A King vs. His Clergymen

Topics: Letter from Birmingham Jail, Black people, Civil disobedience Pages: 6 (1387 words) Published: April 23, 2014
A King vs. His Clergy
Both “A Call For Unity” and “Letter Form Birmingham Jail” seemingly have good intentions. King’s letter is however more sincere and thoroughly addresses all of the issues stated in the letter form the Clergymen. The Clergymen argue very brief and one-sided points while King elaborates on all of his and has an explanation for all of the Clergymen’s accusations. King shows more passion in his letter than the Clergymen and the quality of his words is significantly better. In “A Call For Unity” the clergymen state that some of the demonstrations have been “directed and led in part by outsiders” (Carpenter, et al. par 3). One can safely assume, such as King does in his response letter, that the Clergymen are accusing King of being an outsider. Farther into their letter, the Clergymen stress that the local problems should be handled locally and that the people should “unite locally in working peacefully for a better Birmingham” (Carpenter, et al. par7). This is a very obvious attempt for them to stress that they feel as though only local citizens should handle this problem. This could either be because they want to try to fix the problem themselves or because they believe things were fine the way they were and they do not like outsiders coming to town and causing a ruckus.

In King’s response letter, “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” he refutes the Clergymen’s accusation of King being an outsider. He states that he is the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (King, par 2). This is an organization that operates with other Christian groups throughout the South. He also says that he was invited by one of the groups his organization is associated with. By doing this King also informs the Clergymen of his authoritative role throughout the South. He may not be a citizen of Birmingham but he was invited by some of the citizens of Birmingham to help their cause. This just further proves that King is not a random outsider looking to stir the pot in someone else’s town; he is just helping his alliances.

The Clergymen bring up the nature of the demonstrations happening in Birmingham. They claim that they “incite to hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be” (Carpenter, et al. par5). They are saying that while the demonstrations are in fact peaceful that they cause violence, therefore they are violent and harmful to the community. They also go on to call these demonstrations and sit-ins to be “extreme measures” (Carpenter, et al. par 5).

King calls these violent demonstrations a “type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth” (King, par 10). The whole point of creating these situations is to eventually lead to some type of negotiation, not outright violence and increased hatred in Birmingham. King also says that in some situations extreme measures are needed. Just because one is labeled an extremist does not make him bad rather his intentions behind such extreme actions are what can determine whether he is good or bad. He references many Christian extremists that fought for the good of the situation they were in.

The main violent group of people in this situation consists of the white public and law enforcement. That is also the group of people that the Clergymen praise for handling these events so calmly and protecting the city from violence (Carpenter et al. par 6). King then uses examples of police restraining protests in a rather violent way: pushing women, using dogs, and inhumane treatment in the city jail. If these actions were someone considered necessary to control sit-ins then yes, the law enforcement is very non-violent in public situations.

The Clergymen believe that the better option instead of sit-ins and protests is to take matters to court. They say “when rights are consistently denied, a cause should be pressed in the courts and in negotiations among local leaders, and not in the streets,” (Carpenter et al. par 7)....

Cited: Carpenter, Durrick, et al. “A Call for Unity” Perspectives on Argument. Ed. Nancy V. Wood. 7th Longman. 2011. 307-308. Print.
King, Martin Luther. "A Letter from Birmingham Jail." Perspectives on Argument. Ed. Nancy V. Wood. 7thLongman, 2011. 308-321. Print.
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