In Letter From Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks out against injustice, establishing that for justice to prevail, one must oppose injustice at every turn; even if that means landing in jail. King famously proclaims that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” a statement that still holds in today’s social and political climate. This letter is written from inside a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, where King had been imprisoned for protesting against racial inequality. In the South, segregation was not only a social policy, but it was a political policy enforced by lawmakers and the police. However, King never considers his actions criminal like the law enforcement did because while his protest never hurt anyone, the South’s segregation laws did. He uses his letter to communicate that laws aren’t always just as they do not have a direct correlation with true justice. Whether or not they are right or wrong depends on the morals of the people that create them; thus, they cannot be depended on as always just.
King asserts how it is just as important to actively disobey immoral laws as it is to follow moral ones and how can we fight injustice. King explains because laws are only made by humans they cannot always be just because justice is divine; and so, for a law to truly be considered just, it cannot conflict with God’s moral laws. King, therefore, establishes that segregation laws are unjust, as they are not moral and do not correspond to the law of God and he insists on we need to fight injustice.
Towards the end of his letter, King questions the police’s work at Birmingham and whether or not it was just. While white leaders had praised the police for their work “maintaining order and preventing violence” amidst the protesters, King highlights a drastically different perspective on the role of the police in Birmingham. King criticizes the violence with which the police treated the protesters, citing how the police physically harmed women and children and withheld food from black people in the prison. King clarifies to the critics of the protest how the police only “prevented violence” when it applied to African Americans, and the excessive use of police brutality was ignored. King acknowledges that the police seemed to have avoided open violence; however, he questions “For what purpose?” King establishes that police work that supports and upholds a set of unjust laws and racist policies cannot truly be good work. King understands his status as a man who has been imprisoned unjustly and defends the morality and overall patriotism of his actions. Even though King admits to the illegality of his actions, he asserts how this form of nonviolent resistance, peaceful protesting, is the best way to bring in positive change and racial justice. He cannot obey laws that he considers unjust, especially when he feels a moral calling to disobey them. King demonstrates that he is willing to face the consequences to bring about light into the unjust, racially unequal system of his world.