March 2, 2011
Page 207 #10
In response to a letter written by eight Alabama clergymen condemning demonstrations in the streets, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., while in Birmingham jail, criticized the treatment of Negroes by the political and religious establishments of his day. Although the clergymen claim to be interested in honest and open negotiations of racial issues, and pointed out that “hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions,” (Miller 247) it is obvious from what had happened in the past that they would say anything to stop the demonstrations but, as in the past, the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being would remain the same.
Dr. King asserts the fact that Birmingham is the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. It has a record of police brutality, a history of unjust treatment of Negroes in the courts, more unsolved bombings of Negroes homes and churches than any other city in the nation. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders have sought to negotiate with the City fathers, however, they refused to engage in negotiations. Also, the leaders and merchants of the economic community negotiated and made promises to remove the humiliating racial signs from the stores if the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to call a moratorium on any type of demonstrations. The demonstrations ceased, but many months went by and the signs remained. As in the past, another promise was broken.
The clergymen claim that “we recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized but we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely.” (Rottenberg 198) Dr. King’s response to this was “I have never yet engaged in a direct-action movement that was well-timed,” according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years I have heard the word “Wait!” This “wait”...