, Newburyport, MA


June 17, 2014

King's words have continued relevance

To the editor:

Jailed for illegal acts of coordinated marches and protests, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. composed an open letter on April 3,1963, directed to fellow clergymen who criticized his methods of bringing light to racial prejudice and segregation in the South.

These white clergymen who formed a coalition named “Call To Unity” argued that the only method for appropriately addressing racial segregation was through the court system. This was predicated on the concept of negotiating a revised social structure that would reduce blatant, hate-filled policies that manifested themselves throughout the South in the form of signs, symbolism and policies of restrictive access to public facilities and institutions. The laws were also painfully silent against criminal regresses of beatings, police brutality and the killing of innocent people.

The letter’s central thesis explored the rationale for engaging in acts of non-violent tension as an alternative to negotiation. In fact, King argued that the way to challenge the legitimacy of the law and correct social and political injustice required an examination of options along four steps.

1. Collection of the facts to determine if there is injustice; 2, negotiation; 3, self-purification; and 4, non-violent action. Since negotiation requires a willing party with opposing views to engage in constructive discussion, non-violent action became a suitable alternative with the long-term aim of eventually forcing negotiation.

I believe that this has significance for many people since injustice is not isolated to a political realm but can also be found in the home, the workplace and our community in various indignant forms.

King assumed that the basis for non-violent action, however, had to be supported first by a thorough self-examination. Thus, self-purification became a prerequisite. The philosophical dilemma of taking action without malice surely was a goal .since he was moved by theological and spiritual motivations.

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