Every year on this weekend, I try to read Martin Luther King Jr’s letter from Birmingham jail. It’s a fairly long letter that he wrote while sitting in his jail cell to the Christian and Jewish clergy that opposed his approach to civil disobedience.
The whole letter, written in 1963, nine years after Brown v. Board of Education (1954), is powerful, but as I think of the injustices that our most needy children face throughout this state, and Wilmington in particular, I reflect on what I am not doing to help. This passage, makes me feel particularly uncomfortable.
“…I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler 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 cannot agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for 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.”
If you haven’t read it in a while, it’s worth re-reading.