Martin Luther King, Jr., Lecture Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (1963)
He believed in nonviolent, direct-action programs with cooperation with whites in a full partnership, unlike Gandhi who loathed English civilization. He said there was an inescapable network of mutuality to achieve justice in our society.
He had Four Basic Steps to achieve Non-Violence
1. collect facts to see if there is an injustice
3. self-purification (Gandhi: satyagraha)
4. He believed in direct action with sit-ins, marches, and economic boycotts in addressing a crisis in order to bring injustice to a resolution by negotiation.
Groups, including churches, tend to be more immoral than individuals because the individual transgressor can hide from moral responsibility. Why people seldom do evil alone. Discrimination with violence has largely been done by mob actions, particularly lynchings. Quote: "Justice too long delayed is justice denied." If people are in pain, then the body politic is diseased; hence, treatment must intervene to save the whole. Dr. King said there is a "nobodiness" of being black in America, which he said is psychologically traumatizing; inducing necessarily resentment towards whites.
Oppressed people tend subtly to assimilate stereotypes into their self-identities and such a demeaning process can damage self-esteem and the ability to lead a happy and stress-free life. St. Augustine: "An unjust law is no law at all." He said there is a right to resist. An unjust law is a human law not rooted in the law of God--but what are the laws of God on race? Human indignation over racial slights is pitted against human laws to make new human laws like the Civil Rights acts of 1964 and 1965.
Again, simply saying we are all God's children does not necessarily change political relationships which are based on who has the power. If to change a law is not in your economic self-interest, these religious appeals will fall on deaf ears. In America, there has been a mixture recently of religion and politics, but usually by accentuating differences, such as abortion. Religion usually has had a history of dividing more than reconciling different groups. Look at the former Yugoslavia. Because of their ignorance, people see difference as threatening their interests rather than enriching their lives with new contacts. It is based on a Malthusian assumption of competition for scarce goods and services by too many people.
This doctrine emerged as Social Darwinism and still enjoys widespread popularity. Segregation: I-it relationship replaces "I-thou" relationship. He takes this analogy from the Jewish theologian, Martin Buber. Racial hatreds make the weaker party an object of contempt by falsifying his representation as less than human to the general populace. Jews had a bad press in the world during the thirties and forties. Now, they often own the means of communication and project a better image of themselves as philanthropists and educators, not the old portrayal of their being communists and bankers engaged in a world conspiracy to take over the world.
The black male has been presented as an embodiment of criminality rather than as a victim of historical circumstances from which it is hard to liberate oneself without help from proactive civil rights workers. It is ironic that Jews once were in the forefront of the civil rights movement, but they have fallen out over the issue of Palestinians and control of neighborhoods economically. The racial laws were unjust because the blacks had no part in making them since they were denied the due process of registering to vote. Quote: "One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty." This disobedience pays the highest respect to the spirit of the law and not just the substance, which can be false and iniquitous. A just law applies to all and thus is universal.
Dr. King takes issue with white moderates who have a mythical concept of time that is paternalistic; it is the patronizing attitude that things will right themselves of their own accord. In the end, passivity only reinforces the status quo. In Hitler's Germany, the Jews were told to sit tight because there would be an army coup to overthrow Hitler if he became too aggressive. Hitler used that time of indifference to murder his political opponents and deport the Jews to Auschwitz. There is a connection between the temporal world and politics, particularly if you want to be a survivor you must know when to act decisively, even violently. Hitler certainly is an argument for tyrannicide.
Hannah Arendt says there are "enemies of mankind" who are a threat to humanity; hence, they must be killed as a moral imperative to guarantee the world's international security. King was caught between black appeasers, who argued for capitulation to the status quo, and the militant black nationalists of the Nation of Islam, who argued for separation. He realized both instances, if carried to an extreme, would lead to racial suicide. The whites are the social environment; hence, to survive, you must reach an accommodation with white moderates. Dr. King was for integration because he believed there was power in the diversity of numbers if in unity. He realized mainstream America is a middle-class, centrist coalition of voters. He went for the majority rule of the centrists in order to attain power.
He even convinced President Johnson of his being right. American citizens will buy a
gradualist approach to social change, particularly if they are shown how it will lead to
more economic prosperity. Black labor built the initial capital formation of the nation
for centuries. The interest in equality is now due. The Lockean and natural right to
appropriate the fruits of your stolen labor is a moral imperative that should be part of
America's agenda. But you need the power. The power can only come from numbers of people
united in coalitions with a clear-cut program to change the power relationships if
manifestly unjust. There are many white Americans who cannot make the good life in this
country because of discriminatory classist practices. Hence, there are many discontented
groups who do not yet trust each other enough to build bridges of understanding. On the
basis of class, caste, and gender discrimination, there is a basis to articulate
grievances in a multicultural politics. How you frame the questions for the next century
will determine whether the middle class, which is the backbone of American democracy, can
survive in the near future.