I cannot sit idly by in Miami and not be concerned about what happens in Minneapolis. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Minneapolis, Brooklyn, Louisville, DC, Miami, and Los Angeles. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place throughout the US, but it is even more unfortunate that the cities Caucasian-centric power structure left the Black community with no alternative.
As the weeks, months, and years went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. We think of Amadou Diallo, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, George Floyd, and countless others who were killed unnecessarily.
As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community.
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.
Wake up America! Come together in peace and unity. Say my name, allow us all to breathe.
Adapted from the Letter from Birmingham Jail. Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash