Dear clergy people: While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your statement about our present activities calling them “untimely and unwise”. I can’t focus on all the criticism that crosses my desk. My reason for being in Birmingham is to stop change the injustice toward the black community in the streets. I couldn’t sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what is happening here. In justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Anyone who lives the United States can never be considered an outsider.
You hate the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I’m sorry your statement did not express a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being. Is unfortunate that the white power structure of this city left the Negro community with no other alternative. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negros homes and churches in Birmingham than any other city in the country. Last September we had a talk with some of the leaders of the economic community. In these negotiating sessions certain promises were made. Such as the taking down the humiliating racial sings from the store. As the weeks and months unfolded, we realized that we were victims of a broken promise. The signs remained.
Now, what is the difference between the two? How can one tell when a law is just or unjust? Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.
I was arrested Friday on a charge of parading without a permit. There is nothing wrong with an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. There is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed.
I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham,