It’s 2015 and we live in a world that still sees man and judges’ man by the color of his skin. Now let’s step back in time fifty something years ago. The lines have been drawn whites on one side and African Americans on the other. Where would you be standing, would it be on the forefront of the battle lines fighting for equality or shouting from the rooftops racial slurs and spreading hate? Through the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given to by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”(King, 2). Martin Luther King Jr. was an African American and is one of the many faces of the civil rights movement in the 60s. He was at the forefront of the movement on up until his death on April 04, 1968. One of his many beliefs that he preached at many rallies and in churches was about nonviolence and how he thought we could all coexist.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a well-educated man and knew that for change to happen there needed to be action taken. King was among many people who helped start and lead rallies and marches through the cities of Alabama. It was in these rallies and marches that led to protests and sit-ins that he was able to give speeches on civil rights. Many of the rallies and marches that he participated in often landed him on the wrong side of the law enforcement and ended with him in handcuffs and eventually sitting in a jail cell alongside of his fellow “brothers” who also participated in the rally or march.
Birmingham was one of these instances. Though the rallies Mr. King led were nonviolent, he was still charged with breaking city laws according to Bull Connor. Bull Conner, who was the police chief in Birmingham in the 60s, believed that African Americans didn’t have rights and he encouraged his police officers to use brutal force at the rallies and marches. King believed that discrimination anywhere was a threat. He believed that the Birmingham community was consumed with racial intolerance. King exclaims that “Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of police brutality is known in every section of this country. Its unjust treatment of Negroes in the courts is a notorious reality.”(King,1). It was while he was in jail in Birmingham that he wrote these words in his “Letters from Birmingham Jail”. “Letters from Birmingham Jail” is an open letter that King wrote while in the Birmingham jail responding to the hardships and criticisms that he and his fellow protestors were receiving in Birmingham. In his letters he goes on to describe the extreme brutality the Birmingham police committed. He states, “I don’t believe you would so warmly commend the police force if you observed the ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes.”(King,5). It was the violence that was committed against African Americans of all age groups that people saw as being acceptable, because all they were doing was teaching them a lesson. It was in the south that most of the protests occurred, so in result a large part of the violence was in the south. “The actions of the brave people in one southern city, Birmingham, Alabama, intensified this civil rights movement estimating 930 protest demonstrations in more than one hundred American cities.” (Cotton, 216).
While the civil rights arrest was based on the segregation of whites and blacks the hardships that they experienced helped impact the changing world. It would be easy to say that we live in a world where people are given the same opportunities and are able to overcome the obstacles placed in front of us, but that’s not the case. In an article by Max Krochmal it says, “At the core of all of it was the belief that human rights included not only the desegregation of public space, but also the right to improve one’s economic condition.”(Krochmal). However, that’s not the case, the South in 2010 contained the highest arrest rate in the nation and just under half, 47%, of these arrests were black (Tsia). The arrests varied from major crimes, like murder or drug smuggling, to minor ones like public intoxication or driving without a driver’s license. Compared to the number of white arrest, black men were 6 times more likely to be arrested (Tsia). The south containing 19 of the 39 million blacks, or 48%, of the nation’s blacks, is also responsible for many police brutality and shootings that have been taken to a grand jury and made national news coverage (FBI). The most recent one in the news today was in Ferguson, Missouri. The incident was that a black male was shot and killed for allegedly attacking a cop in his patrol car. Although the jury ruled the cop not guilty, many blacks around the country felt as if the cop shot and killed the young man unjustly. This incident caused outraged protesters to fill the street demanding equal rights and claiming that the cops are targeting the black community for crimes.
According to the article by Tyjen Tsia based on the arrests reguarding blacks compared to whites, since 2002 America holds the highest incarceration rate in the world. It goes on to say that black men, making up the majority of the men and race in jail, in a 100,000 population, 3,074 men have either been sentenced to jail and are out or are still serving time (Tsia). The sections of these arrests were broken down into two sections of the country, North and South. The north, containing the highest amount of black people, had the fewest arrests of blacks while compared to the southern arrests, which is still true today (Tsia).
Much like Mr. King and his struggles in the 60s, the black community today is still faced with similar challenges especially within the judicious system. While things have progressed since the migration of African Americans to America they have had to endure many challenges in their life to gain their freedom. They have had a constant battle for their rights that still continues on today. Although they have made major strides there are still law men arresting and profiling large portion of the black community. Mr. King believed we could all live in prosperity and join together to make the world a better place. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” (McKinstry)
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