and most of all they were not regarded as being equal to other race, such as Caucasians. In his letter to the clergy while in jail, Mr. King clearly explained how difficult it was for colored people to function within the same society that is oppressing them and make them believe that they are lesser humans as compare to races "Whites".

At that time, the signs “Whites only” and “Colored only” were everywhere and it was almost impossible and very shameful for a father or a mother to explain to their colored children that they were inferior to Caucasian children. As a result, they could not play in the same park with them or even talk to them as if they were buddies. As a preacher and a civil right activist, Mr. Martin Luther King Jr. felt the urgency to do something about the political and socio-economic situation of the minorities especially the colored people was now, not lather, because just like he has mentioned in his letter to the clergy “Colored people have waited for way too long and now is the time” (King, Martin Luther, Jr. and Rachel's Democracy & Health News, 2006).
To address the various issues the minorities and colored individuals were dealing with Mr. King did not believe in negotiation, due to the fact that promises were broken way too many times before. His only option was non-violent street protests and civil disobedience in order to bring concerned leaders at that time to reason. 
Mr. King once said, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied” as a result, the issue of social injustice could no longer wait regardless of the consequences. But what was he referring to when he said Justice too long delayed is justice denied? Well, he was referring to socio-economic inequality as well as political inequality.

 

(Judeo-Christian Ethics and the Civil Right Movement)

 

To understand the role Judeo-Christian ethics played in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s movement, it is imperative to first understand what Judeo-Christian ethics stands for. The term Judeo-Christian refers to a combination of both teaching, Judaism and Christian. It is one system of values, laws, and of course ethical codes. Judeo-Christian is also a culture of values that emphasizes one’s civil rights to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of happiness (Argosy University and Richard L., 2016).
The Judeo-Christian's teaching helps us understand the importance of human life and the necessity to preserve it. In fact, in our (U.S.) declaration of independence act, it clearly said that every man and woman, and child has the right to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of happiness (Library of Congress, 2019). This is very identical to what has been thought in the Judeo-Christian's principles. In fact, to date, the U.S. is the only country that has been established on a Judeo-Christian system, however, many are being denied their very basic rights.

 

(Dr. King and his Christian Ethics)


In Mr. King’s letter, he wrote: “We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights.” He further explained that “There comes a time where the cup of endurance runs over.” According to the Judeo-Christian ethics, every man is created equal and free. This is what Mr. King had relied on to legitimate his non-violent street protests. He was not advocating for anything else, but the very basic human’s right that was denied to minorities and colored people for way too long (King, Martin Luther, Jr. and Rachel's Democracy & Health News, 2006).
This is why when many accused him of being an extremist, a trouble maker, that his movement was unwise and untimely. He replied by saying “there cannot be effects without causes”. This mean, if colored people’s rights were not denied for too long in the first place there would not have been any need for street protests. So the Judeo-Christian's principles were significantly used by Mr. King not only to justify but also to allow civil disobedience by those who were unhappy with those in charge.
For Dr. King, injustice on minorities and colored people in Birmingham, AL was no different from injustice against minorities and colored people in any other place in the south. In fact, he once said, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere” (King, Martin Luther, Jr. and Rachel's Democracy & Health News, 2006).

 

(Dr. King’s Four Steps to Non-violent Campaign)

 

According to Doctor Martin Luther King Jr, any form of peaceful demonstration has four steps and they are as follow: 
Collections of the facts in order to determine if injustice exists, negotiation if possible, self-purification, and direct action (King, Martin Luther, Jr. and Rachel's Democracy & Health News, 2006). Doctor King’s four steps do not reconcile with the Jewish ethical principle that stipulates an eye for an eye. If it was so, there would've been violence against whites across the country, even those who had nothing to do with the socio-economic and political injustice that was taking place at that time.
His approach to the issue of injustice was pro-Christian and this is why it was so successful as compared to other leaders who came before him who were fighting for the same thing but with different methods. On the other end, I do believe his steps reconcile with the Christian ethical principle that stands for love one another. He inspired both whites and blacks to love one another. He helped the society to see beyond colors and that we all are humans, and brothers and sisters of one race, which is the human race.

Dr. King’s Four Steps to non-violent Campaign in our day: 
Well, I will pick my own country of origin, which is Haiti. Haiti is a country that’s been going through tragedies one after another for decades, even centuries. Most of them are men created tragedies. This is a country where socio-economic injustice is very loud and clear in front of everybody. In fact, it is estimated that more than 80% of the Haitian population is living way below the poverty line. 
The situation is so bad, to a point where what us to call the middle-class working group is shrinking while the group of those living in extreme poverty is growing. It gets to a point where either you are poor or you are rich. The social imbalance is very high, it constantly generates serious tensions between the poor and the rich.

 

Doctor King’s four steps to the non-violent campaign would be used to solve this socio-economic and political issue by; 
1) First investigating the issue (Social Injustice) within the Haitian society in order to collect evidence, which I'm sure he would've found many pieces of evidence of social injustice that triggers serious social imbalances. 
2) Second, he would've tried to negotiate a solution, perhaps better socio-economics' conditions for those living way below the poverty line, extreme poverty (the poor) and facilitated them better access to education. 
3) The third step would've been, teaching the Haitians the importance of renouncing to violence and the power that resides non-violent protests that are well organized. But here's the thing about social injustice is that; when people are being mistreated for way too long, after a certain period of time, they will have the tendency to become very impulsive and unpredictable, which totally works against them as well as their cause as.
So teaching them how to control themselves from any form of provocation or being tempted to violence would've been essential. 
4) The fourth and final step would've been, taking direct action within the Haitian society, this means denouncing injustice, boycotting activities, disturb the peace in a non-violent way in order to bring everyone within the society to the table and awakened their consciousness about what's really going on, which is inhuman, unjust, and unfair.

 

References

Argosy University (2016). Ethics across Cultures, 1st Edition. Critical Thinking and Moral Reasoning. Data Retrieved on 07/29/2015, from: https://digitalbookshelf.argosy.edu/#/books/007-7376293/pages/48418937?return=/books/007-7376293/outline/7

King, Martin Luther, Jr. and Rachel's Democracy & Health News (2006). Letter from a Birmingham, AL Jail. Data Retrieved on 07/29/2015, from: http://search.proquest.com.libproxy.edmc.edu/docview/205008318/abstract/41D9BC37A2E24DA0PQ/1?accountid=34899

Richard L. (2015). The Seven Principle of the Judeo-Christian Ethic. Data Retrieved on 07/29/2015, from: http://www.sermoncentral.com/articlec.asp?article=Richard-Lee-7-Principles-Judeo-Christian-Ethic&Page=1&ac&csplit=9060

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