Where we are, where we’ve been, and where we should be.

When I was in fourth grade I was asked to write a story about my hero, and I could pick any one in the world; I wrote about Martin Luther King Jr. Today I find myself writing about my long lost hero once again after reading his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. In this letter King is sitting in a jail cell after protesting against segregation. I found so many things in this letter inspiring to me; I feel that this letter brought me back to what it was like at that day in age.

In the 14th paragraph of this article after being told his timing was not right for this protest he wrote why exactly timing is not of importance when you are being treated unfairly. As he described many things that happened to African Americans, and the things that he was trying to help put to a halt, it made me think about how far we have come. I think that we as a society forget that we have come so far, and that people sat in jails, were beaten, and even killed fighting so that we have the kind of freedom we are all able to have today. I say that we forget about how far we’ve come because there is still racism and hatred everywhere.

On page 701 King states how as an African America your first name becomes “nigger” for the whites; yet to this day you still hear people (all races including African American) calling each other such names even though that was something that they fought so hard to come up out of, and now it seems it is a part of most young kids/teens/young adults vocabulary. It also caught my eye when he was bringing their attention to other faults of justice. King stated that what Hitler did in Germany to the Jewish was declared “legal” at the time. Showing that all things that are legal are just and all things that are illegal are unjust; such as segregation.

Surprisingly I have never read this letter by King before but how he wrote with such passion as well as kindness was amazing. If it was me writing in that situation I don’t feel I could be as kind to the ‘clergymen’ as King was. So many things in this letter showed me why that little fourth grade girl I use to be was so inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. I think it is good to read things like these so that we are always reminded of how far we have come in society.

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7 thoughts on “Where we are, where we’ve been, and where we should be.

  1. I also remember writing a letter to Martin Luther King Jr when I was younger for the prompt “Write a letter to the most influential person in your life and tell them why they made an impact.” This letter encompasses so many different lessons and words of wisdom and reminded me once again how great of a man Martin Luther King Jr. was. I agree with you completely when you say that it is important to have documents like these to remind us how far we have come. The popular saying, “history has a tendency to repeat itself”, is something that I believe this letter tries to keep from occurring. It is sad that there is much racism still out there today, and not only to the African Americans but to other minority races as well. I believe that while we have gone a long way, we will never be able to eradicate racism completely; however, having people like Martin Luther King Jr. will help us to always remember and push to improve. It seems as though our society takes many things for granted, things that so many others worked so hard for. Hearing people use these derogatory terms is something that is a norm, and I think that it has gotten to a point where the term is not so much accepted, but it is acknowledged that it may not bear the weight that it used to. I am not saying that this term is good by any means, I believe that it is horrible to label a person in such way, but it seems as though society today uses these words lightly and we do not understand the true connotations which it carries with it. We have come very far from the way it was thirty, forty something years ago; however, I only hope that documents like this letter will forever remain in our lessons to remind us how it once was and to ensure that history will not repeat itself.

  2. I absolutely enjoyed reading your blog. Martin Luther king Jr. was such an inspiration to many people. He taught us that violence wasn’t the key to everything. This was actually my first time reading the Birmingham letter. It was really sad to read what African Americans where going through at the time. I love how you stated that some people even African Americans still call themselves “Nigger”. That is very true in today’s society; most people forget what others went through to get them where they are today. Another thing that stuck out to me was when King stated that “when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “White” and “Colored”. That quote definitely shoes you the pain Martin Lutcher King was going through well writing this letter. Even though he wrote this letter with so much pain he still managed to write it in a respectful way because he believed in non-violence. You also talk about this in your blog and I absolutely agree with you, it’s just so amazing how he managed to do that. Racism will always be an issue; it’s just up to each individual to accept the fact that some people just don’t think the way others do.

  3. I totally agree with you madysonblyss! I remember all throughout elementary school, the teachers emphasized how important Martin Luther King Jr. was. I didn’t appreciate him until I was older and able to understand how much of an impact he is on history. I too was inspired after reading his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. The use of pathos, logos, and ethos is something to admire. Writing to clergymen with such rationality and respect even in the circumstances the south was in shows how well Martin Luther King Jr. can speak to people without bias. I find it ignorant and ridiculous that the word “nigger” is still being used till this day! I hate that word and how it is being used; it is still disrespectful. When a white person says it, it is considered racist, but what about if a black person calls another black person that? How can a word with a very negative connotation be turned into a casual word for “friend”? I agree with you wholeheartedly in your last sentence when you say, “I think it is good to read things like these so that we are always reminded of how far we have come in society.” I think that if everyone read this letter, they will appreciate all the hard work and patience Martin Luther King Jr. has put forth to make the world we live in today more equal.

  4. Growing up, I have also found Martin Luther King Jr. to be an inspiring individual. It’s amazing how much a man can do to change history in the name of justice. You have raised some very good points. It’s alarming and almost dangerous that people have nearly forgotten about the hardships and suffering that African Americans had to go through before gaining justice and freedom, first by law, then by society; it took much longer for society to accept. Contrarily, I don’t think people have necessarily forgotten this because racism still exists as much as that racism still exists because people have forgotten. In order to see the good, people put the bad and the ugly in the past. It is easier to view our society as a “good” society versus one that is broken with problems. It is disappointing that racism still exists in many parts of the country today. I liked your point about youth using “such names” today with such little regard to what they really means. I think it is because the youth simply does not understand the entire concept behind those words. The trend is not only evident for Black history, but for history in general. It’s sad that our generation lacks what previous generations have emphasized so much. There is more that can be done to educate people of our country’s history. Without recognizing and keeping in touch with our mistakes, history will unfortunately repeat itself.

  5. I completely agree with what you said. You mentioned how Martin Luther King Jr. said that timing is not if the important when you’re being treated unfairly. This sentence really struck a chord with me as it made me realize that people throughout history have been using the excuse of it not being the right timing to reason their inaction. These people refuse to fight for their rights because they’ve between oppressed for so long they fear that standing up for what they believe in still further increase the oppression and inequalities they face. MLK Jr had the right idea when he said this phrase. When you’re being treated unfairly, you should act immediately to address these wrongdoings. It also made me see just how far society has come just from the actions of one standing up for his rights. Another thing that you mentioned was how threw phrase “nigger” used to have a negative connotation in the past but progressed today as a commonly used slang term. I may be writing but I feel that the African Americans who first used the term used it as an act of rebellion against the whites. They are accepting that that is who they are and that they are fine with it.

  6. I also thought that King’s letter in the Birmingham Jail was an incredibly inspirational piece of literature. I had an epiphany when I read the letter and it just surprised me how much perseverance a man could have. To be able to take that much oppression and still remain calm and collected is much more impressive feat than lashing out with violence. The letter also made me realize how far we as a society have come as well. Although we have made a lot of progress, there still needs to be reform somehow regarding actual equality for all – not just socially but in the workplace as well. There just seems to be a dilemma that can never be resolved – there can never actually be an amendment in the constitution that dictates one cannot be racist. As long as there are people in this world who are innately cruel and iniquitous towards other people of color and race, hate shall always perpetuate itself. This seems to be one of the largest impediments to our society today.

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