Not Preventing Injustice Supports Injustice: Targeting the Audience Non-Violently
“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people” (579). Passive silence is equal in atrocity and injustice as actions of those unmoral. To sit by and observe an act of violation against human rights would be the same as to put oneself in the shoes of those committing the violation. When trying to reform or protest all groups, directly involved or not, must participate. There proves extreme power in peoples opinions and beliefs regardless of whether or not they are effected.
Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK Jr.) makes an indisputable point in his Letter from Birmingham Jail addressing the white moderates of the country whom are those that sit by and witness the discriminating events before them while doing nil. MLK Jr. is labeled an extremist and imprisoned due to a method of non-violent protesting, whilst African Americans are being violently abused by the very people that sentenced his entrapment. In his quote he states how when looking back on history the white moderates who chose not to play a role in the movement will be the ones responsible for tragedy.
Were those good that express “appalling silence” to stand up and represent their beliefs then history would be significantly different. MLK Jr. would gain much more praise and be heavily supported in his efforts to protest non-violently as a means to obtain ultimate peace among the races of the country. While other radical groups chose different approaches such as support gained through violent propaganda, MLK Jr. devised an approach that would harm no one. The reason for the aggressive suffocation of Black Nationalists is due to minimum amounts of persons with authority who opposed the injustice actually standing up for what they believe in and revolting against the wrong actions being committed.
Racial indifferences play an effect on people nationally, not just of African ethnicity as MLK Jr. references when stating, “Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgesit, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice” (580). This is prevalent in Sherman Alexie’s A Good Story where Alexie discusses the hardships of discriminations that American Indians face through the rarity of a good story. Alexie has his character tell a story within a story that elaborates on the occasion of a not to frequent good story about a boy who skips out on his field trip to make the day of an old man who looks forward only to seeing the children at the end of the day. The story is relevant to MLK Juniors message due to the similar themes of oppression that American Indians face as well.
To connect his message to all peoples MLK Jr. references another example of pacifistic methods to execute ways to obtaining an ultimate goal that does not include force by quoting another extremist Jesus, “Love you enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (581). Here MLK Jr. uses another example of non-violent action said by a man that the majority of the country worships to justify his approach to reaching peace, and doing so in a way that is relatable to people of all colors.
By stating this quotation in a strong message against white moderates MLK Jr. poignantly directs his frustration and disappointment towards the cowardice and lame of the country that reside in their comfort zone without making efforts to give their due part. MLK Jr. uses a method of guilt tripping to the audience he addresses by not directly attacking them, but instead portraying his opinion and sadness on the fact that what he speaks of occurs. Not only does he direct his message towards white moderates in order for them to recognize their wrong, but he also addresses the issue so that those who do not fully comprehend the situation may learn where the core of the dilemma resides.
Writing Strategy: Martin Luther King Jr. uses the strategy of targeting his audience indirectly with a message of retrospect. He addresses them as if he were to after the events discussed have passed. By doing this he effectively conveys his opinion of the targeting audience in a way that would leave a direct impact on the guilty person reading his letter.
This technique intrigues me due to the way it grabs the reader. In a persuasive piece this technique of address can prove useful in my own writing if I were to want to sincerely target a reader with the message I were trying to present.
The impact of MLK Juniors words are also important for me as a writer to analyze because of it firm connection to those reading it. His message does not beat around the bush and is incredibly direct in meaning, something I should learn to develop in my own writing.