Things We Saw Today: Martin Luther King’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” Speaks to the “Presence of Justice” Over the “Absence of Tension”

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Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and while it’s nice to have a day off, it’s also important to think about the reasons behind this day. While many gravitate toward King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in order to highlight his hopes, his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” feels more applicable to the way things are right now, especially in light of the incoming U.S. Presidential administration. I came across this awesome reading of King’s letter by staff at The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University that really brings home the power and purpose of King’s message. That yes, he believed in non-violent action, but he also understood that politeness and “waiting for the right time” were things that were never going to work for the black community, or any community that is oppressed. He wrote:

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Let’s remember this today, tomorrow, and beyond.

Also worth checking out:

And lastly:

Check out SNL‘s take on Donald Trump’s press conference. It will make you laugh, and then it will make you cry for how almost-accurate it actually is.

What have you seen out there today?

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Author
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.