[eDebate] MLKs "letter from the birmingham jail"
Mon Jul 3 23:43:59 CDT 2006
a salient quote on forcing negotiation through more radical debating
"You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth?
Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling, for
negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent
direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a
community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront
the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be
ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the
nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am
not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension,
but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary
for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension
in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and
half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective
appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the
kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of
prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and
The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so
crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I
therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our
beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue
rather than dialogue.
One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my
associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: "Why
didn't you give the new city administration time to act?" The only answer
that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must
be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act.
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