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- Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail is a response to 1963 Alabama Clergymen about his methods of peaceful protest. The Clergymen claim that King’s methods are both untimely and unwise, however King responds by using ancient philosophical rules, Biblical references, and even American figures to argue that his methods are both purposefully ethical and timely. Some of his points include the treatment of whites on blacks, moral law against unjust law, mob morality, good extremism, and what should be done for change to happen. In the midst of all the chaos of segregation, one point he claims is the most significant because it is the cause of all this chaos: white treatment on black people. Horrible in itself, this unequal treatment disadvantaged African Americans greatly, but, as King explains, African Americans grew a rooted hatred for whites at the start of childhood because whites would almost dehumanize blacks, making them unworthy to vote, attend good schools, be treated with respect, etc. King labels this behavior of unworthiness as ‘nobodiness.’ Like most of King’s referenced ancient lessons, they stay relevant years before and years after even in 2017. One group in today’s society that experiences a sense of nobodiness and its implications are the people of destitution, specifically the ones that resort to illegal activity. This group includes gangs, drug dealers, felons, etc.
- One reason that this group of people is suppressed to their lifestyle and feeling of nobodiness is because the society lacks enough care to make change. Groups like these are often very violent and dangerous, so where do cities place these people? Cities and governments place these groups together in ghettos and broke-down areas. Habitats have been created specifically for these people like animals in a zoo. Being poor and unable to find jobs to sustain a family, groups like these resort to illegal action to help themselves and their families. There is an estimation that over 1.5 million people are included in about 35,000 gangs in the United States; East St. Louis, Illinois, a gang infested neighborhood, has a murder rate seventeen times more than the national average. One can’t fully blame these people for their actions though because they’ve been born into this lifestyle. They consist and live in a cycle of violence: Parents do bad and immoral actions and their children follow as they grow up. Children are turned into killers, robbers, drug dealers, and prostitutes; so many moral laws are broken within these groups. Again, one can not fully blame these actions on these people because they are destined to these actions from an early age. What does society do to answer these problems that occur? Cops arrest and arrest until prisons are filled, children enter bad schools and don’t learn important job skills, and people everywhere, in these groups, are presented to every illegal action imaginable. Why doesn’t the government directly help these people from their suffering? Maybe it’s not their number-one priority, maybe they just don’t care. The point is that these groups don’t know why they aren’t receiving any help and that’s what makes them feel like nobodies. King says “living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’”(King 120-122). These people are left to suffer within their own groups, and the fact that societies and governments ignore their problems causes these people to live lives at tiptoe stance and with inner fears.
- Another reason that this group of people is suppressed to their lifestyle is because the people in these groups fail to make themselves be helped easily. As mentioned, one can’t fully blame this group’s characteristic of nobodiness because the children are brought up to the lifestyle. However, every human has free will and is able to make his/her own decisions and create his/her own morals, so technically, every member could just stop all the gangs and violence and let themselves be heard in a more peaceful manor. King states that “there are two types of laws: just and unjust… One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”(King Lines 128-131). In this case, the people of destitution disobey just laws. Why can’t they just obey the just laws and then ask for help as a community? The members of this group make it very difficult to be helped because of how dangerous they are. During the times of major segregation, Martin Luther King, Jr. was the peaceful protester that wanted to cooperate with the white people and Malcolm X was the very aggressive protestor that wanted separation and annihilation of the white people. Who do you think the government actually considered negotiating with? During 2017, this destitute group of people make themselves almost unapproachable. With huge gangs controlling an area with illegal weapons, with men running a drug trade business with dangerous security, the government isn’t able to send people to break-up and heal these groups without losing too many of their own “good guys.” So, by being very difficult to be helped, nobody at any part of society wants to fix the problems this group has. The destitute groups basically initiate their own sense of nobodiness by making themselves unhelpable and are left wondering why no one will help them through their suffering--although societies aren’t giving much effort to help anyways.
- With healthy tension, this group can achieve great help. King mentions that by breaking unjust laws, tension is created between a group and its controller in a healthy way--progress can be made. For the destitute groups, tension is created when they break just laws and do immoral things. Only a few people have tried helping this group in these circumstances. For example, Homeboy Industries is an organization created to take in gang member and other members from the destitute group and give them education and skills to apply for jobs and properly take care of a family. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but it could move much faster if the destitute group would create a healthy tension. With healthy tension, schools can be built with good teachers, broke-down neighborhoods can be refurbished, and police can become educated to handle these areas more effectively and safely.
- In the end, the destitute group suffers and experiences a sense of nobodiness. Normal society doesn’t care enough to help fix the problems of this group and the people don’t make themselves very approachable for the government and society to help them in the first place. The destitute group definitely has tension, but it’s created with violence and immorality. By lessening the violence and shifting all the energy of this group towards healthy tension, real and positive change can really be made.
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