If you have not read (or recently re-read) Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” this holiday in his honor might be a good time to do it. King later wrote that he composed his famous letter “under somewhat constricting circumstances,” after his arrest during a civil rights demonstration.
The letter was in response to a letter from a group of local clergymen, who asked King to be patient in his efforts to end racial injustice. They also complained that he was an “outsider” causing trouble in Birmingham. To that he replied:
“… I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”
I think of this in light of what so many of you have done to help end an injustice in Arkansas. We are, as King wrote, “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” As you have helped us here, you have also helped “all indirectly,” for we know that injustice such as that faced by the “brothers and sisters” for whom King fought and that experienced by the WM3 is also felt by many, many others—black, white and poor.
Here’s Dr. King’s great letter.